The Surprising Reason Multiple Jim Beam Warehouses Have Been Destroyed

If you're a whiskey drinker, there's no doubt you're familiar with Jim Beam. The inexpensive, yet tasty American bourbon is a staple behind nearly every bar. In 2020, Forbes reported that, globally, the distillery sells around 10 million cases of their classic, white label bottles each year, making it the world's most popular bourbon by a landslide.

It might not be that surprising to know how successful and internationally popular Jim Beam actually is — but you may be shocked to learn the other reason why the Kentucky-based distillery has often made the news.

It started in 2003 when a barrel warehouse holding 800,000 gallons of Jim Beam was struck by lightning, causing a massive fire with flames reaching more than 100 feet high (via Firehouse). In 2015, The Weather Channel shared a video on YouTube documenting the disaster for their "Weather Gone Viral" series, explaining how the extremely flammable contents of the warehouse cascaded into a nearby retention pond and, with the help of the wind, created a massive "firenado" that swirled high into the air.

The timing of the shocking video 12 years later caused understandable confusion, and a few news outlets mistakenly reported that there was a second warehouse fire in 2015, although this was not the case.

Lightning did in fact strike twice

There actually was a second fire (in 2019), which was also the result of lightning. The Jim Beam warehouse in Woodford County, Kentucky was struck during a summer storm, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue (via New York Times) as well as an environmentally dangerous "alcohol plume" that streamed more than 20 miles down the Ohio River, according to Chicago Tribune.

This might make you think that Kentucky is a hotbed of this electrical phenomenon, but the Bluegrass State doesn't even make the top five list for lightning activity in the U.S. (via Live Science). However, in terms of bourbon production, Kentucky is irrevocably number one. Firehouse says that 95 percent of the world's bourbon is made in the state in multiple distilleries, also including Maker's Mark and Wild Turkey.

It is definitely unusual to get struck by lightning, but with 126 barrel warehouses scattered across the small state of Kentucky, according to New York Times, it seems more plausible that the quantity of buildings is simply why Jim Beam has taken a hit multiple times. Or maybe Mother Nature has an affinity for bourbon?

Get that electrified feeling at home with these bourbon drink recipes

If all this talk about bourbon makes you feel like having a drink, there are a few safe ways to celebrate the explosive taste of Jim Beam in the comfort of your own home. Bar Notes shares a recipe for the appropriately named Lightning Strike, a lovely cocktail inspired by warm nights and electrified rainstorms. In addition to bourbon, the tasty highball features a blend of sophisticated ingredients including tangy red grapefruit juice, vermouth, and limoncello to round out smoky bourbon notes. The cocktail is finished off with spoonfuls of walnut and elderflower liqueurs.

To go a slightly simpler route, you could try a sweet treat called a Blue Lightning (via The Drink Kings). This refreshing concoction fuses bourbon and Southern Comfort with lime juice, simple syrup, and blue curacao to create a distinctive aqua color. Regardless of which of these recipes you choose, raise a glass to the sky!