Bardstown Bourbon Company recently opened a state of the art 55,000 square foot bottling facility
Please join us on our Bardstown Bourbon Company Bottling Facility tour! Business at Bardstown Bourbon Company is booming. This relatively new distillery located in the heart of Kentucky’s bourbon country has been filling a gaping hole in the world of bourbon since it began distilling in 2016. Bardstown has meticulously built a large portion of its business model on contract distilling.
While contract distilling is certainly not new in the industry, the Company has raised the bar by offering its Custom Distillation Program. Now a non-distilling producer has almost endless options when they partner with Bardstown Bourbon to produce their product. From mashbill to yeast, fermentation time to distillation specs, and barreling to warehousing; every customer can choose their own preferences all the while being advised and supported by a company teaming with years of experience in the whiskey industry. Today the entire process, grain to glass, can all take place on the Bardstown campus with the addition of its new bottling facility.
In spite of a turbulent 2020, Bardstown managed to plow straight ahead and began construction on its own bottling facility. Amazingly the project was completed in just under a year much to the delight of their customers and even Bardstown itself, as it too had to use a third party bottler for its own line of products. The task was spearheaded by Justin Willett, Executive Director of Manufacturing Operations at Bardstown.
Quality and Safety
From his days at Heaven Hill and Sazerac, Justin knew exactly what he wanted in his bottling facility. First and foremost was safety. The facility already has HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) certification. By year’s end the company will also be on its way to ISO (International Organization for Standardization) 9001 and 22000 certification. The gist of both of these designations is mainly to ensure food (spirit) safety, quality, and efficiency. What’s interesting is that Justin explained that these are not required in the industry. There is no governmental oversight or standardization for safety and quality when bottling alcohol. Rinse your bottle, don’t rinse your bottle, no one is looking. Yet for Bardstown, maintaining safety and quality is crucial.
The Bottling Lines
The workhorses of the facility are the 2 bottling lines. The logistics design and bottle flow are courtesy of Justin’s construct. Line 1 is the high volume line with peak capacity at 150 bottles per minute, while line 2 is the small batch/single barrel line capable of more delicate bottling at 30 bottles per minute. Both lines can clean, fill, cap, label, box, and code; both are operated by a software program that tracks every movement.
Other Components of the Bottling Facility
The bottling lines may get all the glory, but they are only one of the many components of the 55,000 square foot facility. Other vital areas include the clean room where equipment is cleaned and readied for the next run and the label room where labels are stored in a temperature controlled environment because labels that stick together don’t work well. There’s shipping and receiving which houses the countless pallets of bottles and boxes. Last, but certainly not the least, is the dump area. Here barrels are emptied and the bottle ready spirit is sent off to filtration. Once filtered, it is sent through the remarkably large manifold system which allows efficient movement of the liquid in and out of the holding tanks. Justin also pointed out that Bardstown Bourbon uses dairy grade piping which cuts the loss of liquid being moved from on average 5% to 0.5%; that translates into more liquid, more bottles and higher margins.
While the majority of the Bardstown Bourbon Company bottling facility is dedicated to the bottling process, a portion of the building is devoted to the company’s commitment to providing top notch service to all its customers. First, customers have access to the consultation room. Here they can set up an office for the day while working with their Bardstown team. The room offers a great view of the action on the bottling lines. Bardstown prides itself on transparency in all aspects of everything that they do, and the bottling facility is no exception.
Before customers are allowed access to an active bottling floor, they must first prepare in the clean room. All jewelry with jewels must be removed and placed in the provided secure lockup. The clean room functions somewhat like a surgical scrub room, for example, hands must be sanitized, as the primary objective is to eliminate any cross contamination by keeping foreign materials from entering the operations area. This process applies to all bottling employees as well. They have their own clean room on the opposite side of the building.
The Liquid Lab
The final room of importance, not only for Bardstown clients but for the Bardstown Bourbon Company itself, is the liquid lab. From color tests to proofing, the main area of the lab functions the same as most others in large distilleries, for the testing of products. The BBC however has gone the extra mile. This traditional lab also houses a sensory free blending room and a logistics lab. The latter, Justin referred to as the “fun” room. Unique to Bardstown, the logistics lab is where component testing takes place. The lab can test anything related to bottling such as cork pop or why condensation is in the bottle. It can even test full cases of product for shaking issues related to transportation. This is just another example of Bardstown Bourbon’s vigorous commitment to quality and service.
The Final Step
Bottling is the final step before the whiskey will at long last be on the road and headed towards the open arms of whiskey lovers. For Bardstown Bourbon Company, the need for a third party bottler has gone the way of the dodo. The new state of the art bottling facility now allows the Company to provide complete on-site service to all of its customers, and equally importantly, to themselves. There’s a new bottler in town, and it’s licensed to fill.
Thank you to Dan Calloway, Vice President, Hospitality & Product Development for arranging our visit and to Justin Willett for showing us around on our Bardstown Bourbon Company Bottling Facility Tour and answering all of our questions!
Would you like to learn more about the BBC? Check our our full write up and review of the Bardstown Bourbon Company or watch our video tour of the Bardstown Bourbon Company!
Are you interested in learning more about individual distilleries? Do you need information to help you plan your own distillery visits? If so, we can help. At BourbonObsessed.com we have an interactive map of ALL of the Kentucky distilleries, as well as useful information for planning your visits. Check us out today!