BARDSTOWN, Ky. — An out-of-state developer plans to create an historic bourbon tourism experience at the shuttered T.W. Samuels Distillery site, just 10 minutes from downtown Bardstown.
Georgia-based property developer and builder Rick Puig said his vision for what will be called Old Samuels Distillery will unfold in phases, beginning with an intimate tour of the premises’ historic structures, followed by a retail gift shop. Around four-dozen private cottages will be available for overnight accommodations, and guests will find locally inspired food and drink at its restaurant, bar and tasting room. The multifaceted experience will serve the relaxation and tourism needs of everyone from individuals to groups hosting corporate parties and private events such as weddings.
“The historic significance of the property is so incredible, and to be able to be a part of its rebirth is an honor for me and my partners,” said Puig, who hopes to open for restoration tours as early as the end of summer 2020. “It is with that honor and gratitude that we hope to make the community proud of how we bring this historic relic back to life. Our goal is to create an amazing and wholly unique experience for Kentucky bourbon tourism.”
T.W. Samuels created his namesake distillery in 1844. It was operated by his sons until Prohibition began in 1920.
When “the great social and economic experiment” ended in 1933, third-generation distiller, T.W. Samuels built a new distillery near the original site, where he made whiskey lauded for its high quality. Though whiskey making at T.W. Samuels ended in 1952, the plant was used to bottle water for several decades afterward. Despite the production facility’s idling in the 1980s, the site’s nine, one-of-a-kind steepled-roof rickhouses have continued to age more than 170,000 barrels of whiskey made by Heaven Hill Distillery and Maker’s Mark.
“One of many things will make touring Old Samuels so amazing is how much of what was used to make whiskey back then still remains,” Puig said. “The first time we came here, the lab, where grain and new make and whiskey were analyzed for quality, we found beakers, test tubes and electronic devices from that time just left in place as if workers would return the next day. It’s this incredible snapshot in time, and that’s only part of what visitors will see.”
The distillery’s power plant, which generated steam energy and electricity, remains completely intact, as do its multiple outdoor fermentation tanks. The facility sits beside the Deatsville train depot, where Puig hopes future tourists will disembark from rail cars for tours to explore the site.
Puig’s partnership team includes Ryan Mollenkopf, Paul Diorio and Laura Medley, all of whom bring a diverse array of skills and capital to the venture. Their collective investment is expected to approach $16 million. The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority’s green lighting of the project in mid-July helped clear the way for future tax incentives that could see the group recoup as much as 85 percent of its capital investment over time.
“Old Samuels Distilling will be much more than another new attraction in Bourbon Country,” said Kim Huston, president of the Nelson County Economic Development Agency. “This will be a destination with wholly unique lodging and event space that visitors really want. Having a restaurant and bar to complement a museum showcasing the history of one of the original and authentic distillery sites in the U.S.—that’s what excites me and this community about its opening.”