Unfortunate news came from Kentucky this week: Jim Beam suffered a major warehouse fire that needed multiple fire service crews to bring it under control.
40 firefighters from five counties were called to help battle the blaze that erupted around 11:30pm on Tuesday. The fire totally destroyed one of Jim Beam’s warehouses, estimated to hold around nine million litres of ageing whiskey. A second warehouse also caught fire, but that fire was quickly dealt with. It’s been reported that the flames generated so much heat that fire truck lights melted.
More than 45,000 barrels of bourbon were likely destroyed after a fire broke out at a Jim Beam aging facility late last night – engulfing two storage buildings. 🔥😭 pic.twitter.com/Pk9NYLfyMq
— RTV6 Indianapolis (@rtv6) July 3, 2019
First things first: no one was injured in the incident, so that’s a huge relief.
The bad news is that about 45,000 barrels filled with whiskey were lost, potentially costing the brand millions of dollars in lost stock. Parent company Beam Suntory has not yet specified the exact financial loss and was quick to explain in an email that the spirit that went up in flames was “relatively young whiskey”. The company added that “given the age of the lost whiskey, this fire will not impact the availability of Jim Beam for consumers”. The losses are also insured, and total just 1.4% of spirit maker’s product in the state, so it’s not a total disaster.
The world’s top-selling bourbon brand said it was grateful to the “courageous firefighters” who brought the blaze under control and kept it from spreading. The cause of the fire has not been confirmed, although weather may well have been a factor, with some suggesting that a lightning strike was responsible.
The focus has turned to the environmental impact of the leaking bourbon, with state officials worried that whiskey running off from the site could seep into nearby waterways and kill fish. The distiller has hired an emergency clean-up crew, and state environmental officials were coordinating efforts to control bourbon runoff.
The Beam fire was the latest warehouse loss suffered by Kentucky distillers, who collectively produce 95% of the world’s bourbon, according to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. A warehouse belonging to OZ Tyler collapsed on 17 June, while back in June 2018 half of a warehouse collapsed at the Barton 1792 Distillery in Bardstown. The other half came down two weeks later.