Our Distillery

Fortune favors the bold, and so does the art and business of making whiskey. A curious order of events eventually led Heaven Hill to become the largest independent family-owned bourbon distillery in the world.

From Bardstown to Bernheim

The original Heaven Hill distillery was founded by the Shapira brothers and built on an acreage of land in Bardstown, Kentucky in 1935. The first barrels were filled on December 13, 1935, but it wouldn’t be until four years later that the liquid inside was properly aged and the owners released their namesake whiskey: Old Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon. Along with guidance from the renowned Beam family, Old Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon later became Kentucky’s number one-selling Bourbon and operations were expanded to match its distillery’s steady growth.

In 1996, an unfortunate fire destroyed the distillery and seven rickhouses. And by that time, Heaven Hill was an American spirits powerhouse.

Over the next several years, multiple companies would help Heaven Hill distill its spirits and as recovery continued, the Shapiras weighed the benefits of building a new distillery or buying an existing plant. Either way, Shapira wanted Heaven Hill to return to distilling its own goods.

In 1999, United Distillers, owner of the Bernheim Distillery in Louisville, contacted Heaven Hill about a possible sale of their plant at the intersection of 17th and Breckinridge streets. Heaven Hill decided to go for it and the sale closed later that year.

Bernheim’s capacity was roughly triple that of the Bardstown location. In 2007, when the Bourbon renaissance was moving into high gear, Heaven Hill doubled the fermentation output to yield 200,000 barrels annually. Seven years later, four more fermentation tanks were added along with a third work shift, and production rose to 300,000 barrels. When it became clear there was no end to the American Whiskey boom in sight, a third 70-foot column still and four more fermenters were added, boosting annual production to 400,000 barrels.

Today, Heaven Hill still proudly distills its whiskeys at the Bernheim Distillery in Louisville’s historic California neighborhood, and we continue to enhance our production processes while improving both the company’s environmental footprint and our partnership with the neighboring community.