Bourbon distillers mark historic moments on National Bourbon Day

Whiskey Row distillers mark historic moments on National Bourbon Day
The Old Forester distillery is designed to invite the public inside. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
The Old Forester distillery is designed to invite the public inside. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – A homecoming is one way an iconic bourbon brand is hoping to capitalize on its history, as the industry booms.

Old Forester opened its doors on Thursday to a new facility that invites the public inside, in hopes of increasing brand awareness, as others in the Bourbon business spent the day celebrating milestones of their own.

National Bourbon Day was an exciting day for a distiller that's been in the business for nearly a century and a half.

"This is a great example," Old Forester President Campbell Brown said. "When capital hits imagination, ambition and desire, you get something wonderful like this."

Old Forester has moved back to one of the Whiskey Row location it started at in the 1880s.

"Hey, We're open come on in get some air conditioning and some bourbon," Brown said to the crowd that came to celebrate the occasion.

Sip and ship: Tourists can now send distillery whiskey home
Old Forester returns to roots with new Kentucky distillery
New hotels opening in record numbers around Louisville

In 2014, ambitions to build the $45 million space were announced. Just a year later, a fire during construction threatened its completion.

"This distillery was going to exist no matter what happened with that," Old Forester Master Taster Jackie Zykan said.

Now, fire can be seen inside the 119 W. Main Street site, but it's what's being used to char the barrels that will help produce nearly 100,000 cases of Old Forester every year from Whiskey Row.

"To have such a wonderful story to tell, such a really unique story -- I think at the end of the day it all balances out pretty nicely," Brown said, when questioned about some of the business setbacks that come with operating a distillery in a busy urban area.

Brown said the 70,000 square foot location will allow the brand to increase production by 50 percent.

"We have no intention of making less whiskey," Brown said.

That production will feed what some at Old Forester are calling a bourbon revival.

"I think we're just now dipping our toe into it, to be honest with you," Zykan said.

One that was also celebrated down the street at the Frazier Museum as Willett announced Britt Kulsveen would be succeeding her mother as the company's president and Chief Whiskey Officer.

"So have a drink, y'all," Kulsveen said at an event celebrating the moment.

A toast to a growing industry those along Whiskey Row and beyond were happy to make.

"Our ambition is to endure forever, and that's the plan," Brown said.

Brown added that the Shivley facility will still be producing at least as much Old Forester bourbon as it has been and that the brand has seen recent annual growth of around 20 percent.

Copyright 2018 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.