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Building the Spirit: The Essential Role of Engineering & Survey in Whiskey Distilleries

November 28, 2023

Whiskey is a beloved spirit that’s been distilled in the United States for over two centuries. Behind every bottle is an intricate and fascinating process. Though distillers and blenders often take center stage, there are a few unsung heroes behind distillation—civil engineers and surveyors.

At Bowman, we are well versed in the intricacies of whiskey distilleries. Our team has provided engineering, planning and survey services for several world-class distilleries along the Bourbon Trail, including Kentucky Owl Park, Four Roses Bourbon and Heaven Hill Distillery.

From site selection to design, engineers and surveyors are quiet contributors to distilleries. There work lays the essential groundwork to ensure every drop of whiskey can be crafted to perfection. Without their knowledge and skills, the magic of whiskey would not be possible.

Selecting the Perfect Location

Site selection is one of the first steps in creating a renowned whiskey facility, as this decision can significantly impact the project’s success.

Take, for instance, Kentucky Owl Park, which aimed to create a one-of-a-kind bourbon experience with a visitor’s center and two new 31,000-barrel rickhouses. To bring this vision to life, the project needed 420-acres of land. Surveyors played a pivotal role in this phase, meticulously assessing land topography and boundaries to confirm that the desired site was suitable for bourbon production.

On the other hand, Bowman’s civil engineers evaluated the site’s feasibility in terms of infrastructure development. This comprehensive assessment looked at essential elements, including roadways, water supply and utility connection—all of which are essential to ensuring a bourbon distillery can function efficiently and sustainably. With this critical data, Kentucky Owl was able to make information-based decisions about optimizing land utilization.

Collaborative Design

Once the ideal site is selected, the next step is to transform the land into a fully operational distillery. This transformation requires a collaborative design process that brings together the bright minds of architects, engineers and distillery experts. Together, these professionals apply their skills to shape the s physical structure.

Kentucky Owl Park’s three pyramid-shaped wooden buildings are the direct result of this collaborative synergy. These unique structures, one of which houses a large still, contribute to the brand’s identity while also enhancing the visitor experience.

Reviving Tradition: Modernization & Expansion

Modernization is key in the ever-evolving world of whiskey. Distilleries in operations for centuries recognize the importance of modernizing and expanding their facilities to keep pace in the market and remain competitive. In these transformative endeavors, civil engineers emerge as a guiding light.   

These dedicated professionals wield their knowledge and expertise to design production units and facilities—all while preserving a distillery’s heritage. Two examples of this evolution are Four Roses Bourbon and Heaven Hill Distillery, both of which underwent expansion projects to meet growing consumer interest.

At Four Roses, Bowman led planning for the reconfiguration and expansion of a 100-year-old facility. Similarly, strategic planning was essential to enhancing productivity and modernization at the Heaven Hill Distillery. Our team also provided services for a 20,000-sqaure-foot expansion of the Heaven Hill Distillery Bourbon Heritage Center.

A Toast to Engineers & Surveyors

Let’s raise a glass to the engineers and surveyors who help build the spirit of bourbon facilities. From selecting the ideal site to assisting in designing iconic facilities and updating production, there contributions are the backbone of the beloved beverage. To ensure the success of your distillery project, you need a partner with proven experience. Bowman has deep roots in the spirits industry and a track record of project success. Explore our project profiles for Kentucky Owl Park and Four Roses Bourbon to learn more about our comprehensive services and how they could benefit your next project.