Believe it or not, I have never toured any of the operations at Heaven Hill‘s Bardstown facility. I had only visited the Bourbon Heritage Center before last week. The Heaven Hill Heritage Insiders group was invited to tour the Bardstown facilities last week, and the most surprising thing was the openness and generosity with which the Heaven Hill team allowed us access and answered our questions. It was honestly a breath of fresh air! I took a lot of photos, so here’s what I saw that day.
You don’t often see these on a tour. This is a filtration device. I didn’t ask, but I believe this is a chill filtration unit. It removes oils from the whiskey so it doesn’t become cloudy sitting on the shelf. Limited releases are moving away from filtration, but shelf standards tend to benefit from the uniformity.
You cannot imagine the scale of the dump room at Heaven Hill. This feeds the TWELVE bottling lines.
Something else you rarely see that also boggles my mind at this scale. This is where the pumps feed single barrels to the barreling line. Think about the scale of single barrels that would necessitate this many pumps.
The next batch of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof was rolling off the bottling line when we were there that day. The proof on this one is a doozie!
I was incredibly impressed by this. It’s a newer system to address production hiccups. During meetings workers from all areas of the plant will bring up any issues they have noticed. The team will brainstorm and come up with a potential solution. It goes on the board and is assigned to whichever person is in the best position to address it. It’s very collaborative, which I think is unusual for such a large company.
The bulk of the order picking done at Heaven Hill is automated. I have never seen such an impressive system in my life. It’s also a great way to cut down on warehouse injuries. I have hand-stacked and hand-wrapped many a pallet and it’s backbreaking work. This system is incredibly efficient.
Occasionally you will see a practice track like this between warehouses at a distillery, but you may not know what it’s for. This is a practice track for the Kentucky Bourbon Festival’s Barrel Relay, a race to see which distillery’s team can get their barrels ricked the fastest with the greatest accuracy. It is seriously the only sport I care about. The teams were practicing right before we got out there that day.
The cistern room where the barrels are filled seems to be even busier than the dump room. Yay for brand new baby Bourbon!
I can’t remember how many barrels they said this rickhouse holds — maybe 50,000? They are breaking ground for a new rickhouse just like this every few months.
Just because I love this photo I took of Jodi Filiatreau 🙂
So yes, nothing top secret or earth-shattering here. Just a nice day exploring one of Kentucky’s great Bourbon operations.
After all of this we had a tasting that included some experimental products to give our feedback on them. That’s really what the Heritage Insiders do. It’s not like a secret whiskey society, just a tasting panel. And hopefully we will help bring some new great whiskeys to market in the coming years!
Until then, enjoy this look at how the sausage is made. Cheers!
Photos Courtesy of Maggie Kimberl