BARDSTOWN, Ky. — Heaven Hill on Monday broke ground on a new distillery in Bardstown, just over 25 years after a fire destroyed the company’s original distillery.

What You Need To Know

  • Heaven Hill Distillery broke ground on a new distillery in Bardstown on Monday

  • The facility will bring Heaven Hill’s distilling operation back to Bardstown for the first time since a fire in 1996 destroyed the original facility

  • The facility is expected to cost $135 million to build and create 38 new jobs

  • The new distillery is expected to open in late 2024

Charlie Downs was the master distiller at the time of the fire in 1996.  

“Things are running all through your mind,” he said. “You think: Where’s safety? Am I going to have a job tomorrow morning? What’s the future of our company?”

The company survived, but had to move workers out of Bardstown to another distillery in Louisville.

Heaven Hill company officials break ground on a new distillery in Bardstown with Gov. Andy Beshear (Spectrum News 1/Joe Ragusa)

Downs was on hand Monday to see the groundbreaking.

“It’s great for the community, great for Heaven Hill, but also, it cements what Heaven Hill and Bardstown says: we’re the bourbon capitol of the world,” he said.

Heaven Hill president Max Shapira says the company is investing $135 million for the project.  

“I don’t have to state it, but we are bullish on bourbon,” he said.

Shapira gave Gov. Andy Beshear a special bottle of bourbon to mark the occasion, and the governor said he’s excited about the jobs the new distillery will bring.  

“Every new major distilling operation creates more jobs for Kentucky farmers, as well as those that transport the product all over the country,” Beshear said.

Heaven Hill maintained other parts of its business in Bardstown after the fire, but now that distilling is coming back, Downs said the people he worked with before the fire would be happy.

"They’d be grinning ear-to-ear, and they’re thinking maybe my family — sons, daughters — will have a job now where I used to work,” Downs said.

The distillery is expected to open in late 2024 and produce 150,000 barrels of bourbon each year. Company officials said the output could eventually expand to 450,000 barrels annually.

The company also said it will continue using the distillery in Louisville at full capacity.