Whiskey is the unofficial state drink of Kentucky and an essential ingredient in many drinks. Fans of the Old Fashioned probably gasped in dismay when a Bardstown warehouse collapsed on June 22, causing 9,000 barrels to spill. Each barrel weighs 550 pounds and holds 53 gallons of bourbon. Thankfully, no one was in the warehouse at the time of the accident. People nearby reported a huge sound, like thunder that shook the ground.
Bourbon-lovers are not the only ones to suffer because of this accident. The spill caused bourbon and brandy to leak into a neighboring stream where between 800 and 1,000 small fish were killed. Alcohol is toxic to fish, and even if that didn’t kill them, the oxygen level in water depletes as bacteria consume the booze. There are worries that the alcohol also entered the public waterway and while an initial test came away clean, officials remain vigilant.
We don’t know the cause of the warehouse collapse yet, though at the time a wall was being repaired. Also, the warehouse was built before modern rules and regulations. Barton 1792 itself is the oldest operating distillery in Kentucky. A lot of their buildings are probably in need of fixes more substantial than a new coat of paint. The parent company currently faces big fines for failing to report the spill right away and for polluting the water.
The Barton distillery is huge – the collapsed warehouse held around 20,000 barrels, the majority of which were unaffected. This means production doesn’t face a setback and if you’re in the area, you can still go on a tour. They are all complementary and offer history and bourbon tastings. However, for the good of the environment and every drop of delicious bourbon, they should take a good look at the state of their buildings.
Update: On July 4th, the rest of the warehouse collapsed, bringing the total number of lost barrels to 18,000.