On the morning of Aug. 2, we celebrated a huge milestone—filling our 10 millionth barrel. Inside our cistern room in Bardstown, Kentucky, the Heaven Hill Distillery team welcomed Governor Andy Beshear, local Bardstown officials and community members to see the barrel be filled and to join in the celebration.
“Congratulations to the Shapira family and the entire Heaven Hill team on reaching the incredible milestone of filling their 10 millionth barrel!” said Gov. Beshear. “Heaven Hill has long been an industry leader, and I’ve been proud to watch them literally rise from the ashes of the devastating November 1996 fire that took so much. Like our entire Bourbon and spirits industry, Heaven Hill has emerged stronger than ever, and I look forward to their continued success.”
So do we, because the way we see it, 10 million barrels is just the start. As the industry continues to boom thanks to our dedicated fans, we have no plans of slowing down.
In celebration of this achievement, we’ve compiled an extensive overview of, well, barrels! We’re covering the history of our very first barrel, this latest milestone and so many barrel-related moments in between. We hope that all our fans—even our most dedicated—will be able to discover something new. So, grab a glass of your favorite Heaven Hill Distillery whiskey and let’s get rolling.
1. WE FILLED OUR FIRST BARREL ON DEC. 13, 1935.
Back in the early 1930s, when everybody knew Prohibition was going to end, the Shapira family was approached by a group that had a lot of pre-Prohibition technical experience in distilling. They wanted to open a distillery but lacked the capital to start it, so they talked the Shapira family into investing about $18,000 in the fledgling enterprise, which was a lot of money in those days, particularly given that all of this was going on during the height of the Great Depression.
Less than two years later, the individuals operating the distillery encountered some personal financial difficulties. The only options they saw were to sell the distillery or sell their shares to the Shapira family. The five Shapira brothers decided to buy out their partners for roughly $20,000, and in 1935, the original Heaven Hill Springs Distillery was officially up-and-running.
Over the next few decades, we grew steadily as a whiskey maker, and today, we’re proud to produce every major category of American Whiskey.
2. FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE COUNTING, THAT MEANS IT TOOK US 32,009 DAYS TO HIT THIS MILESTONE.
We’ve been steadily increasing our capacity over the decades. It took us 20 years to fill our first 500,000 barrels. We moved to the Bernheim Distillery in 1999 after the devastating 1996 fire and roughly tripled our production capacity. Since then, we’ve added additional fermentation tanks and a third 70-foot-tall column still. This means we can now fill about a million barrels every 2.5 years.
When it comes to 10 million barrels, it’s hard to fathom exactly how much whiskey that is. Consider this: each barrel holds roughly 53 gallons of whiskey or enough to fill 260 bottles. That means we’ve filled roughly 2.6 billion bottles of whiskey over the past 88 years. Big shout out to our award-winning distillery team for keeping up with growing demands.
3. WE ARE THE ONLY INDEPENDENT, FAMILY-OWNED AND OPERATED COMPANY TO REACH THIS HISTORIC BENCHMARK.
“This achievement reinforces Heaven Hill’s enduring strength and legacy,” said Co-President Kate Latts. “As the only family-owned and led spirits company in the world to reach this incredible milestone, we take great pride in our accomplishment.”
4. TO CELEBRATE THIS MILESTONE, WE PARTNERED WITH 10 LOCAL NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS.
In the spirit of giving back to the communities where our employees live and work, we partnered with local Bardstown and Nelson County-based non-profit organizations and made donations to support their respective missions. These charitable organizations support a broad range of health, social services and educational needs in the community.
5. THE 10 MILLIONTH BARREL WILL BE PUT AWAY TO AGE IN RICKHOUSE Y.
Located at our main campus in Bardstown, this rickhouse is where our other milestone barrels are displayed. The entire campus holds 499,973 barrels and was also the site of the famous 1996 fire.
6. SPEAKING OF RICKHOUSES, OURS HOUSE A SIXTH OF KENTUCKY’S AGING BOURBON.
We have almost 70 rickhouses where we age our American Whiskey. They sit on seven different sites across Bourbon country, and hold between 10,000 and 60,000 barrels each. If you stacked all of these buildings on top of each other, they would be 3x taller than the world’s tallest skyscraper.
7. WE HAVE OVER 2,000,000 BARRELS AGING RIGHT NOW.
Which makes us the world’s second largest holder of Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. If you lined these barrels up end-to-end, they would span over 1,000 miles in length.
8. OUR BARRELS ARE AGED ANYWHERE FROM 4 TO 23+ YEARS.
After that, they are expertly combined to create the signature taste profiles of each and every brand. Each batch is created under the attention of our team, who ensure quality and consistency. And we take those extra-aged releases extra seriously, so be sure to learn more about those on our recent podcast episode.
9. EVERY DAY IN OUR CISTERN ROOM, WE FILL BARRELS WITH ENOUGH WHISKEY TO FILL 5.9 OLYMPIC SIZE SWIMMING POOLS.
That adds up to filling roughly 1,500 barrels each day or 10,500 barrels each week. What happens in the cistern room is a key part of the whiskey making process. Liquid is brought from our distillery in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. From there, we add limestone water and fill up the 53-gallon charred oak barrels.
10. WE USE TECH TO HELP US KEEP TRACK OF ALL THESE BARRELS.
If you’re thinking this all sounds like a lot of whiskey to monitor, you’re right. Empty barrels arrive at the cistern room and are tagged with a Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, barcode. Each barcode is attached to a unique serial number, which allows us to record the barrel information in our system. These tags help us track the age of each barrel—and where they’re stored in the rickhouse.
11. OUR NEW DISTILLERY WILL HELP US KEEP UP WITH DEMAND.
In 2022, we announced plans for a new, $135 million distillery—Heaven Hill Springs Distillery. The state-of-the-art facility will increase our distilling capacity. Initial production is slated for 10 million proof gallons a year (150,000 barrels) and will have capacity to ramp up to producing 30 million proof gallons (450,000 barrels) over time.