It’s boom times for bourbon, and while the number of distilleries across the country continues to increase, no place has seen more action in recent years than the Bluegrass State. There’s been a massive investment of money and resources in bourbon’s heartland, with upstarts joining the fray alongside traditional Kentucky powerhouses.
The new guard bourbon distilleries fare quite a bit larger than your typical craft upstarts. Many are equipped with only the best, most modern technology, and are future-proofing their operations to support continued growth.
These 10 distilleries opened in 2016 or later (though a couple of the brands have been around longer), and each is already making serious waves in the bourbon industry.
Angel’s Envy (Louisville)
An established brand that created a loyal following of supporters due to its port- and rum-cask-finished whiskeys, Angel’s Envy built its own distillery and visitors center on Louisville’s Main Street. After completing the $27 million project, the doors officially opened in November 2016, with a 35-foot column still powering the operation.
Bardstown Bourbon Company (Bardstown)
This bourbon house, spearheaded by former Maker’s Mark master distiller Steve Nally, is unique in that it launched what it calls a Collaborative Distilling Program. Bardstown distills the whiskey other brands end up bottling and selling in addition to its own spirits. That model has been hugely successful and quickly led the distillery to sell out all of its production capacity and pursue expansion. Its Visitors Center Experience opened for tours, tastings and cocktail classes in 2019.
Bulleit Distilling Co. (Shelbyville)
Bulleit has been a household name for more than a decade, and its highly anticipated distillery opened in 2019 in Shelbyville. After a massive $115 million investment from parent company Diageo, the distillery hit the ground running with a 52-foot column still and room to store more than 200,000 barrels.
Castle & Key (Frankfort)
A new venture set on the grounds of the former Old Taylor Distillery, which sat dormant for four decades, Castle & Key is led by Marianne Barnes, Kentucky’s first female master distiller. Production began in November 2016, and the doors opened to the public in September 2018. One of the highlights? A rickhouse that’s said to be the longest in the world, stretching the length of two football fields.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
Dueling Barrels Brewing & Distilling Co. (Pikeville)
With an estimated cost between $13 and $15 million, Dueling Barrels—the name represents its function as both a brewery and distillery—opened in Pikeville in the summer of 2018. The 28,000-square-foot facility has been ramping up production ever since, and has the capacity to produce 40,000 barrels per year. As the bourbon continues to age in barrels, visitors can sample the company’s beers and moonshines.
James E. Pepper Distilling Co. (Lexington)
James E. Pepper was relaunched in 2008 but didn’t begin producing its own whiskey until late-2017, after rebuilding its historic Lexington facility, which was first constructed in 1874. The distillery draws its water from an on-site limestone well 200 feet below ground, and its 12-inch-diameter Vendome column still was made in reference to the one Vendome first built for the distillery in 1934, once Prohibition was repealed.
Lux Row Distillers (Bardstown)
Lux Row Distillers in Bardstown began production in 2017 and opened its visitors center to the public the following year. The distillery produces established Luxco brands such as Rebel Yell, Blood Oath and Ezra Brooks, and plans for the 70-acre site include space for six barrel warehouses.
Old Forester (Louisville)
Brown-Forman unveiled its Old Forester distillery and visitors center in downtown Louisville in 2018. Located in renovated buildings along the city’s historic Whiskey Row, the project came in at a price tag of $45 million. The facility can produce about half of the brand’s needs, with the remaining production continuing to be handled at the Brown-Forman Distillery.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
O.Z. Tyler Distillery (Owensboro)
The O.Z. Tyler Distillery began production in September 2016 at the former Charles W. Medley Distillery in Owensboro. The facility first opened in 1936 but remained inactive for more than two decades. The project is backed by parent company Terressentia and is named for the late Orville Zelotes Tyler, who co-created the company’s TerrePURE "accelerated aging" process.
Rabbit Hole Distilling (Louisville)
Rabbit Hole Distilling opened in 2018 in Louisville’s NuLu neighborhood, producing bourbon and rye with its 24-inch diameter Vendome column still. It offers tours of its modern 55,000-square-foot facility, which features a gorgeous cocktail bar in addition to all the whiskey-masking essentials.