Building my own distillery

Before anyone starts checking local building codes and calling the inspector, it’s a fictional distillery, destined to exist only on the written page. But aren’t most of the places we love in books ‘only on the page?’ 

Bourbon rickhouse (warehouse) in Kentucky

How buildings are created

Years ago, when I practiced architecture, there were several stages of development for a building: schematic design, design development and construction drawings. Unfortunately, the least amount of time was allocated for the fun part, when all ideas are possible, and the concept is born. In the beginning, if you can imagine it, it is possible. A house with a pool whose sun cover is another pool, glass-bottomed, of course? I’ve seen this in Portugal. 

Creating my fictional distillery requires a different kind of schematic design. For one thing, I don’t need to worry about construction costs. On the other hand, I do have a client. My characters. And in some ways this is more difficult than the design of a ‘real’ building with budget and site constraints and zoning and a million other considerations. One of the first things you learn in architecture school is that having some constraints actually helps. 

Ruban or rural

My fictional distillery was originally located in the countryside. Have you visited a distillery in Kentucky? There are some gorgeous examples, new and old alike, set in the rolling hills. If you’ve driven through central Kentucky you have likely spotted rickhouses (warehouses) for storing barrels. Years ago, there was a rickhouse fire and hundreds of flaming barrels rolled down the hill to the river. I’ll never forget it; the Kentucky version of fiery lava. 

Kentucky distilleries

When the client . . . or character takes over

I was very pleased with my distillery, then my character got involved, like the worst version of a client. And she insisted that the distillery be in town, closer to her story line! I had to listen. Now my fictional distillery is in line with the renaissance of urban distilleries in the state, most notably whiskey row in Louisville.

I’m putting the finishing touches on the manuscript (and the distillery) right now, and am pleased with the structure. Picture an old needle factory, a three story brick building from the 19th century. Now gut the front two thirds and install your distillery equipment, careful to leave the gorgeous Vendome column still visible from the street. 

Vendome still manufacturing, Louisville, KY

Fictional places have their own reality and mine is the result of a fictional character, as demanding as any real world client.

What are some of your favorite fictional settings? Please join our discussion on Facebook or Twitter.


  1. I’m looking forward to this book and to giving it to a mystery enthusiast friend. She reads a lot of them, so it’s fun to send her ones I know she hasn’t seen. And the photos here make me want to read the descriptions in the book.

  2. I, too, love distilleries. Two stand out in my memory–one in lowland Scotland and the other in Northern Ireland (Bushmills). How fun to build one (fictionally) from the ground up.

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