Three generations of Brown family descendants gathered today in Louisville to take part in the construction kick-off ceremony for the new Old Forester Distillery, which will be located at 117 & 119 West Main Street along Louisville’s famed “Whiskey Row.”
Old Forester President Campbell Brown and Brown-Forman Board of Directors Chairman Garvin Brown led the Brown family contingent and were joined by Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, Louisville Metro Council President David Tandy and various executives from Brown-Forman.
The ceremony occurred in a parking lot directly across the street from the site of the Old Forester Distillery, adjacent to the “Louisville’s Own” banner of Brown-Forman Company Founder George Garvin Brown. (The “Louisville’s Own” program highlights successful Louisvillians from a variety of fields of endeavor by displaying large banners of those individual’s photos in prominent places across the community.)
Old Forester was Brown-Forman’s founding brand and was the company’s flagship brand for many years, selling more than a million cases a year by the early 1970s. While consumers’ tastes changed nationally and Kentucky bourbon sales (including Old Forester) declined for many years, Old Forester maintained a strong base of support in its hometown and was often affectionately referred to as “Louisville’s Bourbon.”
Then the bourbon resurgence began.
“A few years ago, the millennial generation began to focus on brands and categories that delivered not just taste and flavor, but authenticity. There is no more authentic bourbon than Old Forester and the brand has enjoyed nice growth over the last two years and is extremely well positioned to cement the brand’s credentials into consumers’ hearts and minds.”
– Campbell Brown
As consumers were re-discovering bourbon whiskey, Brown-Forman executives, members of the Brown Family, and the Old Forester brand team began to dream of building an urban distillery on the very ground Brown-Forman once called home, “Whiskey Row.”
Brown said that as a result of the recent fire on Whiskey Row causing damage to adjacent buildings, the new Old Forester Distillery would now be completed and open for business in 2017, a delay of several months from the previously anticipated schedule.
“And we want to thank the Louisville Fire Department for keeping the fire from spreading to our buildings and saving the facades of the three historic buildings next to ours,” stated Brown. “They did a magnificent job.”
Also participating in the ceremony was Brown-Forman Master Distiller Chris Morris, who led a ceremonious filling of the first barrel in connection with the new distillery, while Garvin Brown and Brown-Forman CEO Paul Varga offered a toast to the project with Old Forester’s 1870 Original Batch from the new “Whiskey Row Series” of products.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, a large, new banner of the Old Forester Distillery logo was unveiled marking the location of the new distillery during construction.
The historic properties at 117 and 119 Main Street, where the Old Forester Distillery will be located, were built around 1857 and used for warehousing barrels of whiskey produced at numerous distilleries in the areas. At least nineteen distillers, wholesalers, and other whiskey-related businesses called this block of West Main Street home. By the mid-1870s, this stretch of Main Street was known as “Whiskey Row.”
The Old Forester Distillery will include fermentation, distilling, barrel making, filling and dumping, and bottling. The new distillery will allow the company to double its current production of Old Forester.