Distillery’s progress represents progress locally, industrywide

-A A +A
By The Kentucky Standard Editorial Board

Last week marked a significant development for an old company that has built new presence in our area with the installation of the still at Lux Row Distillery.

But is also marks a significant event for our area.

The distillery is the first wholly-owned for Luxco, a business with half a century of history in the beverage industry. Since its humble beginnings in 1958, when Paul Lux started it as a private label bottler to serve distributors, the company has built an impressive portfolio that includes bourbons that rank among the best on the top shelf.

For most of its history, Luxco has been a non-distilling producer, known in the industry as an NDP. They would buy bourbon on contract from the larger distillers, who had excess capacity. But as the demand for bourbon has increased, more of those distillers’ product is going into their own bottles.

That has left many NDPs with a hard choice. Either take what they can get on the contract market — paying higher prices for constricting supplies, or invest millions of dollars into their own operations. That’s a significant investment that involves more than money. It changes the model for many businesses that have been operating in a specific way, often for generations.

Willet was another longtime NDP that started making its own product again in recent years. That distillery has attracted a loyal following for its brands, bringing many people into the area and adding tourism dollars to the local economy.

This is an exciting time for those people interested in watching an entire industry change. We are seeing new businesses, like Bardstown Bourbon Company, trying new business models. We are seeing established brands innovating and expanding. And with these changes come local investment, more employment and more tourism.

Taken individually, these are all significant and newsworthy events. But as a whole, what we are witnessing is a sea change over the last few years, which is only a blink of an eye in a centuries old tradition.