“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. While this may be appropriate for a few things in life, it doesn’t necessarily ring true for the spirits industry - specifically, the impressive structures that house Kentucky’s pride and joy, America’s spirit, and the water of life….bourbon! These barrel warehouses, known as rickhouses, sometimes date back to the 1940’s and 50’s, seeing generations of Master Distillers and the peaks and lulls of whiskey consumption.

With all that history, inevitably, comes some wear and tear. The immense amounts of weight distributed throughout these rickhouses, along with water damage, foundation settlement, and powder post beetle and termite deterioration leaves a once solid interior leaning and decaying. Rickhouse collapses can give us a real-time look at what can happen when these rickhouses age naturally and go without cautionary upkeep.

There comes at a time in the life cycle of the rickhouse where it is no longer functioning properly. The uneven weight distribution has caused the structure to lean so much that the barrels are unable to be retrieved. The leaning pulls the beams apart and the traditional method of securing them back to their original state is futile. Sophisticated engineering solutions have been developed to correct this specific issue by bracing certain areas with steel rods and other hardware.

When it comes to addressing these issues, sooner is always better than later, the more apparent the lean, the more money it costs to fix. The best time to act on any of these preventive issues is when the rickhouses are in a transition of being filled. Empty rickhouses are much easier to adjust and less time consuming considering fewer barrels have to be moved. Kentucky building codes do not require these rickhouses to be built with seismic codes in mind. This potentially puts millions of dollars of product at risk should Kentucky experience an earthquake or something similar. Being proactive about rickhouse health is the first step in securing a quality product for years to come.

Luckett & Farley is dedicated to preventative and reactive measures when it comes to rickhouses. Having worked with the likes of Woodford Reserve, Jack Daniels, and other large names in bourbon, there is no doubt that Luckett & Farley is a leader when it comes to rickhouse renovation and design. Previous renovations include many different types of rickhouses with experience in traditional, escalator, palatized, and heat cycled rickhouses with timber, metal, or masonry style interiors. If you would like more information on our rickhouse renovation process, please contact Behr Neighbors, at Bneighbors@luckett-farley.com.

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