Willett Distillery, also known as Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (KBD), Ltd., is a private family-owned and -operated company that produces various brands of bourbon and rye whiskey. Over the years the company has bottled Bourbon and Rye Whiskeys that range from 2 years of aging maturity all the way up to 28 years.
The company is located on the outskirts of Bardstown, Kentucky on a site that began as a farm owned by the family. Primarily operating as a relatively large independent bottling company, KBD has been called “the big daddy of bourbon and rye bottling”. The company has remained under family ownership and operation at the same location since it was created in 1936 as the Willett Distilling Company. The company started doing business as KBD in the mid-1980s. As of October 2011, the company employed about 14 people – four family members and 8–12 line workers. In 2012, it began promoting the Willett name again as its primary business name.
In addition to marketing a number of its own brands, KBD also operates as a contract bottler for various brands that are owned and marketed by others.
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).
KBD did not operate as a distillery during the period between the early 1980s and January 2012, although the company had the word distillers in its name (and similarly used “distilling company” and “distillery” in the various company names that it printed on labels). However, KBD has been refurbishing and enhancing its prior distillery plant, and began limited test distilling on January 21, 2012. The company does not identify specifically where in Kentucky its products are distilled, although it has been suggested that most of their products have been distilled by the Heaven Hill Distillery, which has its company headquarters located close to KBD. The two companies are located about a half mile from each other along the same road in Bardstown, Kentucky.
For its new distilling operation, the company has three operating stills – a column still, a “doubler”, and a pot still. The company has eight warehouses on site – each of which holds 5000–6000 barrels of whiskey for aging. Master Distiller Drew Kulsveen said that the warehouses are about a quarter of the size of those found at other distilleries.