Bardstown Bourbon Company (BBCo) broke ground in 2014 in the “Bourbon Capital of the World” and started distilling in 2016 with an initial capacity of 25,000 bourbon barrels a year. As demand from partner brands surpassed expectations, BBCo increased its capacity to 100,000 barrels a year and is now in the process of expanding again with the hopes of producing close to 165,000 barrels a year.
The company prides itself on its “customized distillation” model, which allows suppliers to have a say in the development of their whiskey throughout the entire process – starting with the grain bill, and how it’s fermented, distilled, barreled, and then aged. This process has led BBCo to produce all sorts of whiskies over the last few years, including different varieties of rye, bourbon made from popcorn, single malts, and unique four-grain recipes. Park Street University sat down with Susie Garvin, VP of Contract Sales at Bardstown Bourbon Company, to learn more about the company’s approach to co-packing.
Our Interview with Bardstown Bourbon Company
What services does your company offer for suppliers?
We are a full-stop grain-to-glass solution for our partners. In addition to customized distillation, Bardstown Bourbon Company will also age your barrels on-site. As you know, we have a 100-acre campus there with 14 beautiful rickhouses and recently we purchased another 300 acres across the street where we’ve already built two more.
We offer our partners every kind of lab service that they could want from sensory to bottling, to shake tests, light tests, distilling tests, and chemical analysis. Our lab has specialized equipment that we use to really understand what’s happening through the process.
Lastly, I have to talk about our bottling facility. We offer this as a standalone option for anyone seeking co-packing and of course as a service to our partners. Our state-of-the-art bottling facility has also been built to be completely flexible with multiple bottling lines capable of doing any size or shape. The lines can accommodate high-speed runs and or slower craft projects like single barrels, unique blends, finishes, or other special projects. The bottling line and our laboratory services are unique in that we are ISO Certified 9000 and FSSC 22000 certified. Our onsite packaging team knows how to prepare everything for shipment and wholesalers can pick it up directly from our warehouse.
What are the primary benefits of co-packing from your perspective?
Taking your package out to somebody else and trusting them to deliver the quality that you want to put your name on is sometimes a difficult decision. When we built our state-of-the-art bottling facility we did it with the intention of being the highest quality in the industry. All the equipment is brand new, the lab equipment is the best out there, and there is flexibility in almost every step. In addition, our highly skilled and professional team is here to make sure you have the very best experience that you could imagine and that you would expect for your brand.
The advantage of using Bardstown Bourbon Company as a co-packer is that we are going to handle your production exactly like we would handle ours. Ultimately, it says “Bottled in Bardstown, Kentucky” and for us, that means a lot.
What information do suppliers need to have ready when approaching your company?
If we’re distilling for you, you really just need the idea. We work with numerous brands and their teams that come to us with a vision, or if you need some support and guidance we have an incredibly talented internal team that can help bring that vision to life.
If you’re coming to us to do co-manufacturing of your packaged goods, have a concept of what your final packaging looks like. If needed, Bardstown Bourbon Company will work with you from the beginning and can suggest bottle manufacturers or stock bottles, label makers, or anything else that you’re looking for.
Is there a minimum order quantity for your suppliers?
There is no minimum order quantity. And that’s a beautiful thing about Bardstown Bourbon Company. Because we started as a small brand, we have that entrepreneurial mindset. We’ve had a lot of customers come to us with just an idea, not knowing necessarily where it would take them, and we’ve helped them along their journey. It’s all part of creating interesting whiskey and moving the category forward. We love that story of starting with somebody and growing with them.
Does your team handle delivery for suppliers?
We handle everything from distillation to co-packing, after which, wholesalers pick up from us.
How does Bardstown Bourbon determine pricing?
We look at all your dry goods and if you’re doing a secondary finish, if you need us to provide barrels for a secondary finish, if you’re doing blending, everything you want and we work with you. We’ll have a Zoom meeting or a face-to-face meeting and we find out exactly what all you’re going to utilize and how many people are going to touch it and how many man-hours it’s going to take.
What is the average lead time from agreement to completion?
It depends. Some people come to us two years out hoping to get in the market and have us kind of guide them on how to get there. But if you’re a brand and you’re already in the market and you know you want to be bottled within the next six months then once we get all your dry goods, we get your pricing, we get your bottling request form. We turn around a price for you within 30 days, you tell us what your goal is to be bottled by, and we look at space on the bottling lines. We run two shifts. We do a day shift and a night shift, and we have three different lines. So we try our best to get you in.
What are the most common mistakes you see?
Rush to market. So many new brands want to be next on the bottling line. They want to have a commitment, but they don’t have their bottles and they may have ordered them from out of the country in China, Mexico, or Europe. They don’t take into account the time on the water or transportation or how long the bottles are going to sit in the port.
And so I think the number one downfall is that people are so excited about getting their package out there that they don’t listen to all the answers of their vendors and suppliers and they just decide they want it on the market in three months. We always tell people that if your vendor tells you something is shipping in two weeks, you get that in writing, follow up throughout the shipment and track the progress of your dry goods.
Patience is the biggest downfall – following through, making sure all your I’s are dotted, your T’s are crossed, and understanding of compliance and distribution.
Do you have any suggestions on how to get a successful outcome?
I think really knowing the facilities, whether it be ours or anybody else’s. Meet the team, and make sure that your personalities and their personalities gel and their expectations and your expectations are met. Spend as much time doing reference checks, asking for customer reviews, and asking if there are three customers that you can talk to that might have packages similar to yours.
Managing expectations and having all the facts before you make that plan to launch and being realistic are key. Everybody launches a liquor brand and thinks it’s fun and it’s sexy and somebody’s going to come along and buy it for $300 million in 18 months and then you’re going to sit on the beach and drink cocktails for the rest of your life. That might be a real aspiration but it takes a lot of work to build a successful brand – Bardstown Bourbon Company is happy to be a partner along the journey.