Louisville, Ky. (AP) — Thousands of whiskey barrels crashed into a massive heap Friday, June 22, when a large section of a decades-old storage warehouse collapsed at a distillery in the heart of Kentucky bourbon country.
The damaged warehouse at the Barton 1792 Distillery in Bardstown held about 18,000 barrels, and it appeared that up to half the barrels inside were affected, the distillery’s owner said
“We are assessing how many of the impacted barrels can be recovered,” said Amy Preske, a spokeswoman for Sazerac, a Louisiana-based spirits company. “A mix of various distilled products at various ages were stored in that warehouse.”
No cause had been determined for the late-morning collapse, but no one was injured. It could be days or weeks before the company fully assesses damage to the warehouse, built in the 1940s, Preske said.
The distillery began its normal seasonal shutdown for repairs and routine maintenance last week, she said. The collapse will not affect bourbon production once the distillery’s summer shutdown ends, she said.
The distillery is near a waterway, and officials were checking on whether any whiskey had spilled into it. Initial water samples showed no signs of contamination, Nelson County Emergency Management director Joe Prewitt said.
The structure has a 12-foot (3.6-meter) basement to help contain spills, he said.
About half the structure holding the rest of the barrels was still standing, said Milt Spalding, a spokesman for the local emergency management agency. Engineers who arrived Friday were looking at “trying to secure what was remaining and trying to contain what had fallen,” he said.
Kentucky’s bourbon sector is in the midst of a more than $1.1 billion boom that includes expanded production facilities, more storage warehouses and new tourism centers. Kentucky distillers have more than 6.6 million bourbon barrels aging, according to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, but the warehouse collapse Friday was a first for Prewitt.
The Barton distillery, established in 1879, includes 29 storage warehouses and 22 other buildings, according to its website.