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Firing a Bulleit

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Diageo tabs distillery as Bulleit Distilling Company at groundbreaking ceremony

By Ashley Wilkins

With shovels in hand, Diageo and Kentucky officials stood before a crowd yesterday morning and took part in the ground-breaking ceremony for The Bulleit Distilling Company, and officially tabbed the bourbon and rye distiller’s home as Shelby County.

“What an exciting day, not only for Shelby County but indeed for the entire commonwealth of Kentucky,” Governor Steve Beshear said. “These folks could have built this distillery anywhere, they chose here in Shelby County and you folks in Shelby County ought to feel proud about that.”

Tom Bulleit, founder of Bulleit Bourbon, said people thought he was crazy when he walked away from his career as a lawyer to bring back his great-grandfather’s bourbon, but nearly thirty years later, he says he is humbled that a new facility in Kentucky will bear his family’s name.

The projected $115 million facility on Benson Pike will include a 1.8 million proof gallon distillery and six barrel warehouses and, Diageo officials hope, push the Bulleit brand over 1 million barrels a year. The new facility will also add 30 jobs to the local economy, but several officials note that it’s more than just a place to work.

“Thirty is just a number, but that thirty stands for…thirty Kentucky families who are going to feel a lot better laying their head down on their pillow at night knowing that they got a good paying job where they can support their families,” Governor Steve Beshear said.

State Sen. Paul Hornback (R-Shelbyville) agreed and added, “It’s not just thirty jobs that are direct employment to Diageo, but the impact it will have on the Ag community – from grain to the feed as a byproduct from distilling – will be tremendous.”

Shelby County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger also pointed out the future impact the county could see in the tourism industry.

“One day [the] plans call for a visitors center…and with that we know the tourism will have a tremendous impact on Shelby County,” he said.

Rothenburger said that the intent of creating the distillery was to put Shelby County on the Bourbon Trail map.

Rothenburger explained that he had previously met with zoning and they decided to go “fishing” for a company.

“And lo and behold did we know that we were going to find the world record holder…on our line and drug in,” Rothenburger joked since Diageo is the largest distiller of spirits in the world.

Also present at the ceremony, Congressman Thomas Massie, who commended Shelby County on its hospitality.

“The best asset that Kentucky has are the people and there are no finer people than the ones here in Shelby County and I think that Diageo is going to find out that they made an excellent decision when they go to hire these people in Shelby County,” Massie said.

Diageo North America President Larry Schwartz agreed and thanked the community for their warm hospitality.

“What a great day and thank you for all the support…this never could have happened without the local support,” he said. “It just makes everybody’s job so much easier when you have the support of the community and we can’t wait to give back the community.”

Bulleit made similar remarks and quoted novelist and Henry County native, Wendell Berry, “Wendell Berry…once said, ‘treat your downstream neighbors as you would have your upstream neighbors treat you’ and I think that’s such a wonderful saying and that is exactly what is going to happen here. We are going to be the best neighbors you could have.”