The Bizarre Tale of the Kentucky Bourbon Fire Tornado

In loving memory of the gallons of fine whiskey that went up in flames.

It happened years ago in the heart of Kentucky, but since the Weather Channel recently resurrected the story of the Bourbon Fire Tornado, we thought we’d take a moment to examine what happens when essential elements like wind, fire, water and fine American whiskey combine.

Severe storms blasted the countryside around Bardstown, KY, on August 4, 2003. There were multiple lightning strikes, and one bolt took aim at the Jim Beam warehouse and the 19,000 barrels of good stuff within.

Fire from the sky and high-grade alcohol did what they do in such a situation and all that tasty bourbon went up in flames.

An archived report from the Associated Press indicated local fire crews worked hard to save what they could, but there was only so much they could do. “Once the warehouse is engulfed in flames,” Nelson County Emergency Management Services director Joe Prewitt told the AP, “the best course of action for the fire departments is to protect the surroundings.”

The liquor that didn’t ignite inside the warehouse flowed into a nearby creek, and the biblical vision that is the firenado was recorded by circling choppers. Fire tornadoes are also sometimes called fire devils—and maybe that’s the most appropriate term here.

You might also view it as breathtaking and unexpected demonstration at the epic power of bourbon.

Some original raw video of the firenado phenomenon is below.

Consider having two fingers of spirits to toast the memory of the 800,000 gallons of fine Kentucky bourbon as you watch.

Photos by Screen capture from video