HENRY COUNTY, Ky. — The bourbon industry continues to grow in Kentucky, and Henry County will soon start seeing more activity.

In October, the county approved a zone change recommendation for Angel’s Envy Distillery.

What You Need To Know

  • The Bourbon industry continues to grow in Kentucky

  • In October, Henry County approved a zone change recommendation for Angel’s Envy Distillery

  • The distillery plans to develop 1,200 acres of farmland into a tourism experience

  • A third-generation farmer is vocal and not in favor of Angel's Envy expanding in Henry County

Right now, Angel’s Envy operates a farm in Henry County. That farm is next to a 1,200-acre property which was zoned agricultural and now changed to Industrial.

Henry County Judge Executive John Logan Brent said Angel’s Envy has plans to expand where 600 acres are allotted to farming and the other 600 acres are conditional use for their vision of a restaurant and tourism experience.

Glen View Farms is the current farm operated by Angel's Envy. It sits next to a 1,200-acre farmland that will likely serve as the distillery's expansion. (Spectrum News 1/Khyati Patel)

Brent said several distillers have called Henry County home since 2008.

Anytime there’s a zoning change from agricultural to industrial, it comes with a bit of heartburn, primarily because Henry County is an agriculture community.

“Of course, they also want good paying jobs here and county government needs tax revenue, which at the end of the day, is probably the number one benefit of distilleries locating here, is the tax revenue that can thus translate to local services,” Brent said.

In this agreement, Brent said Angel’s Envy is expected to hold annual educational meetings that will benefit local farmers.

“That’s one of the things that we ask Angel’s Envy to do was to try and make a pathway for farmers to break into the corn sales market for distilleries and to receive a premium for that product,” Brent said.

The judge-executive said he and other counties are fighting in Frankfort to maintain the barrel tax. Those tax dollars flow directly back into their community..

A farmer’s perspective

Ever since he can remember, Kylen Douglas wakes up before sunrise to tend to his farm in Pleasureville.

“I was born and raised on this farm. So I was very blessed that both of my grandfathers farmed,” Douglas said. “A farm, though, is something that’s living, breathing. It gives to us more than we’ve ever give to it.”

In his view, the many acres where the cows graze and alfalfa hay grows are not just property.

“And so I think the terminology we need to quit using is property. This is a farm and Angel’s Envy is wanting to develop, and there’s farmland all over this county,” Douglas said.

He lives in Henry County, just northeast of Louisville and the third-generation farmer is vocal. He’s not in favor of Angel’s Envy expanding in Henry County.

“This county is well known for its agricultural uses, from corn and soybeans to beef cattle to (its) heritage with tobacco. And so this is profitable, good land,” Douglas said.

The “good land” Douglas is hoping to help preserve. He said the recent agricultural-to-industrial zone change sets a dangerous precedent that perhaps future distilleries may follow.

“It’s sustainable farming out here. We have droughts, but they don’t last very long like they do out west. This is a sustainable area that we need to protect. The farm that they’re wanting to buy is, in my opinion, one of the best farms not only in Henry County, but in any county that touches us,” Douglas said.

He doesn’t want the prime farming land to be given away “for peanuts.”

“I know a lot of people will disagree with me and maybe call me a bleeding heart, but… when you invest your life into this industry and invest your life into agriculture and feeding people, you do get passionate about it and you want to defend it,” Douglas added. “Even though it’s not my farm, it’s still a part of the community that I live in.”

His other concern: this move could increase property values.

“If they do buy it and go through, which I’m afraid there will, that they’re going to than the property values’ going to go up,” Douglas said, which could endanger the feasibility of future farmers in the area.

Another issue that rises with distilleries propping up is whiskey fungus, a black soot that covers the buildings.

“Where I work in Frankfort, I have seen where the fungus has traveled many miles from the rick houses in from the distillery. So in my opinion, it’s just a matter of time before this whiskey fungus starts finding its way out to our farm, once Angel’s Envy gets up and running pretty heavy with their production of bourbon,” Douglas said.

But he’s not opposed to bourbon and the number of jobs it brings to Kentucky.

“What I’m against is just the rapid expansion in what they’re doing, and how they’re doing it,” Douglas said. “And I find a lot of issues with what they’re doing. Because they’re expanding so quickly. I think sometimes they’re cutting corners and not taking into effect the adverse effect that has on the local population, the local farmland.”

Spectrum News 1 also reached out to Angel’s Envy. Here’s their response:

“At this time, we are not quite ready to talk about our expansion plans and timelines, but Angel’s Envy is pleased that our rezoning request was upheld, and we are looking forward to building and strengthening long-term relationships and driving local impact in Henry County. We are committed to supporting the future growth of the bourbon industry throughout Kentucky.”