5 Distilleries to open in Louisville by 2018

Joseph J. Magliocco

In the late 1700s, bourbon distilleries helped shape downtown Louisville by opening offices along a section of Main Street that became known as Whiskey Row. But after Prohibition forced most of their closures, Louisville took a back seat in the state’s bourbon story.

Now, with several distilleries already open around the city’s center and a handful more on the way, Louisville is becoming a bourbon tourism destination at an unprecedented pace.

Earlier this year, Angel’s Envy co-founder Wes Henderson and his son, Kyle Henderson, led the Courier-Journal through a tour of the whiskey brand’s $27 million distillery at the intersection of Main and Jackson streets.

The distillery’s 43-foot-tall copper still had recently been installed, and the younger Henderson said it will likely be only a few months before it started producing bourbon in advance of the facility’s anticipated fall open.

“We’ve been working on-site since late 2014,” Kyle Henderson, the brand’s production manager, said in March. “It’s been a long year and a half just to get to where we are now. We still have five or six months to go.”

Angel’s Envy’s flagship bourbon – which is aged in wine barrels imported from Portugal – and the brand’s rye whiskey are currently blended and bottled at a building farther west on Main Street. But once the 90,000-square-foot distillery opens, all operations will move there.

Soon enough, Angel’s Envy expects to be able to produce up to one million cases of whiskey at full capacity.

Joseph J. Magliocco

Keith Hazelbaker, center, has ownership of Derby City Spirits that includes distilling as well as a large event space at the Baxter Avenue location. At left is son Carson Hazelbaker and at right is event coordinator Michelle Zulkanycz. Former co-owner Jay Blevins has been accused of taking deposits for the event space. (Photo: Matt Stone/The Courier-Journal)


Derby City Spirits – a distillery proposed at 436 Baxter Ave. – had a rough start after its former owners were charged with producing alcohol illegally and accused of fraud.

But Keith Hazelbaker, who purchased the company’s assets in March, is determined to open a quality distillery that will connect the Phoenix Hill neighborhood to the downtown movement.

“Somebody had to step up and do it or it was going to fail and everybody was going to lose, including me,” said Hazelbaker, who had invested in the previous owners’ company.

Construction on the distillery is mostly finished and is now awaiting approval for its liquor licenses and certificate of occupancy, Hazelbaker said. Once it’s open, the facility will include an events space, a speakeasy room and a gift shop bar. It is expected to start giving tours this fall.


It’s been almost a year since a fire ripped through historic buildings along West Main Street, causing a months-long delay for the $45 million Old Forester project.

But construction is continuing, and Old Forester President Campbell Brown said the downtown distillery will soon provide extra production capacity for Brown-Forman’s oldest bourbon along with a place to showcase the brand’s history.

Joseph J. Magliocco

“(It’s) a unique opportunity for us to tell our story of innovation and about a brand that’s been able to survive through Prohibition, two world wars, the Great Depression and never left the shelves,” Brown said. “…We didn’t really have a great facility or a platform to tell that story. It’s involved, it’s intricate, it’s layered. It’s not often easy to tell in a page ad or a Facebook post.”

Old Forester is currently produced at Brown-Forman’s distillery in Shively and will continue to be made there once the Main Street distillery opens next year. But the new distillery will allow the company to add up to 100,000 cases annually, Brown said.The 60,000-square-foot facility will also include a bottling line, condensed cooperage and retail space.

“We’re the only ones who make our own barrels, and you can see that process inside a working distillery,” said Brown-Forman spokeswoman Wendy Treinen.

Joseph J. Magliocco

Vehicles not yet moved by Mint Julep Tours remained parked in a garage that will soon become part of Rabbit Hole’s distillery as owner Kaveh Zamanian described what changes will take place over the next 12 months.

Once construction begins this summer, the former touring company’s facility will be mostly demolished, Zamanian said, with a large section replaced with an almost translucent structure displaying the equipment inside.

“It’s kind of a shrine to the art of distilling,” said Zamanian, who added that an event center, multiple retail spaces and a gift shop will round out the 30,000-square-foot facility, which will connect Jefferson and Market streets.

Zamanian – who grew up in California and witnessed Napa Valley’s evolution – said he founded Rabbit Hole Distilling in 2012 and began selling a line of bourbon and rye whiskeys two years later. The company plans to launch several other spirits this summer, and once the NuLu distillery opens, will be able to produce and bottle their products on-site.

“I think ultimately what we’re trying to do is create an urban distillery,” Zamanian said. “…I think the neighborhood represents a kind of creative feel and vibe that is in line with what Rabbit Hole represents and embodies.”

The company that first announced plans for a modern distillery on Whiskey Row is now expected to be the last to open, following extensive construction delays that pushed the project back several years. But Michter’s President Joe Magliocco won’t let the thought faze him.

Instead, Magliocco focuses on what the building will become – a distillery and visitors center that will give Michter’s a space to educate customers about the country’s first whiskey company.

Founded in 1753, the company was originally named Shenk’s and operated out of Schaefferstown, Penn.

Joseph J. Magliocco

The company later found success nationwide as Michter’s, but a lull in bourbon sales forced it to close in 1989. A few years later, Chatham Imports – of which Magliocco is a partner – revived the brand and decided to move to Kentucky.In 2011, after several years spent producing whiskey at contracted distilleries, Michter’s announced plans for a distillery of its own in the former Fort Nelson building at the corner of Main and Eighth streets.

However, Magliocco said architects soon discovered one wall was bowed 22 inches out of place and would need to undergo a massive re-stabilization effort. The fix was costly and greatly delayed the project, but Magliocco said the company decided saving the building was more important than tearing it down to just a facade.Now, with the stabilization efforts completed, the distillery is on track to start its build out.

“We’re past where there should be surprises,” Magliocco said. “Architects seem to think it’s roughly around another 18 months. It’ll be great to finally be in there.”

Reach reporter Bailey Loosemore at 502-582-4646 or bloosemore@courier-journal.com.

Source: http://www.courier-journal.com/story/life/food/spirits/bourbon/2016/06/06/5-distilleries-open-louisville-2018/85000554

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