KY cooperage will begin welcoming visitors

LOUISVILLE, KY -- Brown-Forman announced today it is opening its world-famous cooperage to visitors for the first time in its history.

The barrel-making facility also has had its name changed, from Blue Grass Cooperage to Brown-Forman Cooperage. Brown-Forman created the facility in 1945.

Barrels are crafted there from American white oak for the aging of spirits owned by Brown-Forman, such as Jack Daniel’s, Woodford Reserve, Old Forester, Early Times, Canadian Mist, El Jimador and Herradura. Brown-Forman is the only spirits company in the world to make its own barrels.

Tours must be arranged in advance online through Mint Julep Tours or by phone at (502) 583-1433. Mint Julep Tours also is offering an “All Woodford, All Day Tour” which includes transportation to both the Brown-Forman Cooperage and Woodford Reserve Distillery, a guided tour, admission to both venues, and lunch.

Is it worth the trip? Having visited Woodford several times as well as having a private your of the cooperage, I'd definitely say yes. The cooperage is a beehive of activity that turns out more than 1,500 barrels a day.

Here's a small photo tour of what I saw the last time I visited.

William M. Dowd photos

Workers known as “barrel raisers” assemble 32 staves into barrels.

As part of the process of a zero-waste manufacturing stream, some scrap wood is made into dowel pegs to hold together barrel headers.

Barrel headers are coated with beeswax, then run through a charring apparatus.

Finished charred headers are stacked up until the remainder of the barrels come off the assembly line.

Meanwhile, the barrels are “toasted.” Wood begins to ignite at 482°F, creating a controlled char of the inside of each barrel.
Once barrels are fully processed, they are put on conveyer belts and head for their final destinations.
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