LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A Jim Beam storage warehouse that burned down, destroying 45,000 barrels of aging whiskey, was equipped with sprinklers and was insured, the company says. Meanwhile, the famed distiller is still assessing the loss of the bourbon.
Beam Suntory has brought in environmental cleanup contractors and consultants. The destroyed warehouse was about 100 yards from Glenns Creek, a tributary of the Kentucky River.
No one was injured in the blaze that broke out in the massive warehouse near the Woodford-Franklin County line. It sent flames shooting into the night sky that could be seen for miles and generated so much heat that firetruck lights melted. Fire investigators haven't yet determined a cause. Jim Beam officials said initial reports suggested the fire resulted from a lightning strike.
Beam's warehouses are equipped with sprinklers, the distiller said. With so much wood and alcohol in the buildings, fire spreads rapidly. Sprinklers activated in the warehouse that burned, it said.
The destroyed whiskey amounted to about one percent of Beam's overall aging bourbon inventory, it said. One standard bourbon barrel usually holds about 53 gallons of bourbon. If all of the barrels held bourbon, that would be a loss of at least 6.75 million bottles.
Beam Suntory officials haven't given a dollar amount on the loss but said the warehouse and its contents were insured. The lost whiskey was years from being bottled as a Jim Beam product that ages for four years. Jim Beam is the world's best-selling bourbon.
"We expect no disruptions to supply as a result of this loss," Beam Suntory spokeswoman Emily Bryson York said. "We continue to build additional warehouses in Kentucky as part of ongoing capacity expansion plans."
The company has said it operates 126 barrel warehouses in Kentucky that hold about 3.3 million barrels for its brands. The classic American whiskey brand is owned by Suntory Holdings Ltd., a Japanese beverage company.
Kentucky distillers produce 95 percent of the world's bourbon, according to the Kentucky Distillers' Association. The state's bourbon sector is in the midst of a $2.3 billion-plus building boom among KDA members — signaling distillers' confidence that growing demand for their spirits will continue. Projects include new and expanded production facilities, more warehousing and bottling lines and new and expanded tourism centers.