New cooperative distillery
to give customers chance
to make bourbon
Kentucky Artisan Distillery
to open April 1 in Crestwood
CRESTWOOD, Ky. (March 2013) – Steve Thompson has put all of his distilling expertise into a new business venture in Crestwood, Ky. Relying on his background as a former president of the Brown Forman Distillery, Thompson and his colleagues have engaged in what they hope to be a new idea on an old Kentucky tradition.
Photo by Don Ward
Business partners Steve Thompson,
Mike Loring are
ice cream factory in
Crestwood, Ky., into The
Kentucky Artisan Distillery,
where customers can make
their own bourbons and
other beverages. They
open April 1.
“Steve provides the distilling expertise needed for our customers’ success,” said Chris Miller, 51, who along with partner Mike Loring, 49, make up the three shareholders of The Kentucky Artisan Distillery. Thompson previously began two micro-distilleries in Hawaii prior to this project.
The trio are “very serious about producing bourbon at the distillery, but we will also produce other adult beverages,” said Miller. The distillery, scheduled to open April 1, will produce its own brand and function as a cooperative for those wishing to produce their own distinctive spirits.
“We are opening the distillery to other distillers because we saw a need,” said Miller. He also works as a sales manager for Special Projects International, an equipment company that deals in a variety of equipment including distilling equipment. Loring is president of Special Projects International, and both bring engineering skills, marketing and sales experience to the group.
“We talked about doing this for five years, and we finally said to ourselves, “Let’s do it,’ “ Loring said.
Miller and Loring met Thompson in 2005 during the dismantling of the former Brown-Forman bottling operation on 18th street in Louisville when it was moving to a newer facility at the same location. Their company had been hired to help with the project. Thompson was not working there at the time, but he later asked Miller and Loring for help in obtaining some equipment he needed for another distillery.
They sold some of the older stills and equipment from Brown-Forman and kept two of the newer ones for this future business venture. They now have three stills of varying sizes – 110 gallon, 375 gallons and 1,175 gallons.
Last June, Thompson, Miller and Loring leased property at 6230 Old La Grange Rd. for their future distillery. It is located next to Yew Dell Botanical Gardens and near Boone Gardiner Garden Center.
Photo by Don Ward
Business partners (from left) Chris Miller, Mike Loring and Steve Thompson pose outside their new cooperative distillery opening soon in Crestwood, Ky.
They began to remodel the almost 12,000-square-foot building the very next day. As a former an ice cream distribution center with large insulated rooms, the building was perfect for converting into a distillery, they said.
“The cost of opening a distillery is a very lengthy and costly process,” said Miller. A prospective distiller can easily spend $500,000 or more over a one year period in set-up costs, he said.
By taking part in The Kentucky Artisan Distillery, “For a small fee and a lot less time, a distiller can get started making a spirit,” Miller said. A distiller can then invest these savings into the sales and marketing of their product.
“This is the most important aspect of distilled products that most people overlook,” he said. “You can make the best bourbon in the world, but unless you can get it on shelves and have customers buy it off the shelves, you are going to have the best bourbon that no one will ever taste.”
The Kentucky Artisan Distillery has three stills capable of producing a variety of distilled spirits that customers may wish to create, including vodka, gin, brandy, rum and whiskey. The setup includes three mash cookers and stainless still and cypress fermenting tanks.
When open for business, the distillery will have a complete automated bottling line in a 2,700-square-foot bottling room, barrel warehousing and test lab available for guest distillers.
The trio chose to open their distilling business in Crestwood “because of its central location to the Kentucky distilling areas,” said Miller. It’s proximity to Frankfort, Louisville, Bardstown and Lawrenceburg, major distilling areas, “is important to our distillery customers.”
Many may not know that this is not the first time a distillery has been located in Oldham County. Three distilleries operated in nearby Brownsboro in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Plans call for The Kentucky Artisan Distillery to become part of the newly formed “Kentucky Craft Distillers Tour,” a tour designed for the state’s micro-distillers. This tour is associated with “The Bourbon Trail,” a passport program promoting bourbon by encouraging visits to six different distilleries within the state. Almost 12,000 people completed this program in 2011.
“Distillery tours are very popular,” Miller said. Visitors will be allowed to view all operations of the finished 3,700-square-foot distillery, tasting room and gift shop.
In addition, the facility will be offered as a venue for special events, he said. “Not only will The Kentucky Artisan Distillery produce a tax base for Oldham County, we will also pull tourists to Crestwood and the surrounding areas.”
All beverages produced at the Crestwood location will be available for sale, but it will be up to the customer as to where they want their product sold. Some brands may be available locally.
Thompson has spent time recently in California learning to make chocolate. He plans to offer dark chocolate “fresh from the bean.” He said “chocolate and bourbon go together. Selling chocolate will be an added feature for tours.”
• For more information, visit www.WhiskeyRow.com or www.KentuckyArtisanDistillery.com.
Back to March 2013 Articles.