The “First Bottled Bourbon” returns to the building it once called home after nearly 100 years.
New state-of-the-art distillery and bourbon experience joins famed Whiskey Row in Downtown Louisville, Kentucky.
Old Forester is returning home with the opening of the Old Forester Distilling Co. on Whiskey Row in Downtown Louisville, Kentucky, the urban headquarters of Bourbon Country.
The opening of the distillery marks the first time in the company’s 148-year history that the public will be able to witness every step of Old Forester’s bourbon-making process. With Old Forester’s enduring role in the history of Bourbon–as the only Bourbon sold before, during and after Prohibition by the same family–it’s fitting that the distillery opened on June 14, National Bourbon Day.
This $45 million, 70,000 sq. ft. state-of-the art facility invites you on an immersive journey to explore the history and production of Old Forester–a brand sealed in history as “America’s First Bottled Bourbon.”
Old Forester Distilling Co. returns to Whiskey Row in the same buildings once occupied by the company before Prohibition, signaling a resurgence of the bourbon business on the famed street.
The distillery is a culmination of a legacy that began in 1870 when George Garvin Brown, a young pharmaceutical sales rep, changed the spirits industry when he sealed whiskey in a glass bottle. He signed his name–as a guarantee of consistency and quality, declaring “there is nothing better in the market.” It was an innovative approach at a time when whiskey was commonly sold by the barrel. He set up shop on Louisville’s Main Street–dubbed Whiskey Row–the hub of the Bourbon business in Kentucky.
Old Forester is part of Brown-Forman, the only major spirits company in the world that operates its own cooperage, and the distillery will be the first to raise and char barrels in the same building where spirits are aged–an engineering feat and an industry first. Old Forester will be the only downtown distillery with a fully-operational cooperage, and each tour will witness what it takes to char a barrel–a crucial stop in the bourbon production process.
This is the only type of Forest(er) Fire worth a hearty “Cheers!”
From Grain to Glass
The tour experience at Old Forester begins with a primer on bourbon history and the role played by both Old Forester and Louisville. From there, you follow the whiskey’s journey through the distillery from fermentation and distillation, to the on-site cooperage where handcrafted barrels will be raised and fired, then aged in an on-site maturation warehouse before bottling and shipment across the globe.
Four 4,500 gallon tanks flank a glass elevator, which ascends through a light-filled atrium in full view of the 44-foot-tall copper column still, designed and constructed by Vendome Copper & Brass Works in Louisville.
You then enter the cooperage. Brown-Forman is the only major spirits company to craft its own new barrels. Watch coopers hand raise each barrel and feel the heat as the barrel is charred. In full view, barrels are tested and filled before making their way to the aging warehouse.
Down a charred, wood-lined hallway, you can see and sniff the colors, flavors and aromas that whiskey takes on during its time in a barrel. Unique to Old Forester Distilling Co., you enter the on-site, three-story warehouse from the highest rack, offering a bird’s eye view. A catwalk leads down through the warehouse, where roughly 900 barrels will age.
Old Forester Distilling Co. joins 10 other distilleries as an official member of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail tour.
While in Louisville you can collect stamps in three bourbon-related passports: the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour, and the Urban Bourbon Trail. Fill a free passport, get a freebie (like a T-shirt or glass; giveaways vary by trail and year).
At the grand opening event for the Old Forester Distilling Co., it was revealed that…
- Bourbon is an $8.5 million economic engine for Kentucky
- The bourbon industry employs 17,500 people; payroll is $800 million
- The Kentucky Bourbon Trail was created 19 years ago
- More than 1 million people toured the Kentucky Bourbon Trail last year–an increase of 314% in the last 10 years
- Bourbon sales are currently 60% of what they were in 1970
- Louisville and Bardstown debate which community is the epicenter of bourbon. No need to choose: Visit both!
119 W. Main Street
Distillery tours will be offered seven days a week, with production Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The tour and tasting is $16/person. Online reservations are suggested, though not required.
– Photos courtesy Old Forester Distilling Co.; click on individual images for photographer details
– The article text combines a press release from ID-PR and original content by Hope S. Philbrick, who attended the grand opening event on June 14, 2018. Master Distiller Chris Morris was also at the event.