Spirits are high: Unprecedented momentum fuels a record year for Kentucky bourbon

By the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development

The bourbon industry continues to boom in Kentucky, with over $2.1 billion in new investments made in 2022 for new locations or expansions. Photo credit: Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development

2022 served as a historic year not just for the Commonwealth’s economic development, but for one of the state’s most important industries, bourbon and spirits. In 2022, Kentucky recorded its best year for growth of it signature industry, with private-sector new-location or expansion totaling over $2.1 billion in investments and approximately 700 new jobs for Kentucky residents.

Since the beginning of 2022, the Commonwealth has announced several major bourbon and spirits-related projects that have laid a foundation for continued growth and momentum within the industry.

In November 2022, Gov. Andy Beshear announced the largest distilled spirits-related investment on record in Kentucky history, as Louisville-based Sazerac Co. announced a $600 million investment to construct nearly 20-barrel warehouses and expand Robinson Stave and Cumberland Cooperage in London, creating up to 50 full-time jobs and supporting the company’s continued growth.

The project includes the acquisition of the 198-acre Rowland Acres Industrial Park to construct nearly 20 new barrel storage warehouses in Laurel County as well as a 72,000-square-foot expansion of Robinson Stave and Cumberland Cooperage, which Sazerac acquired in 2014, to increase production capacity for barrels used to store the company’s aging whiskies.

In July 2022, Beam Suntory announced the expansion of their Jim Beam Brands Co. with a $400 million investment that will create more than 50 full-time jobs at the Booker Noe Distillery in Boston.

December 2022 saw a $196 million investment announced from Pernod Ricard USA to construct a new 75,000-square-foot facility on a 265-acre site in Lebanon. The site will include a distillery, drying operation, three warehouses and a world-class visitor center. The Marion County facility will be fully carbon neutral and will have zero fossil fuel consumption to produce bourbon, which will only be the second distillery in Kentucky and North America to make this claim. Once operational, Pernod Ricard will be a 7.5 million proof-gallon distillery, producing 115,000 barrels annually.

Distillery projects weren’t the only important investments within the state’s bourbon and spirits industry last year. In August 2022, Bluegrass Bottling LLC, a Kentucky-based, woman-owned business, announced the construction of a new bottling facility in Lancaster with a $6.25 million investment that will create 27 full-time jobs.

The project will include the construction of a new 50,000-square-foot bottling facility on a 98-acre site at 51 Poor Ridge Pike in Lancaster, where the company will operate under the name Poor Ridge Distillery. The project also will more than double the company’s storage space to a total of 49,000 square feet.

In December 2022, Willett Distillery announced a $93 million investment in Washington County to build warehouses and additional production facilities, creating 35 full-time jobs. The project will include a new distillery operation, barrel storage warehouses and a water storage area for fire prevention.

Lastly, in February of last year, barrel producer Kentucky Cooperage LP Ltd. announced the expansion of the company’s existing used barrel operation in Marion County with a more-than-$4.1 million investment that will create up to 20 full-time jobs. The expansion will more than double the size of the current 28,000-square-foot used barrel operation with a 41,000-square-foot addition and will provide increased warehouse and processing capacity to grow the number of used barrels serviced by the company.

These commitments add to the Commonwealth’s booming bourbon sector, which is a nearly $9 billion signature industry in Kentucky generating more than 22,500 jobs with an annual payroll exceeding $1.23 billion.

Complementing Kentucky’s continued bourbon and spirits growth are a host of other business-friendly elements, including the state’s ideal geographic location that places companies within a day’s drive of more than two-thirds of the nation’s population, personal income and manufacturing operations. With highly developed logistics and distribution infrastructure and facilities – including four major ground and air shipping hubs – Kentucky provides businesses with numerous reliable, air, road, waterway and rail shipping options. Administration-to-date, the commonwealth’s distribution and logistics sector has seen over $600 million in new investment as it provides food and beverage companies with the resources needed to get products to consumers as quickly as possible.

The continued growth and expansion of distilleries, barrel storage warehouses, and bottling and distribution centers has been a major part of the commonwealth’s recent economic success and solidifies the continued momentum of one of the commonwealth’s signature industries for years to come.

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