During my September visit to Kentucky, I had the pleasure of being shown around the former Old Crow Distillery by the current occupants. My thanks to Dane, Glenn's Creek Distilling's Lead Distiller for showing us around. I'll talk about Glenn's Creek's current operation in another post, but first let's take a trip through the ruins of what is left when a whiskey distillery is abandoned and left to crumble for 30 years.
When Beam bought National Distillers, they closed down the Old Crow Distillery. They maintained use of a majority of the aging warehouses, but abandoned the rest. They still own and use those warehouses. Above is the main campus of the former Old Crow Distillery. The remaining non-Beam owned aging warehouses are out of frame off to the right. The majority of the upcoming photos were taken as we walked through this portion.
But first, we visited the remaining aging warehouses. There are currently three aging warehouses remaining on the Glenn's Creek property. One was deemed no longer safe and is in the process of being removed by reclaimers. I think all the bricks have been spoken for so I don't think you can use Old Crow bricks in your upcoming project. The wood is being used to build the aging racks to store Glenn's Creek barrels.
The brick aging warehouses are overgrown with ivy and trees. This are has been cleaned up recently, but you still need to watch your step.
Old fuses in a fuse box on the side of a warehouse.
Across the way is the main part of the distillery. We made our way over there next.
The building in the distance is the former bottling and shipping building. It currently houses the entire Glenn's Creek Distilling operation.
Old Crow once suffered a fire. After that, it suffered flooding. The lower level of this building still house some of that flood water. This is in the basement of the grain handling building.
This is what we visited of the boiler area. Before being abandoned, it looks to have been upgraded. There are shiny bits of metal back behind the wall and a primitive computer control board down at the end. the interesting thing is that it seems to have been actually abandoned and not mothballed. Under the dust, there are still March Madness brackets that the employees were in the process of filling out.
Thirty years of distillery mold.
Thirty years of dust and pealing paint.
Outside again. This is a peak between two buildings.
Neither our host, or us, could figure out what this used to be. Mold, fungus, insulation? No idea. Probably best not to lick it though.
In fact don't lick anything. I'm going to guess that lead paint and asbestos are pretty much everywhere. This is fermenter number five. The fermenter was sealed until fairly recently. It is notable because there were yeast spores (Old Crow or wild) inside that were recoverable by the current occupants and which are used to ferment one of their products.
Old valves and pipes in the fermentation room.
The spring that supplied Old Crow Distillery with water. This water is still used by the current occupant for uses that don't need potable water.
This is a look inside the beer well. It held 62,745 gallons. Sometime in the last 30 years, it flooded and the flood waters that ran into it brought something else along for the ride. There are currently fish living in there. They seem quite happy.
A window just barely hanging on. This is a ruin after all.
A large stash of abandoned material. They really just locked the doors and walked away. They allowed scrappers to come in for the still. But most of the stuff just sits there waiting to finish moldering away. In the distance are the loading docks.
Finally we snagged just a couple more outdoor shots. We also wandered past Glenn's Creek, the creek that the distillery was named for. We saw the small diversion dam that Old Crow Distillery used to help gather creek water for themselves. We saw the back of the shipping docks where trucks that must have been much shorter than semis nowadays were loaded up to carry away bottled product. There are vague plans to convert it to a stage, but there is a lot of clean up to be done first.
It was a strange feeling walking through the ruins of the old factory. Seeing the damage that time can wreck and yet finding tiny pieces here and there that showed that real people worked there and had fun doing it. This was once a big part of people's lives. Its nice to see that it is now in the hands of people who respect that history and hope to one day get it cleaned back up so others can see it as well. I hope they can figure out a way to make that happen.
UPDATE: Since I initially wrote this I've noticed that Glenn's Creek Distillery have started a GoFundMe project to help fund the restoration of the Old Crow distillery ruins. If you have the means, think about helping save a piece of history.
BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts Etsy store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visit BourbonGuyGifts.com. Thanks!