BUFFALO TRACE DISTILLERY’S $1.2 Billion Production Expansion Update: It’s in High Gear

Buffalo Trace
New Barrel House of BTD $1.2B Expansion. Photo: Seth Thompson

The Great American Stampede of production expansion is in full effect at Buffalo Trace Distillery (Frankfort, KY), and that’s a good thing.

A press release this week from the highly (highest in North America, most likely) decorated distillery stated that the ongoing $1.2 billion operations expansion is in high gear, from A to Z. What does that mean? Broadly speaking, it means more fermenters, cookers, a new still, a #*it ton more rickhouses, and most importantly the end product…MORE BOURBON!

BTD reported that their whiskey production has increased by 50% since 5 years ago, and is scripted to flat out double in the upcoming years. But please take all this great news with a patient grain of salt our dear Bourbon lovers. As you know, whiskey is a time consuming process. What goes in a barrel today takes years to fully mature. That being said, lets dive into some of the expansion particulars.

They added a new distribution center and bottling operation in 2015 and 2019, respectively.

More recently, the Distillery added 14 new barrel warehouses, 12 additional fermenters, additional cookers, a new cooling system and tripled the size of its visitor center. Plans for 2022 include an additional dry house, hammer mill, additional still house and wastewater treatment all to be operational before year’s end.

The newly constructed still house is slated to begin operating in December 2022 and will allow Buffalo Trace to double its production (can we get a hallelujah!). The second still house is located adjacent to Buffalo Trace’s existing 1930s still house and contains a duplicate still of Buffalo Trace’s existing still, standing 40 feet tall and having the capacity of 60,000 gallons a day. That’s nearly 21 million gallons per 365 days of distilling.

Buffalo Trace
New 40ft tall column still being implemented at Buffalo Trace Distillery, Courtesy

“We’re finishing the electrical work in the new still house now, and then will move into commissioning it for test runs in the next few weeks. If all goes as planned, we will start production before the end of this year. We are excited to double our distillation capacity so we can bring more bourbons to our fans,” said Harlen Wheatley, master distiller.

The wastewater treatment plant will process 1.2 million gallons of water per day.

“It’s rare to see this much money invested in a standalone, sophisticated wastewater treatment plant.  I am excited to see its start up because it truly demonstrates Buffalo Trace Distillery’s commitment to protecting the Commonwealth’s water,” said Steve Tolliver, president of Aqua Utility Services, Buffalo Trace Distillery’s regional wastewater operator. The treatment plant will be comprised of a moving bed biofilm reactor, allowing wastewater to be treated efficiently and maintain water quality standards. Wastewater will be treated and disinfected so it’s clean enough to release into the Penitentiary Branch, which leads to the Kentucky River.

“We appreciate our fan’s patience as we’ve been laying down the foundation to produce more American Whiskey than we ever have before,” said Sara Saunders, vice president, Buffalo Trace Distillery. “We are still catching up to consumer demand and though our bourbons can be hard to find at times, more is coming! When our new still starts early next year we will double our production…. And then we wait for it to age because one thing we will not do is cut any quality corners by lowering proof or age. We are committed to maintaining the highest quality whiskey at fair prices.”

With this tremendous industrial expansion comes tremendous job creation. BTD reporting adding 200 production-focused jobs over the past four years. With the continued capacity increases, there will be up to 50 more jobs added in the coming few years.

Making fine whiskey takes skill and patience. It ain’t the clear stuff, it can’t happen overnight unfortunately. But it sounds like BTD is digging in and doing their best to keep up with the unquenchable thirst of their American Whiskies.

Buffalo Trace
New BTD Rickhouse. photo Seth Thompson