It has been an absolute banner year at Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc. In 2013, Heaven Hill received a host of awards, invested millions of dollars internally and continued to grow as a private, family-owned and operated spirits supplier. The result is growth that places us as the sixth largest spirits supplier in the United States and second largest bourbon supplier in the world.
“Much of the growth is predicated on adapting to the marketplace and being an industry innovator,” said Kate Latts, director of marketing at Heaven Hill Distillery. “As a family-owned, privately-held company, we have greater flexibility to be on top of trends that impact our consumers from flavored vodkas to exotic liqueurs.”
Most recently, Heaven Hill was named a finalist in Business First’s “Business of the Year” listing, in the “Very Large Company” category.
Business First lists the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, new warehouses and production capacity increases as reasons for the company’s nomination. The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience opened November 15. To date, the Experience, which employs 17 full-time and four part-time workers, has hosted over 8,000 visitors.
“The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience was, perhaps, our most glamorous [addition],” Latts said, “and new warehouses have a great impact on a number of products with which we are often most commonly associated. However, expanded production capacity gets us most excited and impacts our success dramatically.
“This comes in two forms,” she noted. “We have expanded our whiskey making production at our Bernheim Distillery in West Louisville. That expansion will allow us to make more whiskey. But the more impactful production expansion is our new, efficient bottling lines in Bardstown. By adding more lines, our company is capable of meeting the growing consumer demand for our Burnett’s Vodkas, flavored whiskeys, tequilas and brandy.
In the Business First article, Heaven Hill President Max Shapira noted that bourbon has jumped in popularity in the past few years.
Latts explained this jump, “Worldwide, people are choosing the appeal of American whiskey because it’s very approachable and uniquely American. Domestically, consumers have embraced the product for many of the same reasons.
“However, there is great discovery, as well,” she continued. “From ultra-premium varieties to flavored whiskeys, there are excellent products, like our Elijah Craig Specialty Whiskeys to our Evan Williams Flavored Reserves, which appeal to consumer tastes. By adding honey, hot cinnamon or cherry to our Evan Williams Flavored Reserves, especially, American whiskey becomes far more approachable and versatile for the everyday consumer.
Creating the Evans Williams Bourbon Experience brings a unique and exciting stop to downtown Louisville. “There is an artisanal distillery in the back of the building.” Latts said, so, outfitting whiskey production (the first ever actually on Main Street) was a challenge.
“We worked with our partners, Solid Light and Barnette Bagley, to develop a visitor’s center that was immersive, cutting edge and a lot of fun, while maintaining a historically accurate portrayal of whiskey history,” she explained.
“Likewise, we had great partners in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and City of Louisville. Virtually every step of the way,” she pointed out. “We received enthusiastic support from our elected officials and community organizations supporting tourism and economic development.
“All of these challenges were embraced by Harry Shapira, especially,” she stated. “It was Harry’s experience with our visitor’s center in Bardstown that shaped his vision for a tourist destination that shared the traditions and mythologies of American whiskey with millions of people. Harry passed away just one month before the location opened. But it’s a wonderful legacy he leaves with the community.”
Heaven Hill is a business on the move. “We will continue to work towards our mission to create and responsibly market beverage alcohol and related products that enhance the enjoyment of life for consumers throughout the world. That includes looking at opportunities to expand, being more efficient, innovating with new products and finding people that help Heaven Hill grow and find new successes,” Latts concluded. “But most importantly, we’ll do it as an independent family-owned and operated company.”