Whiskey Disasters

A collective shudder spread through the bourbon community on Friday as a story about a warehouse collapse at the Barton 1792 Distillery went viral. Photos showed thousands of bourbon casks lying in a heap of rubble.  Luckily, no one was injured in this collapse, the cause of which is still unknown.  

Distillery disasters are nothing new, fires being the biggest threat given all of that flammable alcohol and fumes. In recent years, the expansion in craft distilling has increased the number of explosions at small distilling outfits. Here are just a few of the major disasters that have befallen American distilleries through the years.  

June 11, 1904: An explosion destroys a warehouse at the Corning Distillery in Peoria, Illinois and spreads rapidly to nearby structures including a stockyard with cattle. Ten die and six suffer serious injuries. At the time of the explosion, the structure is the world's second largest distillery warehouse. 

Nov. 24, 1905: A fire destroys an Old Overholt warehouse in Broad Ford, Pennsylvania burning 800,000 gallons of whiskey valued at over $4 million. 

Jan. 15, 1919: A two million gallon molasses tank at the Purity Distilling Company in Boston explodes causing a huge wave of hot molasses which kills 21 and injures 150. The incident comes to be known as the Great Molasses Flood. 

Sept. 1, 1935: A huge fire at the Hiram Walker Distillery in Peoria, Illinois destroys a warehouse containing 81,000 barrels and damages several nearby structures.  One worker is killed and several firefighters are injured. 

Aug. 4-5, 1954: A massive, two day fire at an American Distilling Company distillery in Pekin, Illinois kills six and injures 33. 

May 4, 1963: Faulty wiring causes a fire at an American Distilling Company distillery in Sausalito, California which destroys several buildings. The distillery is shut down seven years later. 

Nov. 7, 1996:  A massive fire engulfs the Heaven Hill Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky destroying the distillery and seven warehouses.  Heaven Hill outsources distilling for the next ten years and eventually acquires the Bernheim Distillery in Louisville to replace the Bardstown Distillery. 

May 9, 2000: A fire destroys a warehouse at the Wild Turkey distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. Two firefighters are injured fighting the blaze.

Aug. 5, 2003: Lightning strikes a Jim Beam warehouse releasing flaming bourbon into a nearby lake which then creates a fiery waterspout.

July 13, 2012: A large explosion occurs at the Alchemical Solutions distillery in Ashland, Oregon, blowing a door off the warehouse. 

April 24, 2015: An explosion due to an over-pressurized still at the Silver Trail Distillery in Hardin, Kentucky causes one distiller's death and seriously injures another. 

May 30, 2017: An explosion occurs at the distillery in the basement of the Winery at Wolf Creek in Copley Township, Ohio. 

Nov. 6, 2017: Three are injured at an explosion at the BJ Hooker's vodka distillery near Houston, Texas when vodka fumes ignite. 

Dec. 23, 2017: A distillery tank explodes at Island Beach Distillery in New Jersey injuring the owner. 

Jan. 4, 2018: An explosion at Wigle Whiskey in Pennsylvania causes minor injuries to one worker. 

As you can see, distilling can be a dangerous business.  Stay safe out there everyone!