Originally opened in 1935, the Stitzel-Weller Distillery is one of the true cathedrals of American whiskey. It is a historic home to many of the industry's iconic brands, innovators, and personalities. Bold thinking has always had a place at Stitzel-Weller, which is why Tom Bulleit and his namesake high-rye whiskeys are proud to call the facility home. Located only five miles from downtown Louisville, the Bulleit Experience is one of the most convenient and impressive along the Bourbon Trail. Join us for a tasting and tour, where you can learn about the past, present and future of our family of small-batch, award-winning whiskeys.
The Stitzel-Weller Distilling Company was founded in 1935 with the combination of the distributor W. L. Weller & Sons, and the A. Ph. Stitzel Distillery. The two companies had continued to operate together during Prohibition, selling spirits under a medicinal license. Following the repeal of prohibition by the passage of the Twenty-first Amendment the Stitzel-Weller Distillery was built by Julian Van Winkle Sr., along with Alex T. Farnsley, and Arthur Phillip Stitzel. The facility opened on Derby Day in 1935, and became popularly known as the Old Fitzgerald Distillery, after the main brand of bourbon it produced, which it acquired from the Old Judge Distillery located west of Frankfort, Kentucky in 1933. The 53-acre (21 ha) site was chosen so as to be outside of the city limits and therefore avoid taxes, and because of the quality of water at the location.Outside, the owners displayed a sign reading "no chemists allowed", a homage to their belief that distilling should be treated as "an art, not a science."
Decorative barrels outside the coopering exhibit
Farnsley and Stitzel died in 1941 and 47 respectively, leaving the distillery in the control of Van Winkle. Van Winkle himself died in 1965, and operations passed to his son Julian Van Winkle Jr.
The facility was eventually sold on June 30, 1972 to Norton-Simon, amidst a broad depression in the sales of whiskey, as the drink lost popularity to other spirits. The sale was made under the condition that Pappy's son would be able to procure old stocks from the site, and maintain the Van Winkle brand name. Norton-Simon officially changed the name to the Old Fitzgerald Distillery, and organized it under the company Somerset Imports, itself later acquired by Distillers Corporation Limited, and then by Guinness PLC, which became United Distillers. A number of brands were sold off to other companies, such as Heaven Hill and Buffalo Trace, and the facility finally closed in 1972, although some products, such as Bulleit and Crown Royal continued to be aged there. In 1992 United Distillers officially changed the facility's name back to the Stitzel-Weller Distillery.
Diageo, the latest incarnation of United Distillers following a 1997 merger with Grand Metropolitan, reopened the facility 2014 with between a 10 and 18 million USD investment. Speaking of the opening, Diageo CEO, Larry Schwartz said, "We are the heirs of Pappy Van Winkle and certainly the great brands that were distilled here through the years."
The facility produced brands such as W.L. Weller, Old Fitzgerald, Pappy Van Winkle, Old Weller, Rebel Yell, and Weller's Cabin Still. Along with the 1972 closure, Rebel Yell was sold to The David Sherman Corporation, W.L. Weller to the Ancient Age distillery, to eventually be distilled by Buffalo Trace under the Sazerac Company, and the Old Fitzgerald brand to Heaven Hill.
Stitzel-Weller was influential along with Maker's Mark, for championing the making of wheated bourbon, substituting wheat for the rye more popularly used in bourbon making. It was also notable for often aging its spirits longer than the normal industry standard of the time, storing product at times 10 years or more.
Blade and Bow Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
The Blade and Bow story began with the founding of the legendary Stitzel-Weller Distillery in 1935, a Louisville icon and home to the fathers of bourbon.
With a commitment to craftsmanship and artistry, Stitzel-Weller reimagined what Kentucky Bourbon could be until distilling stopped in 1992.
Named after the two parts of a skeleton key, the blade shaft and the ornate bow, the Blade and Bow brand is a tribute to the five keys that once hung on the door of the Stitzel-Weller Distillery.
These keys represented the five steps of crafting bourbon—grains, yeast, fermentation, distillation and aging.
But more importantly, they grew to symbolize the southern traditions of hospitality, warmth and enjoying the finer things in life.
THE PAST, REIMAGINED
Today Blade and Bow is opening the door to the next chapter of Stitzel-Weller’s renowned history.
The Blade and Bow family includes two distinct variants: Blade and Bow Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
and Blade and Bow 22-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Each variant offers a completely unique experience that pays homage to this storied distillery and welcomes a new generation to the art of bourbon making that was perfected within these walls.