The Curious Case of Kentucky Bourbon Distillers

If you’re at the liquor store and are looking for a bottle from Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, chances are that you won’t find it. This distillery (which isn’t really a distillery) produces a number of our favorite bourbons – including Willett, Noah’s Mill, and Corner Creek – but does so under fake distillery names, keeping the Kentucky Bourbon Distillers brand in the shadows. If you happen to come across something from the Old Bardstown Distilling Company or the Noah’s Mill Distilling Company, you’re actually looking at a KBD product.

The journey of how KBD became a secret distillery is a funny one. KBD began life as the Willett Distilling Company shortly after the repeal of prohibition. Founded by the Willett family, the distillery slowly grew over the decades but lost its direction after the death of Lambert Willett in 1970. In 1972, with gasoline prices skyrocketing, someone had the bright idea to switch from bourbon production to ethanol. That is not nearly as delicious. They thought that with the rising gasoline prices, this would be a bigger money maker in the long term.

Unfortunately (or fortunately for bourbon lovers), this venture soon failed and the operation returned to bourbon. Only with a twist. A major twist. The Willett Distilling Company went back to bottling bourbon, but never got back in the distilling game. In fact, this “distillery” doesn’t distill anything and hasn’t in over 30 years!

Willett Distilling Company first exhausted its supply of previously barreled bourbon, then began buying barrels from other distilleries (rumored to be Heaven Hill). Around the same time, it was purchased by Even Kulsveen, who had married a Willett daughter, and renamed Kentucky Bourbon Distilleries.

Fast forward to present day, KBD is one of the biggest players in the bourbon bottling business. They own a number of their own brands which they bottle and distribute as well as serve as a contract bottler for some very prestigious bourbons including Black Maple Hill, Mitcher’s, Old Pogue, Classic Cask, and Conecuh Ridge. Rumor has it that KBD plans to get back in the distilling game, so we will have to keep an eye on what’s going on with KBD.

KBD Bourbons
Johnny Drum
Old Bardstown
Willett Family Estate
Willett Pot Still Reserve
Kentucky Vintage
Noah’s Mill
Pure Kentucky XO
Rowan’s Creek
Corner Creek
Kentucky Pride