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Interview, Part 1: Bardstown Bourbon Company, An Emerging Player In Kentucky

August 26, 2020

Founded in 2016, Kentucky-based Bardstown Bourbon Co. (BBC) is a bespoke whiskey maker with annual distilling capacity of 7 million proof gallons.The company produces whiskies under contract for more than 25 clients within its Collaborative Distilling program. It’s also a brand player itself, with its Fusion, Discovery, and Collaborative Series releases. SND editorial director David Fleming got an update from vice president of brand sales and marketing Herb Heneman on progress for this emerging player in Bourbon country.

SND: Your own brands are still relatively small, with an initial footprint that included about six markets—Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, Illinois, Northern California, and Southern Florida. Will you develop a more national profile?

Heneman: Last year we focused on our core markets—mainly Kentucky and its adjacent states. More than 60% of our visitors are from the I-65 corridor between Nashville and Chicago, which we consider our extended home turf. This year we’ve added Nevada, Ohio, Colorado, Texas, Maryland, Delaware, and Washington, D.C. We’ll enter additional markets mindfully, taking care to balance growing deep versus growing wide.

SND: What will we see in the BBC own-brand space for the remainder of this year and into 2021?

Heneman: We just launched our Fusion Series #3, with the same blend as the previous two releases but older juice. We also rolled out Discovery #3, a blend of two 13-year-old Bourbons and a 10-year-old. In our Collaborative Series, we recently released a 9-year-old Tennessee Bourbon finished 18 months in Copper & Kings Destillaré Orange Curaçao barrels, and then a 12-year-old Indiana Bourbon finished in Copper & Kings Oloroso Sherry casks. We’ll be augmenting the Collaborative Series next year with new Phifer Pavitt Cabernet Sauvignon and The Prisoner releases, as well as a collaboration with a highly regarded rum company that we’ll be announcing in September.

SND: How does having your own brands alter the Bardstown custom distilling model? Is the plan to continue becoming more of a branded player, or will custom distilling remain the core discipline?

Heneman: The Collaborative Distilling program is the heart of the company. Our branded side represents a relatively small portion of the business today, but it will grow exponentially, and contribute equally to the long-term success of the enterprise. But we’ll always distill for others, and starting next year we’ll be bottling for them as well.

SND: Bardstown currently is custom distilling for more than 25 clients. How has the client list grown over the years?

Heneman: It’s grown steadily. Of course, some collaborative partners are now developing their own capacity and will reduce their dependence on us, but that creates room for new suppliers. We don’t limit our number of clients, and we recently brought in an industry veteran (Susie Garvin) to manage the pipeline and make working with us even easier.

SND: You’re currently at annual capacity of 7 million proof gallons, or more than 110,000 barrels a year, across more than 45 different mashbills. Is that enough, or is there future expansion planned?

Heneman: We’ll continue to grow capacity. The distilling team has made tremendous strides in improving yields and creating efficiencies. The number of mashbills could continue to grow as customers look for a greater breadth of customization and innovation. We’ve also just broken ground on our 47,000-square-foot bottling facility, so there are many sources for growth beyond just dropping in another still.

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