Abstract Thermoresistant and alcohol-tolerant bacterium Bacillus licheniformis S-86 can produce a stable esterase in high organic solvents concentrations. In this work, the effects of seven alkanols on cell growth, sporulation, and esterase production of Bacillus licheniformis S-86 were investigated. A reciprocal relationship between maximal organic solvent concentrations tested with log P was observed but there was no correlation between the alcohol log P and the esterase production. Esterase specific activity was approximately two-fold higher in cultures supplemented with C3–C5 alkanols than the control. The addition of 3-methylbutan-1-ol to the culture medium, strongly depleted sporulation compared to the control by 10 4-fold CFU/ml; but, the esterase production was enhanced more than two times under the same conditions.