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Heaven Hill creating Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, joining Michter’s on Main Street’s developing urban bourbon row

by Terry Boyd

(Editor’s note: This announcement came in a news release this afternoon, a release Heaven Hill Distilleries executives marked “embargoed” for a week. In a phone interview, Larry Kass, Heaven Hill director of corporate communications, reiterated the embargo, stating the press release was sent a week in advance of a press conference/announcement to allow all media to plan coverage. While we laud the Shapira family’s investment in this exciting project, we are not bound by retroactive “agreements.” Insider Louisville is in the business of using 21st Century technology to deliver information instantly.)

Bardstown, Ky.-based Heaven Hill Distilleries is the second  Kentucky-based distiller – and by far the largest – to buy into the urban bourbon movement, with plans for a boutique downtown distillery/tourist attraction on Main Street.

This afternoon, Heaven Hill executives sent out a news release announcing The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience is coming to the distiller’s former Louisville headquarters building at Sixth and Main streets.

The building is next to the Michael Graves-designed Humana headquarters building. Sources at several design companies told Insider Louisville Friday afternoon that Heaven Hill executives are awaiting final approval of the The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience facade by Metro Louisville’s Planning and Design department.

Though the details are understandably sketchy, the release describes the Evan Williams project as “a multimillion dollar artisanal distillery, immersive tourism experience and retail location located in Heaven Hill’s ‘Bourbon Row’ Main Street location.”

The announcement comes about a month after officials at Michter’s Distillery, part of New York City-based Chatham Imports, told Insider Louisville they had finalized the purchase of the Fort Nelson Building at Eighth and Main streets, about two blocks west of the proposed Heaven Hill project.

Michter’s executives announced last July they would invest $8 million in a boutique distillery and tourist attraction.

Last September, executives at Lexington-based Alltech announced they were investing about $5 million to build a distillery in downtown Lexington. And Brown-Forman heirs and investors have discussed building a small distillery complex on Whiskey Row, just east of the KFC Yum! Arena, though we hear those plans are dead.

As we’ve written before, several urban distilleries could give Louisville a huge advantage over other convention markets, even Indianapolis. Because where you have multiple successful tourist draws, retail, restaurants and specialty stores are sure to follow.

We also know that the Shapiras have the resources to make the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience a world-class project.

Other notable firms such as Bowling Green-based Houchins Industries and Louisville-based Thorntons claim to be the largest private Kentucky -based company. But our sources in the alcoholic beverage industry tell Insider Louisville that Heaven Hill is the largest distiller of neutral spirits in the United States, selling millions of gallons of this basic drink ingredient to brands all over the world.

That volume of commodity business, in tandem with its portfolio of brands,  makes Heaven Hill a candidate for the state’s largest private business by total sales.

Here’s the full Heaven Hill release:

LOUISVILLE, (Ky.) – On Thursday, April 26, executives from Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc.—the largest family-owned and operated distilled spirits company in the country and producers of Evan Williams, the United States’ and world’s second-largest selling Bourbon—will be joined by Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and political, tourism and spirits industry dignitaries to announce the September 2013 opening of The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience™. The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience will be a multi-million dollar artisanal distillery, immersive tourism experience and retail location which will celebrate the legacy of Evan Williams, Kentucky’s first commercial distiller and namesake of Heaven Hill’s flagship Bourbon brand. Evan Williams, an early Trustee of the City of Louisville, wharfmaster, and builder of the first county clerk’s office and city jail, set up his early distillery in 1783 at what is now Sixth and Main Streets in downtown Louisville—almost directly across Main Street from where the new attraction will be located.

The Lieutenant Governor and Mayor will be offering brief remarks, along with Heaven Hill leadership.

When: Thursday, April 26, from 2:00 to 3:00 pm.

Welcome from Heaven Hill President Max L. Shapira and Executive Vice President Harry Shapira

Remarks from the Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer to follow.

Where: Plaza in front of the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts

501 West Main Street

Louisville, KY 40202

About Heaven Hill: Founded in 1934, Bardstown, Ky.-based Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc. (www.heavenhill.com) is the nation’s largest independent, family-owned and operated spirits producer and marketer and the world’s second-largest holder of Kentucky Bourbon. Heaven Hill’s diversified portfolio of brands includes Evan Williams Bourbon; Burnett’s Vodkas and Gin; HPNOTIQ and HPNOTIQ Harmonie Liqueurs; Admiral Nelson’s and Blackheart Rums; The Christian Brothers Brandies; PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur; Lunazul Tequila and Rittenhouse Rye Whisky.

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