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Kentucky records best ever year for bourbon industry growth with over $2.1 billion in new investments

Kentucky recorded its best year for growth of its signature bourbon and spirits industry in 2022, with over $2.1 billion in new investments and approximately 700 new jobs for Kentucky residents.

Governor Andy Beshear on Thursday celebrated the industry’s continued success, joining state officials and leaders at Buffalo Trace Distillery to fill the company’s 8 millionth barrel of Kentucky bourbon since Prohibition.

The event caps what has been a monumental year for the Kentucky bourbon and spirits industry, including the sector’s largest investment in state history, announced in October, and new location and expansion projects throughout the state.

(Photo from Buffalo Trace)

“Kentucky’s bourbon and spirits industry continues to set itself apart as we conclude another tremendous year of growth statewide,” said Gov. Beshear. “The momentum has been incredible, and the demand for Kentucky bourbon just keeps growing around the world. With monumental investments from companies like Sazerac Co., Beam Suntory and Pernod Ricard, our bourbon industry is reaching new heights. I want to thank everyone who has made this growth possible, from the companies themselves to the communities they’re calling home. Bourbon has a truly statewide impact, with partners in every corner of the commonwealth.”

Currently, the Commonwealth has distilleries in one-third of Kentucky counties, with that footprint expected to increase in the years ahead. Of this year’s announcements, a large portion reside in rural Kentucky, where projects total $1.98 billion in announced investments and 550 new jobs. The commonwealth also saw five new foreign-owned projects contributing to over $730 million in investments and 125 new jobs.

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.

Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, applauded the signature industry’s growth.

“These investments, new jobs and the tourism they will bring are pivotal in Kentucky retaining its crown as the one, true and authentic home of bourbon,” Gregory said.

“As market demand in the United States continues to propel bourbon’s growth – along with the rebuilding of international markets following the end of retaliatory tariffs – we will work hand-in-hand to recruit new distilleries and suppliers to the 80 Kentucky counties that don’t already have bourbon-related jobs, tourism and spin-off revenue generation.”

Since the start of the Beshear administration, about 70 spirits-related announcements have generated roughly $2.8 billion in new investment, creating more than 1,300 full-time jobs for Kentuckians. Gov. Beshear also worked with U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to remove harmful bourbon tariffs on trade with the United Kingdom and European Union, ensuring continuing strength in the export market, with $430.9 million in all spirits and $339.3 million in whiskey exports in 2021 alone. And Kentucky is on pace to exceed those figures in 2022.

New Riff Distillery (Photo from New Riff)

Contributing to this year’s growth within the industry were several recognizable and startup brands, including Atomic Brands, Augusta Distilling, Bardstown Bourbon Co., Beam Suntory, Bluegrass Bottling, Blue Run Spirits, Boundary Oak Distillery, Casey Jones Distillery, Castle & Key Distillery, Four Roses, Heaven Hill Distillery, IJW, Jackson Purchase Distillery, Kentucky Cooperage, The Kentucky Whiskey Co., KWH, Log Still Distillery, New Riff Distilling, Pegasus Industries, Pernod Ricard USA, Rabbit Hole Spirits, Sazerac Co., Ultra Pure, Western Kentucky Distilling Co., Wild Turkey Distillery and Willett Distillery.

This year, the Commonwealth saw its largest spirits-related investment in state history, welcoming Sazerac Co.’s expansion with a $600 million commitment in Laurel County, creating 50 full-time jobs.

Beam Suntory was another top investor in the Kentucky bourbon industry this year, with an investment of over $400 million at Booker Noe Distillery in Nelson County, creating more than 50 full-time positions.

Just last week, Pernod Ricard USA announced an investment of up to $250 million, creating 55 full-time positions to establish a fully carbon neutral distillery in Marion County.

In June, Heaven Hill broke ground on a $135 million distillery project that will return the company’s distilling operations to Nelson County for the first time since the 1996 fire that resulted in a total loss of the previous distillery, creating 38 full-time jobs for Bardstown residents.

Willett Distillery (Photo from Willett)

Willett Distillery was also among the largest investments of the year and will locate in Washington County with a commitment of nearly $93 million toward a new-location project that will create 35 full-time jobs for Kentuckians.

Kentucky’s bourbon and spirits industry extends beyond distilling and warehousing as well. The state saw significant investment in the ecosystem around bourbon production in the commonwealth, which includes cooperages, bottle makers, packaging and distribution.

Bluegrass Bottling, a Kentucky-based, woman-owned business, in August announced a $6.25 million investment, creating 27 full-time jobs for the Lancaster area. The company is constructing a new bottling facility and will operate under the name Poor Ridge Distillery. Bluegrass Bottling’s services include blending, proofing, brand development, labeling, private labeling, specialized packaging and designing of spirits brands.

Another company building on the ecosystem surrounding bourbon production is Pegasus Industries in Shelbyville. In March, the company announced the expansion of its headquarters, investing $738,000 and creating 26 new full-time jobs. The project is including new technology, machinery, shipping docks, equipment and systems to help process more orders and assist with specialized packaging and promotional items.

Kentucky Cooperage, a subsidiary of Independent Stave Co., announced an expansion in February with a $4.1 million investment at its used barrel operation in Marion County. The project will create up to 20 full-time positions and contribute to the wide range of barrel and oak products available to distilleries in Kentucky.

Governor’s Office

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