With the whiskey boom going strong, Kentucky’s Bardstown Bourbon Co. has been in expansion mode since opening its $25 million distillery in September of 2016. Minority-owned by Constellation Brands, Bardstown—which produces custom whiskies for various brands as part of its Collaborative Distilling Program—last year doubled its capacity to 3 million proof gallons (or about 1 million 9-liter cases). This year, the distiller is wrapping up its second major expansion, which has raised capacity to roughly 6.8 million proof gallons (or about 2.3 million cases) and brings the facility’s total investment to around $40 million.
“We sold out our initial capacity of 1.5 million proof gallons before we even finished the building, and now we’ve effectively sold out the entire 6.8 million proof gallon capacity,” says Bardstown Bourbon president and CEO David Mandell. “We’ve reserved some additional capacity for the growth of our current brands, but we’re not looking to take any more partners on right now.”
Bardstown counts around 20 brand partners among its clients under the Collaborative Distilling Program. They include brands that have recently received investments from Constellation, such as Nashville’s Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery and Louisville’s Copper & Kings. Bardstown also produces liquid for Kentucky-based Western Spirits Co., Castle Brands’ Jefferson’s portfolio, The Splinter Group’s Slaughter House Whiskey, and Roc House Brands’ Cask & Crew range, among others. A minimum production order at Bardstown starts at roughly 600 barrels.
Mandell touts Bardstown’s stringent partnership criteria, as well as its focus on transparency. “In many cases, our partners come in and work side-by-side with us,” he notes, adding that Bardstown works only with existing spirits producers that have solid, established brands and financials. “We only partner with brands that we would be proud to make and showcase here, and we’re completely transparent throughout the process. When you come to our distillery, you can see everyone’s product being made.”
In addition to client brands, Bardstown Bourbon recently began developing its own labels. Late last year, Bardstown and Copper & Kings jointly released Collabor&tion, made with 10-year-old Bourbon acquired from MGP and selected by Bardstown Bourbon master distiller Steve Nally and Copper & Kings head distiller Brandon O’Daniel. The brand, which retails at $125 a 750-ml., features one expression finished in American brandy barrels, and a second finished in Muscat Mistelle barrels. The company plans to release several other Bardstown branded offerings looking ahead, including more bottlings in partnership with Copper & Kings.
Meanwhile, aiming to attract visitors, Bardstown opened its new Bottle & Bond Kitchen and Bar this summer, with plans for public distillery tours and a hotel also in the works. The distillery also plans to break ground on a fifth warehouse by the end of the year, and add bottling capabilities to its operations. According to Mandell, Bardstown is on track to have an on-site storage capacity of nearly 300,000 barrels within the next five years.—Christina Jelski