Whiskey makers are used to long waits, but restoring a 19th century building took a Kentucky distillery longer than most bourbons need to mature.
The wait ends Thursday at Michter’s, when the small producer of premium and ultra-premium spirits opens its new Fort Nelson Distillery in downtown Louisville.
“I would guess that probably 90 percent of the American whiskey volume doesn’t age as long as it took us to do this building,” Michter’s President Joseph J. Magliocco said during a pre-opening tour.
Michter’s bought the four-story, cast iron and stone building with its distinctive corner turret in 2012, leading the bourbon sector’s comeback along Louisville’s Whiskey Row.
But as years passed, a handful of nearby distilleries opened while Michter’s struggled with renovation setbacks. When restoration began, the building had been vacant for decades. A staircase had collapsed and there were no floors. One section of wall was bowed about 23 inches (58 centimeters) out of place, leading to a massive restabilization effort. Shoring up the building required 400,000 pounds (181,400 kilograms) of structural steel.
Executives at the privately owned spirits company won’t disclose renovation costs but acknowledge it was more than they meant to spend. But they say the stately result will justify the expense.
“This isn’t just a story about another distillery opening,” Magliocco said. “It’s a restoration story. It’s an architecture story. It’s saving a building. It’s a once-abandoned brand going into this once-abandoned building. And now they’re both pretty cool.”