After half a warehouse of bourbon stacked seven stories high collapsed last month, thousands more barrels fell to the ground at a Kentucky distillery Wednesday.
Despite attempts to shore up Barton 1792 Distillery’s seven-story warehouse in Bardstown, Kentucky, after half of its wooden-structure collapsed June 22, the rest of the rackhouse imploded Wednesday.
The alert to Nelson County (Kentucky) Dispatch came at 2:20 p.m. ET.
The initial collapse of Warehouse 30 sent about half of the 18,000 barrels crashing to the ground, many shattering upon impact. The remaining barrels and what was left of the warehouse structure fell Wednesday.
No one was injured in either incident. It’s too early to quantify the damage — the value of bourbon or the potential environmental impact.
After first collapse, Barton’s distillery team was prepared with equipment on site to address further problems from the structure that remained standing, Amy Preske, a spokeswoman for Barton’s parent company Sazerac, said in a statement.
“As a result of the Barton 1792 Distillery team’s preparation and quick action, no runoff from today’s collapse entered any waterways,” Preske said.
The remaining portion of the warehouse was unable to be secured after the initial collapse because of worker safety concerns, Preske said. It is unknown at this time how many barrels can be salvaged.
Officials expect it to be weeks before the cause of the collapse is determined, she said in the statement. And plans are underway to build a new warehouse to store the recovered barrels.
“The remaining barrel warehouses at Barton 1792 Distillery have been inspected since June 22 by third party experts and are deemed safe,” Preske said. “Barrel warehouses at the other two Sazerac owned distilleries in Kentucky have also been inspected and deemed safe.”
Barton bourbon is owned by New Orleans-based Sazerac, which also owns the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky. Barton 1792 Distillery, established in 1879, is the oldest fully-operating distillery in Bardstown, according to its website.
Not all of the 9,000 barrels affected in the initial collapse leaked, according to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, but at least some under the rubble did spill bourbon and brandy into nearby waterways.
About 800 fish were killed in Withrow Creek, which empties into Beech Fork River, officials said.
Nelson County Fire & Rescue Chief Billy Mattingly said officials on site reacted quickly to catch alcohol leaking from the barrels before it ran down the hill into streams after the initial collapse, but alcohol flowed for more than three hours before it was controlled.
The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet said after the initial collapse it planned to cite Sazerac “failing to report the incident in a timely manner” and “polluting the waterways of the commonwealth.” Cabinet spokesman John Mura said the citations could lead to a $25,000 fine per day and per incident.
Kentucky distilleries are aging a total of 6.8 million bourbon barrels, according to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. The collapsed barrel aging warehouse is one of 29 on the distillery’s 196 acres, which also features 22 other buildings, including a still house. The distillery employed 392 full-time employees in 2017, according to a Kentucky incentives database.