Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (KBD), Ltd., also known as the Willett Distilling Company, is a private family-owned and -operated company that markets bourbon and rye whiskey. The company is located on the outskirts of Bardstown, Kentucky on a site that began as a farm owned by the family.
As a relatively large independent bottling company, KBD has been called "the big daddy of Bourbon and Rye Bottling". Most brands bottled by KBD are in the premium category and range from 6 to 17 years of aging maturity, with some of its bottlings being aged as long as 23 years. The company has remained under family ownership and operation at the same location since it was created in 1935 as the Willett Distilling Company, and the company often still uses that name. ]
Most (perhaps all) of the brands that are owned by KBD do not actually identify KBD as the producing company on their labels. Instead the company does business under various fictitious company names. These other business names often correspond to the bottling brand names (such as the Old Bardstown Distilling Company for the Old Bardstown bourbon brand and the Noah's Mill Distilling Company for the Noah's Mill bourbon brand).
History of the Kentucky Bourbon Distillers
Post Civil War
John David Willett, with his brother-in-law Thomas S. Moore of Bardstown, and Mr. Frenke of Louisville, formed the company Moore, Willett & Frenke Distillery, located in Bardstown. In 1876, John D. Willett fell ill and sold his interest to Frenke and Moore.
Lambert Willett, son of John David, grew up in the shadow of his father, learning the art of distilling from some of the most respected men in the business at the time. Therefore, it was not unusual that Lambert Willett began his career in the Whiskey business at the early age of 15.
During Prohibition, Lambert raised hogs and cattle at his farm in Bardstown.
End of Prohibition
At the end of Prohibition, Lambert was the new superintendent of the newly renovated Max Selliger & Co. Distillery, and his son A.L. “Thompson” Willett joined him as assistant superintendent. Thompson Willett left the Max Selliger & Co. Distillery to build the Willett Distilling Company.
Located just on the outskirts of Bardstown, Kentucky, the Willett Distilling Company began construction in the Spring of 1935. The distillery was erected on a farm, purchased by Lambert Willett, father of Thompson Willett, founder of the Willett Distilling Company.
In the beginning of 1936, the Willett Distilling Company produced its first batch of 300 bushels (~30 barrels) on March 17th, 1936.
The newly barreled whiskey was stored in one of the eight warehouses, each capable of holding between 5,000-6,000 barrels (Total capacity 48,623 barrels). The warehouses were built on some of the highest ground in the county, assuring that a fresh breeze would aid in the maturation of the whiskey. Five years after the foundation of the Willett Distilling Company Lambert retired from the Max Selliger & Co. to manage his farm and oversee the distilling process.
The Willett Distilling Company continued to operate until the early 1980’s. The Willett’s had made their mark on the Bourbon industry and it was now time for them to retire. On July 1, 1984, Even G. Kulsveen (pronounced Evan), a native of Hamar, Norway, and son-in-law to Thompson Willett, purchased the property from the Willett’s and formed Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, Ltd. Even Kulsveen continues to operate at the facility to this day.
There are a total of eight bonded warehouses on the premises. Each warehouse is capable of holding between 5,000-6,000 barrels (Total capacity 48,623 barrels). The warehouses were built on some of the highest ground in the county, assuring that a fresh breeze would aid in the maturation of the whiskey.
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