Jim Beam warehouse fire destroys 45,000 barrels of bourbon

Fire was likely started by a lightning strike, the company says.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Expertise Breaking news, entertainment, lifestyle, travel, food, shopping and deals, product reviews, money and finance, video games, pets, history, books, technology history, generational studies. Credentials
  • Co-author of two Gen X pop-culture encyclopedia for Penguin Books. Won "Headline Writer of the Year"​ award for 2017, 2014 and 2013 from the American Copy Editors Society. Won first place in headline writing from the 2013 Society for Features Journalism.
Gael Cooper
2 min read

Bourbon drinkers, it's a sad week for you. A fire ripped through a warehouse in Versailles, Kentucky, on Tuesday and Wednesday, destroying about 45,000 barrels of Jim Beam Bourbon. Initial reports say a lightning strike likely started the fire, the company said.

"We are thankful that no one was injured in this incident, and we are grateful to the courageous firefighters from multiple jurisdictions who brought the fire under control and prevented it from spreading," Jim Beam said in a statement.

The destroyed whiskey was relatively young, and so the fire shouldn't affect the availability of Jim Beam to customers, the company said. Jim Beam operates 126 barrel warehouses in Kentucky, holding about 3.3 million barrels.

CNET sister site CBS News reports that two warehouses initially caught fire, but one fire was put out. According to the New York Times, the second fire was allowed to burn out, because otherwise the released alcohol could damage the environment.

The Times also quoted Drew Chandler, the Woodford County emergency management director, as saying the blaze was, "about the best-smelling fire I've ever been at."

No one was harmed in the fire, but The Washington Post reports that damaging runoff has flowed into a nearby creek and the Kentucky River, and could lead to a severe fish kill. The amount of runoff that has reached the water is unknown, the Post reports.

The loss of the bourbon sparked a social-media reaction. "First Notre Dame. . . now THIS!?!?" wrote Joshua James Innerst on Twitter, referring to the May fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. "C'mon Fire. Content yourself already."