When you think of Kentucky, what comes to mind? A resident may have several thoughts. For others, it’s usually the Kentucky Derby, Jim Beam Bourbon, and Basketball. The 220 year old Kentucky bourbon industry is an economic engine, providing the 4th highest annual tax revenues to the state at more than $125 million and employing over 10,000 people. It greatly enhances Kentucky’s tourism revenue, drawing nearly 2 million people over the last 5 years from all 50 states and 25 countries to experience the Kentucky Bourbon Trail®. It is the unique combination of Kentucky weather, corn crop and pure limestone water that produces the best bourbon in the world. AEI’s heritage is distinctly Kentucky as well. For 30 years, AEI has provided services throughout the state using homegrown talent. Our collaboration with Jim Beam will always be a shining piece of our success. We are particularly proud to have partnered with Jim Beam in sharing, envisioning, designing, and constructing the transformation to their Clermont facility and in contributing to the rich tradition and prestige of Jim Beam Bourbon. Jim Beam and AEI – Blending Kentucky Traditions - Serving the World!
AEI provided planning, surveying, geotechnical, utility planning, site, road, and bridge design, permitting, testing and inspection on 30 separate projects at Clermont for the distillery complex including Visitors Center and the Global Innovations Center.
The “big picture” challenge was to transform a raw primarily production complex into a production and pastoral tourism destination and also serve as a legacy to the Beam and Noe family. The very nature of storing thousands of barrels of flammable bourbon in very large, pristinely wooden “rack houses” can be dangerous. A 7-story rack house may store 20,000 barrels of potential “liquid fire”. In 2003, lightning initiated a rack house fire in a Beam facility in Bardstown, Kentucky resulting in the discharge of bourbon into a nearby creek where it caught fire. Adjacent rack houses were doused with water to protect them. AEI worked with Jim Beam to prevent that at Clermont by designing and hydraulically modeling what could be called a “Liquid Fire Mitigation Plan” that incorporated site planning, roadway design, and other elements to prevent fire migration should it occur and protect Long Lick Creek. Contouring, wall design, fire retardant piping, ditching, and a valved basin were all part of this plan that was to be functional yet “hidden” within the complex. The 300 foot concrete wall design was for a structure which provided grade separation and containment for spill/fire protection below Warehouse “U” up gradient from the new Visitors Center. Protection of life, property and Long Lick Creek was Priority 1!
AEI provided a minimally invasive, scenic entry into the property that culminated with the new “American Stillhouse” Visitors Center destination. Jim Beam required that the roadway blend well (see panel) with the existing topography, native plants and future planned developments. AEI evaluated a combination of eight (8) alignments, each with two (2) vertical profiles, various typical sections and at/above grade bridge crossings at the RJ Corman railroad and Long Lick Creek bridge. The final selection was a 0.75 mile; two lane rural roadway designed to meet current AASHTO standards and incorporate a “winding” design that fit the pastoral and rural character of the area. Due to the many alternatives and importance of this “Visitor’s Experience”, AEI provided Jim Beam multiple 3D renderings and drive simulations (with actual surveyed features incorporated and graphically created to provide realism) for Beam’s consideration in selecting the final alternative which was modeled from the “tourist’s eye level perspective” for both a car and tour bus. This level of animation has typically been devoted only to the largest projects and those with the expertise and server power to support it. For Jim Beam, AEI brought it to Clermont. This relatively new technique of providing highly detailed, site specific animation on engineering projects to effectively communicate the “final product” paid tremendous benefits in overall project development and received consistent accolades. As indicated, the new access roadway was also designed to serve as a part of the Liquid Fire Mitigation Plan, providing drainage breaks, ditching and flow direction to protect Long Lick Creek.
AEI provided location selection, hydraulic modeling and structural design for the single span 71’-6” spread box beam bridge over Long Lick Creek. This bridge was located to not only work with the required hydraulic modeling required by the ACOE/DOW permit, but also had to allow for road geometry to fit with the RJ Corman rail crossing, which was within 100 feet. The bridge was also intentionally sized to accommodate the reuse of the “Bruce Harned Memorial” Pratt pony truss bridge. This bridge and immediate area - once the Chapeze Distillery now owned by Jim Beam - was selected for the “Czechoslovakia” scenes from the 1981 movie “Stripes” starring Bill Murray. It is the future intent of Jim Beam to relocate the truss bridge components to the new concrete bridge.
The individual design elements provided by AEI at the Jim Beam facility are prime examples of civil engineering project support. The combined elements, considered over the course of the entire transformation concept, provides a new way to look at complex projects – those requiring as much communication and interaction as the engineering itself. The Clermont Transformation demonstrates the impact new engineering tools (3D animation) and delivery (LEED) can do to develop interconnected projects and promote the image of the Engineer to the public with every visitor’s positive feedback. Specifically, the thought process behind and the components of the “Liquid Fire” Mitigation Plan should serve as a case study for other distilleries. The Clermont Transformation is the blending of engineering “soft” skills with technical excellence that is the model for tomorrow’s engineer being done today.
Aside from the unique “Liquid Fire Mitigation Plan” itself, transforming a producing industry complex into a seamless, scenic visitor’s experience is rare, particularly one so crucial to Kentucky heritage, branding and economic vitality. The Jim Beam Clermont facility is, by all measures, a part of the fabric of Kentucky pride, heritage, and worldwide recognition. Every civil engineering consideration for the Clermont Transformation was balanced against the tourism element. It took the full scope of traditional civil engineering design in conjunction with the latest in communication and design tools to achieve Jim Beam’s project goals.