Jim Beam’s Kentucky fire ruins 45,000 barrels of ‘young whiskey,’ potentially destroying alcohol worth hundreds of million dollars.
A massive fire has just destroyed Jim Beam warehouse in the US.
According to fire officials, the fire started at around 11p.m in Woodford County on Tuesday and was completely out by noon on Wednesday. No injuries were reported.
Woodford County Emergency Management Director, Drew Chandler, said that lightning might have caused the fire, but fire investigators haven’t started investigating the cause.
Mr. Chandler said:
“The biggest issue we are dealing with is the environmental aspect. If we put the fire out, we are going to dump a lot of water on it, and that water will be contaminated.”
Mr. Chandler added that fire official had to allow the blaze to burn for several more hours, to avoid ethanol contamination in the nearby creek that runs into the Kentucky River.
He said in a phone interview:
“The longer it burns, the more of the distilled spirits burn with it. So, when they go to put it out, there will be less contaminated runoff that goes into a drinking-water tributary.”
Jim Beam company officials said that they were working with authorities to asses environmental contamination.
A spokesperson for the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, John Mura, said:
“We do know there has been runoff enter the creek. And it has made its way into the Kentucky River.”
Mura said that the runoff could cause a “serious impact on aquatic life.”
The agency added, in a statement, that the runoff is expected to create “low dissolved oxygen levels” which could result in a substantial fish kill.
Martin Stute, the chairman of the department of environmental science at Barnard College, also said that “it probably made a lot of sense to let it burn out.”
“Alcohol released into the environment would directly kill or damage organisms, and the decomposition of the alcohol would consume oxygen and possibly kill fish as well.”
Putting out the fire using fire extinguishers could also cause harmful effects.
Dr. Stute added:
“Those contain mono-ammonium phosphate, which causes eye and skin irritation in humans and also affects the respiratory system.”
Jim Beam is one of the largest bourbon brands, and it’s owned by Suntory Holdings, a Japanese beverage company.
And the building is among 126 warehouses operated by Jim Beam in Kentucky.
A spokesperson of the company, Emily York, said that these warehouses hold up to 3.3 million barrels of bourbon for the Jim Beam brand.
According to the Louisville Courier Journal, a standard barrel produces between 150 to 200 750-milliliter bottle.
And the value for a standard bottle of Jim Beam vary, but an estimated price of $18 per bottle would mean that the fire caused about $122 to $162 millions loss in company revenue.
Ms. York said:
“The warehouse that was destroyed contained 45,000 barrels of relatively young whiskey from the Jim Beam mash bill.”
“Given the age of the lost whiskey, this fire will not impact the availability of Jim Beam for consumers.”
Mr. Chandler also said that there was one perk to the bourbon warehouse fire, and it has nothing to do with drinking.
“It’s about the best-smelling fire I’ve ever been at.”
“It is not as pungent like in a house fire because it is mostly old natural wood and a distilled spirit, so it has a bit of a sweetness to it.”
The fire was so hot that it melted some of the fire trucks, Mr. Chandler added.