45,000 barrels of Jim Beam in Versailles, Kentucky on fire

3 July 2019

Three Jim Beam warehouses in Versailles, Kentucky, caught fire last night after a suspected lightning strike. This was first reported by WKLY (a CBS Affiliate who blocks traffic from the UK).

Apparently two warehouses caught fire with one soon put out, but the other has continued to burn. This warehouse contains 45,000 bottles of new whiskey and is expected to continue to burn late into this evening.

Reuters has a video of the fire you can watch here.

Jim Beam issued a statement on the fire stating that no-one was hurt in the fire which was thought to be due to a lightning strike and that availability of Jim Beam would not be impacted. The full statement made by Beam spokesperson Dan Cohen is as follows:

“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.”

While there have been a number of fires in recent years at distilleries, or their storage facilities, such fires are much less common now than they were in the 19th Century as safety standards are massively improved. I heard about one of the modern-era fires when I visited the Heaven Hill Heritage Centre in 2016; they suffered a fire in the mid-90s which not only destroyed some warehouses, but also the distillery itself. Fortunately the fire suffered by Jim Beam is of a much smaller scale, with only a single warehouse in flames.

CBS has an accessible news report from their affiliate with more details.