Jim Beam Fire: Burns More Than Barrels. Statement: 45,000 barrels, ‘young whiskey’


July 3, 2019

As firefighters bravely fight the blaze of two Jim Beam warehouses, where some 45,000 barrels are at risk, the bourbon industry’s soul hurts, as it endures another tragedy. Beam reports initial reports suggests it’s a lightning strike that caused the flames.

Jim Beam Statement:

We are thankful that no one was injured in this incident, and we are grateful to the courageous firefighters from multiple jurisdictions who brought the fire under control and prevented it from spreading. Initial reports suggest that the fire resulted from a lightning strike, and we will work with local authorities to confirm the cause and to remediate the impacts. 

We have a comprehensive warehouse safety program that includes regular inspections and rigorous protocols to promote safety and the security of our aging inventory. We operate 126 barrel warehouses in Kentucky that hold approximately 3.3 million barrels for our brands, and the warehouse that was destroyed contained 45,000 barrels of relatively young whiskey from the Jim Beam mash bill. Given the age of the lost whiskey, this fire will not impact the availability of Jim Beam for consumers.

We appreciate the support of our neighbors and the Kentucky Bourbon community as we manage through this incident.”

Beam’s warehouses caught fire around 11:30 p.m. last night near the Franklin County border and was still burning 8 hours later.

Beam suffered a fire in 2003, when lightning struck a Jim Beam warehouse. The video of this fire resurfaced in 2015, with the Weather Channel dubbing it “Firenado.

The current Beam fire is the fourth major distillery fire since the 1990s. In 1996, Heaven Hill lost its distillery to a tragic fire; four years later, Wild Turkey suffered a fire. But the worst of them all was at the Silver Trail Distillery in 2015 when a still explosion cost the life of a young distiller.

Distillery fires were once so common that in the late 1800s the insurance industry revamped their fire insurance policies to prevent themselves from paying out unnecessary claims.

But the modern distilling industry has much more to worry about than just insurance claims. With two major incidents at Barton 1792, a warehouse collapse at OZ Tyler and the mainstream media breathing down their neck for answers, they must be concerned that these incidents could impact tourism and most certainly supply. And of course, all it takes is for one legislator to make the bourbon incidents his / her plank, which would greatly damage bourbon’s current standing.

On Twitter, I was extremely disappointed to see people’s reaction to this tragedy go straight to price increases, joking about Jack Daniel’s starting the fire and how Alcoholics Anonymous benefited from the fire. That’s disgusting; these burning warehouses are connected to people’s livelihoods, families and our state’s tax dollars. But I guess these are the times we live in: Nobody gives two shits about anybody, as long as they have a good snarky comment for somebody to like and retweet.

That said, this is a very real tragedy, and I hope it’s the last time I have to write about a distillery fire.