In the past 18 months, four new barrel warehouses have sprung up and the bottling hall is near completion, as Buffalo Trace Distillery continues its $1.2 billion infrastructure investment with the largest expansion since the repeal of Prohibition.
However, it will still be years before supply catches up with consumers’ demand, according to distillery officials.
“We’ve been increasing production for many years now. We’ll fill more barrels this year than ever before in our 246-year history,” said Kris Comstock, senior marketing director.
To keep up with the growing popularity, a new barrel warehouse will be built every few months for the next several years, the company said in a press release.
Known as the “whiskey farm,” warehouses AA, BB, CC and DD are complete and filled with barrels containing what will eventually fill 70 million bottles. A fifth new warehouse, EE, is under construction on the 200-plus-acre site with plans for the sixth and seventh warehouses slated to get underway later this year.
The new warehouses, which individually cost about $7 million to build and another $21 million to fill with barrels, are equipped with insulation and heated during the winter months — a rarity in the bourbon industry and a tradition that was started by E.H. Taylor Jr. in the 1800s.
“Many of our bourbons are aged for eight years or more, so although we have far more than a decade ago, demand continues to outpace our supply of mature bourbon,” Comstock said. “There will be more available every year, but it will be awhile before bottles are readily available on liquor store shelves.”
But all those aging barrels will require more bottling capacity when they come of age, and Buffalo Trace is in the finishing stages of its $50 million 110,000-square-foot bottling hall, which will increase its bottling capacity. The bottling hall will be completed in August and will offer improved efficiency, flexibility and overall quality, officials said.
“While we’re flattered these brands have become so popular, we do understand the frustration our fans are experiencing when they see empty store shelves. We promise we are doing everything we can, but we can’t speed up the aging process, so we just ask for continued patience,” Comstock said, adding the company will also add a new cooling tower to chill the water used for cooling the grain after it is cooked into mash.
Four new cookers and four 92,000-gallon fermenting tanks — the largest in the industry — will be installed. In the dry house, where used grain is dried and sold, new handling equipment and an evaporator will be added.
In order to accommodate the growing number of bourbon tourists, Buffalo Trace — which welcomed more than 230,000 visitors last year — also has plans to expand the visitor center.
In the meantime, the distillery remains committed, officials said, to not raising prices during the supply-demand imbalance.
“You can’t cheat Mother Nature and you can’t hurry Father Time,” Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley said.