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RIP 18,000 Barrels of Booze at Kentucky’s Barton 1792 Distillery

After two warehouse collapses, nearly one million gallons of alcohol might not be salvageable

On June 22, drinkers in Kentucky mourned the collapse of a warehouse at Bardstown, Kentucky’s Barton 1792 Distillery, which affected 9,000 barrels of different aging spirits. The average barrel, according to USA Today, holds 53 gallons, making the potential net loss from that initial collapse 477,000 gallons of booze — not to mention the local environmental impact. The spillage, which leaked into a nearby stream and river, is blamed for killing as many as 1,000 fish, and the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet plans to cite the distillery’s owner for failing to report the incident in a timely manner.

Then, on the Fourth of July, the other half of that same warehouse came crashing to the ground, resulting in the potential loss of another 9,000 barrels, another 477,000 gallons. Thankfully, no one was hurt in either collapse. But what exactly is going on here?

1) What caused the collapse(s)?

CNN reported that the warehouse in question, which was built in the 1940s, “was undergoing repairs at the time of the first incident back in June,” but ultimately, “it’s not clear” what exactly caused either collapse. According to a statement from a Barton spokesperson, it could take “weeks before the root cause is determined”; however, the statement notes that all other warehouses were inspected after the initial June 22 incident and have all been deemed safe.

2) Why didn’t Barton 1792 remove those other 9,000 barrels after the first collapse?

“Worker safety concerns” prevented the distillery from attempting to remove any untouched barrels after the first incident, per a statement. Teams, however, did enter the half-collapsed warehouse in an attempt to contain the spillage, and the distillery claims that thanks to workers who “worked quickly to contain the spill,” no leakage occurred as a result of the second collapse.

3) Can any of the barrels be salvaged?

As of Wednesday, Barton spokespeople say it’s unclear what, if any of the spirits are still salvageable. But it seems as if at least some might still be usable: “Plans are already underway to construct a new warehouse to store the recovered barrels at the Distillery,” the statement reads.

4) How much is this costing Barton 1792?

Not counting the potential alcohol losses, the distillery could be fined up to $25,000 per day that alcohol was determined to leak into waterways. Barton 1792 is owned by the New Orleans-based Sazerac Company, Inc. Sazerac also owns the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, and the Glenmore Distillery in Owensboro, Kentucky, among other brands.

5) How dramatic does 18,000 booze barrels on the ground look?

Think something like this, only double:

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