The tenth oldest distillery in the state of Kentucky, Green River Distilleries in Owensboro, made a proposal in late 2022 to build warehouses (rickhouses) in Lewisport. A conditional use permit was approved and the expansion of their facilities and rickhouses has begun on the old Dal-Tile Plant site. There is a possibility of construction of 5-7 rickhouses with operational use potential for the Dal-Tile building.
David Carroll – Distillery Operations Director
Operations Director for Green River Distilling David Carroll, a Hancock County native and resident, told the Clarion last week that finalization on the project in Lewisport and the purchase of the property is “really close” to completion. There will be an official press release with full details when that finalizes.
Construction has already started and Carroll commented that, “We’re up, a little bit, against a deadline on barrel warehouse space, that’s why we went on and started. Being that Buzick Construction are the ones that are doing the work and they are out of the Bardstown Group that everybody partners with to build their rickhouses – we were able to get everything started with Gary Nugent owning the property (old Dal-Tile site) and also doing the dirt work.”
What is a Rickhouse?
Carroll explained how the process of aging the whiskey in their rickhouses is done. “A rickhouse is – I’m sure you’ve been in a tobacco barn, that’s the best way to describe it, where you’re hanging tobacco. It’s the same thing. You’re laying barrels down and they’ll be on their sides in the rickhouses, or rackhouses. The one we’re going to build is going to hold 58,800 barrels. It’s a big building. It’s just an aging warehouse. We’ll be putting barrels in the warehouse that will set there anywhere from, most typically, 4 to 6 years. And then they will be removed, dumped and processed and new barrels will come right back into play.”
Carroll said they purchase the barrels from a lot of different places across the country. “They’re shipped in here to Owensboro,” he said, “and then we’ll fill them and transport them from Owensboro up to the Hancock site.”
Gary Nugent, owner of GN Excavating, had purchased the Dal-Tile Plant and surrounding 60-70 acres of property after the plant shut down and had been using it for warehousing for some of the local industry and preparing and recycling metal. He had said the distillery would, possibly, be purchasing all of that land and planned to make use of the tile plant building as a large warehouse as well. “They didn’t say how many rickhouses they planned to build,” Nugent said. “I believe there were five or six, is what their goal was.”
Nugent said that the land is already zoned appropriately for it. “It’s outside the city limits and it’s already zoned. I don’t think they’ll have a zoning issue here. If the deal goes through, it’ll be a great thing for the county and, from what I understand, for the school system also. The school system will get a lot of tax benefits from it, the way I understand it. And, right now the ground is not being used. I don’t foresee there being anything negative about it and it’s going to create jobs.”
According to the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) Report, the company approved a preliminary resolution for manufacturing rickhouses in Lewisport on Thursday, December 8th. The project description as stated on the report outlined that the distillery had opened a bottling facility to bottle its own brand and was considering purchasing land to construct an additional facility and rickhouses.
Green River Purchased by Bardstown Bourbon
Bardstown Bourbon Company purchased Green River and its Owensboro distillery in July, 2022. The expansion to Lewisport of their existing operations, according to the KEDFA Report, could possibly create 15 jobs with an average hourly wage target of $28 an hour, including employee benefits. In the second year of operation that job target is projected to increase to 20 employees and in the third year could raise to 25. The annual approved cost limitation is projected at $40,000 (per year) and the total negotiated tax incentive amount at $600,000.
The KEDFA Report also showed their anticipated project investment for land, building and improvements, equipment and other start-up costs. For land, the total investment they anticipate is $5 million. For building and improvements, $54,725,000, and for equipment – $2,500,000. Other start-up costs are projected at $250,000, equaling a grand total of $62,475,000 for the anticipated investment in the project altogether.
Mike Baker, Director of Economic Development for the Hancock County Industrial Foundation said, “Several years ago (spring of 2019), Green River wanted to build some rickhouses in Daviess County but Daviess County Planning & Zoning did not rezone that land for them and so that’s when they went to Ohio County. We showed them property at that time and they chose to go to Ohio County. This time they’ve chosen Hancock County so we’re really excited about the opportunity.”
A 750 mL bottle of their 90 proof Green River Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey can be purchased for $37.99. In the Gift Shop are water bottles, shot glasses and slate coasters with the logo printed on them. For a full list of merchandise visit: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can visit the Gift Shop in-person as well between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., Monday-Saturday.
Green River Distilling Co. is located at 10 Distillery Road in Owensboro (at the old Medley site). They are the western anchor on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. A tour can be scheduled Monday-Saturday, at 10:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. You can also arrange a group tour by contacting Nicole Ebelhar at email@example.com. For more information you can call the distillery at 270-691-9001 or email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Green River LLC was founded in 1885. The original owner, J.W. McCulloch, had great success including a Gold Medal for “Best in Show” at the Paris Exposition and the Grand Prize at the 1905 Exposition in Belgium. His whiskey was known as “the most expensive spirit ever sold” because 20 barrels had once been traded for interest in a Colorado gold mine. A distillery grounds fire ended his legacy though, and in just a short 3 hours it burned to the ground. McCulloch rebuilt only to be met with the Prohibition, which would prevent him from seeing his whiskey empire rise again. Reviews had called his product “King among Whiskeys.” Over the years it has changed hands several times.