Case Studies Speyside Bourbon Cooperage, Inc.

Three Virginia Locations Serve Speyside Bourbon Cooperage


Speyside Bourbon Cooperage, Inc., Bath County


International Reach with a Stateside Flair

Speyside Bourbon Cooperage, Inc. is an offspring of Speyside Cooperage Ltd., founded in Scotland in 1947. In 2008 Speyside Cooperage was sold to the Tonnellerie François Frères Group, a global cooperage company founded in 1906 and headquartered in Saint Romain, France. As of 2015, the company maintained two cooperages in Scotland and two in the United States in Kentucky and Ohio.

When Speyside Bourbon Cooperage began the search for its first U.S. stave mill manufacturing location in 2016, Bath County, Virginia, provided the best business scenario for the company’s “flagship facility” to thrive. Officially opened in Spring 2018, Speyside’s Bath County state-of-the-art stave mill manufactures white oak staves and headers used in the production of bourbon barrels, using only the finest white oak sourced from Virginia. 

Around this time, Speyside was experiencing increased product demand and considering the need for additional cooperage and stave mill facilities. Impressed by the Commonwealth’s pro-business environment, abundant natural resources, strong infrastructure, and skilled labor force, the company explored growing its footprint in other regions of Virginia.

The Virginia Solution

Natural Advantages

Wood products represent the 3rd-largest manufacturing industry in Virginia and a rich, centuries-old legacy. Thanks to this abundant supply of raw materials, it comes as no surprise that the Commonwealth is a natural landing point for companies in this sector. As Speyside considered locations in Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania for its newest cooperage and stave mill, accessibility to white oak for bourbon barrel production was a key focus. Fortunately, Virginia’s 16 million acres of forestland (Virginia Department of Forestry, 2017) would allow the stave mill to procure approximately 80% of its white oak logs from Virginia growers.  

The Commonwealth also has the distinct advantage of proximity to 47% of the entire U.S. population within a one-day drive, and easy global connectivity through The Port of Virginia. With Speyside’s locations in Kentucky and Ohio needing supplies from the new facilities, in addition to serving customers across the United States and the world, operations in Virginia could enable Speyside to broaden market reach while increasing production to keep up with growing demands.

As a leading industry in Virginia, the wood products sector is supported by workforce training programs, and our esteemed higher education institutions have specialized curriculums to provide industry-specific research and development expertise. These programs help ensure the robust talent to fuel Speyside’s increased manufacturing.

The Virginia Trifecta

Just two years after the decision to open its first U.S. stave mill operation in Bath County, Speyside Bourbon Cooperage announced a $26 million investment in 2018 to establish a new cooperage in Smyth County and invested $9 million in a new stave mill facility in Washington County.

Logistically, the access that Virginia has fits our business model, and from a resource standpoint, Virginia cannot be beat. All of these factors have played an important part in leading us to Virginia, and we look forward to a long and prosperous future here.

Darren Whitmer
President and General Manager, Speyside Bourbon Cooperage, Inc.

Speyside acquired the former Merillat facility in Smyth County to produce bourbon barrels, the first-of-its-kind operation in Virginia, and acquired 80 acres within the Highlands Business Park in Washington County for the company’s second Virginia stave mill. Ramping up simultaneously, the new stave mill supplies the nearby cooperage. The combined $35 million investment will create 125 new jobs in Smyth County and 35 new jobs in Washington County, and represents a tremendous win for rural Southwest Virginia.

Due to continuously increasing product demand, less than one year later the company also announced additional investment in its Bath County facility, Speyside Bourbon Stave Mill in Virginia, Inc., to add new equipment and a second shift to the operation, creating 45 new jobs.

The new cooperage in Smyth County became operational in February 2020, and the company considers this Atkins Cooperage to be the most modern facility currently in operation in the world. Speyside’s Washington County four-line stave mill operation started production in March 2020. The equipment, manufactured specifically for this stave mill, is world-class and the safest, most efficient, and ergonomically designed equipment currently in use.

All Speyside facilities strive to be environmentally responsible. Dust produced is used to fuel and provide heat across all facilities, extra dust is used in the production of biomass fuels, and wood chips are sold for use in the manufacturing of paper products and furniture. As a company that values tradition as well as innovation, Speyside believes in social responsibility and respect for the environment. The company is an active member of the Virginia Forestry Association, Appalachian Hardwoods Association, the White Oak Initiative, and the Southwest Virginia Association of Manufacturers.

Virginia provided the complete package for Speyside Bourbon Cooperage, including unwavering support from state and local agencies long past project completion. Speyside’s continued investment and expansion in three regions of Virginia is a powerful testament to the Commonwealth’s plentiful resources, access to markets, and commitment to partnership.