Kentucky’s abundance of natural limestone aquifers provides a water source that’s perfect for making drinking water and bourbon. The water is rich in calcium and magnesium and free of impurities like iron, which can discolor bourbon and give it an unpleasant taste. Every day, Louisville Water Company cleans and filters millions of gallons of that water and provides the local bourbon industry with one of its most critical ingredients. Louisville Water is found in some of the best bourbons enjoyed around the world. Bourbon is not possible without water. It begins with grains cooked in water to create the mash before it’s sent to fermentation. When the spirit comes off the still, water must be added to adjust its proof before barreling. After several years of rest in a barrel warehouse, water is the only ingredient—by law— that can be added to bourbon before bottling.

In 1860, Louisville Water Company began pumping water from the Ohio River to meet the increasing demands of a growing city. In the early 20th century, the company installed a city-wide treatment system that delivered clean, filtered water to businesses and homes. Not only did this new system ensure quality drinking (and whiskey-making) water, it also provided vital protection to a precious (and flammable) product. Prior to Louisville Water, the bourbon industry depended on a series of storage tanks for fire protection. When flames erupted, these tanks often ran dry and a distiller’s entire inventory could be lost. However, with a city-wide, continually pumped water source, bourbon distillers installed reliable
fire suppression and sprinkler systems to protect their product. The pressure from the water also helped power innovative equipment like hydraulic
elevators to lift heavy barrels.