Buzzard's Roost, Bluegrass Distillers, and Henderson Distilling Plant Their Flags Throughout Kentucky
March 15, 2023 –––––– Ted Simmons
Last month, the Kentucky Distillers Association announced that a record number of people visited distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail last year, 2,135,555 to be exact. The appetite for bourbon and bourbon tourism continues to grow, with Kentucky distillers meeting demand by investing in distillery upgrades and visitor center experiences.
While major distillers remain a huge draw for those flocking to Kentucky, a crop of less-established names have recently announced plans to build or renovate within the state, meaning more whiskey to come and new destinations for traveling drinkers to seek out.
Buzzard’s Roost Lands a Spot on Louisville’s Whiskey Row
Buzzard’s Roost is opening a microdistillery and tasting room in downtown Louisville, joining the many brands that make up the city’s famed Whiskey Row. “It is thrilling to the entire Buzzard’s Roost team,” co-founder and CEO Judith Hollis Jones notes. “It says that we are serious about our brand and are in this business to stay, and to continue to innovate with exceptional whiskey.” A rendering of the entrance to the new Buzzard's Roost micro-distillery.
The 6,000 square foot space signals Phase 2 for Buzzard’s Roost, which was founded in 2019, and has been sourcing and rebarreling its whiskeys since, currently at Bardstown Bourbon Co. While the brand will continue to source, it will likewise now be able to produce five to seven barrels of bourbon or rye per week. The new facility will include a 70-gallon Vendome copper doubler, a small still, educational classrooms, and a VIP tasting room. There will be no mashing or fermenting taking place at the microdistillery, which will be located at 624 W. Main St. For both its new-make and rebarreled whiskeys, Buzzard’s Roost will use char no.-1 barrels. The new site is slated to open later this month.
“The Buzzard’s Roost Whiskey Row Experience is our first brick-and-mortar home,” Hollis Jones says. “We feel very comfortable operating with our industry partners in their spaces, but having a home of your own is always special.”
Phase 3 for Buzzard’s Roost would encompass having its own full-production facility, with the timing on that still to be determined.
Bluegrass Distillers Breaks Ground at Historic Elkwood Farm
After purchasing the historic Elkwood Farm in Midway, Kentucky in 2020, Bluegrass Distillers broke ground last month on an $8-million distillery project that will increase distillation capacity 100-fold. Founded in 2013 and currently based in Lexington, Bluegrass had originally planned to open in the fall of 2021, scaling production up from a half barrel a day to 20. However, delays caused by the pandemic, supply chain issues, and having to learn as they built, allowed them to grow considerably larger.
“This expansion is a culmination of the last 10 years of work,” says co-owner Ben Franzini. “After three years, and some setbacks, we are finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. This move means so much for the future of our company and our brands.”A rendering of the Bluegrass Distillers gift shop.
The new distilling space will have six 18,000-gallon fermentation tanks and a 45-foot-tall column still, and sit a few hundred yards from the Elkwood Farm mansion, which was built in 1835 and placed on the National Historic Register in 1994. Bluegrass began growing heirloom blue corn on the property last year. Once completed, the distillery will feature offices, labs, tasting and event spaces, and a bottling line. It will likewise allow them to produce 20,000 barrels per year and add a second still.
To celebrate the occasion, Bluegrass is releasing Elkwood Reserve 9 year old single barrel bourbon as a gift shop exclusive. The current plan is for the distillery at Elkwood Farm to open to visitors and begin production in the fall of 2023.
Henderson Distilling Co. Building Distillery on Municipal Power & Light Campus
Earlier this year, Henderson Distilling Company announced plans to build a new $5-million distillery, retail space, tasting room, and cocktail bar in Henderson, Kentucky. As initially reported on DistilleryTrail.com, the new facility will sit on the same three acres as the former Henderson Municipal Power and Light campus, and the initial investment requires no new construction, only for the existing building to be refurbished.
The new distillery will make an estimated 600 to 900 barrels of spirit per year with the capacity to scale up further. Plans for equipment include four 3,150-gallon fermenters, a 27-foot-tall column still, a 100-gallon doubler, and a 50-gallon pot still used for vodka, gin, and experimental whiskey runs.
Henderson takes possession of the property in January 2024 and plans to source barrels before being able to fill their own, eyeing August 2024 to begin whiskey distillation. Henderson, Kentucky was the home of Kentucky Peerless until 1917. That brand was revived in 2015 and now sits on Whiskey Row in downtown Louisville.