Buffalo Trace Distillery Expands With $200M Investment

In response to rising demand, Buffalo Trace Distillery of Franklin County, KY, announced plans last week to significantly expand operations.

A capital investment of more than $200 million to grow out the distilling operations will take place over the next seven years, the company reports, including new investments in cooking, fermenting, bottling, land and additional barrel warehouses.

Two additional barrel warehouses have already taken shape. Recently acquired buildings adjacent to Buffalo Trace Distillery have been converted back to their original purpose as barrel warehouses, called “T” and “U,” which hold 50,000 barrels of bourbon each.

“T” is completely full, with “U” expected to be full by June 2016.

Next up are two more barrel warehouses to be filled in the next 12 months, “R” and “S,” which will hold an additional 100,000 aging barrels total.

These buildings had been sold off in the 1980s and used as office buildings after the collapse of the bourbon industry in the late 1970s. “It is very gratifying to see the buildings once again being used for their original purpose,” says Mark Brown, president of Buffalo Trace Distillery.

Warehouses “N,” “O,” and “P” are also being converted back to barrel aging warehouses, now that construction is complete on the Distillery’s new distribution center, which opened last summer. Those warehouses had been used to store finished goods for many years. Now, with the new distribution center, those warehouses can be filled with new bourbon barrels. Each floor in those warehouses will hold 10,000 barrels.

In addition, Buffalo Trace Distillery will begin building new barrel warehouses in 2017 on the additional 200 acres of farmland it purchased a few years ago. A total of 30 warehouses are planned, with one new warehouse being built every five months for the next 10 years if everything goes according to plan.

All of this is in an effort to respond to the growing demand for bourbon, the company says. As far as the current inventory of bourbon at Buffalo Trace Distillery mature enough to bottle, things are marginally better than they were three years ago. “We’re still looking at shortages across the board for all of brands, and although the volumes are increasing, allocations will continue,” said Kris Comstock, distillery spokesperson.

Buffalo Trace has begun allocating its bourbons every month across the United States to ensure each state receives some bourbon monthly. “We spread what we have around as best we can. In many instances, we are literally waiting for barrels to come of age since we aren’t willing to compromise on quality and taste,” added Comstock.

There reportedly will be more Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, Blanton’s, and E.H. Taylor, Jr. this year. Volumes of Elmer T. Lee, Stagg Jr, and W.L. Weller bourbons will remain about the same. “Hopefully barrels of George T. Stagg and Van Winkle bourbon will yield a bit more this fall than last autumn,” the company says.

Due to the shortages of Buffalo Trace’s products, there have been “rumors” about the distillery’s stocks, it reports. The company took time to address the most persistent rumors in a recent press release:

  • “Elmer T. Lee or Weller 12 Bourbons are going away. False. Both of these brands are not going anywhere. Elmer T. Lee did not take the secret mashbill to his grave, it is not becoming part of the Antique Collection, and there is no lawsuit with his heirs over the brand. What is true is that both brands have become more popular over the years, making them harder to find, but there are no plans to discontinue either brand.”
  • “Eagle Rare Bourbon 10 Year Old age statement is going away. False. The age statement remains on the back of the bottle and there are no plans to remove it. Due to increased production and bottling equipment limitations, the neck wrap has simply been eliminated from the packaging and the age statement was moved to the back of the bottle.”
  • “Other age statements on brands going away. False. There are no plans to remove any age statements from any brands produced at Buffalo Trace Distillery.”
  • “The reason you can’t find various Buffalo Trace bourbons in stores is because they are shipping it all to China and Japan. False. While a very modest amount is sent overseas, the overwhelming majority is sold in the United States.”

The company adds, “so while the good news is Buffalo Trace is planning full steam ahead for the future, and there will be marginally more bourbon this year than before, the bad news is that allocations will continue, with no foreseeable end in sight.”

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