A fire of unknown origin caused a massive fire at a pair of warehouses in Versailles, Kentucky on Wednesday, July 3rd. Thankfully, no one was injured in the blaze. Instead, the fire caused the destruction of thousands of barrels of Jim Beam whiskey that were being matured in the warehouse.
One warehouse was completely destroyed, while first responders were able to put out the fire raging on the other structure.
The cause of the fire remains unclear: the CBS News report on the incident suggests that it may have been due to lightning.
These warehouses were 2 of 126 total in Kentucky used to store whiskey as it matures. The destroyed warehouse held approximately 45,000 barrels — a sizable number, but less so compared with the 3,300,000 barrels total stored across the state.
This fire is one of several incidents to strike distilleries across the state: Salon has a roundup of several such incidents that have taken place in recent years. Kentucky-based writer Fred Minnick, author of Bourbon: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of An American Whiskey, explored the possible ramifications of this and other recent fires, observing that “these burning warehouses are connected to people’s livelihoods, families and our state’s tax dollars.”
One additional concern resulting from the fire is environmental: officials are concerned that some of the whiskey may disturb aquatic life residing in nearby rivers. As the warehouse burned, some of the bourbon contained there ended up in a creek that feeds into the Kentucky River, creating a hazardous situation for the wildlife there.
While this fire may not have affected the state’s whiskey reserves much, its implications could prove to be more ominous than they first appear, whether or not bourbon is your spirit of choice.
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