$600 million expansion: Bourbon maker plans largest Kentucky spirits investment ever

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The parent company of Buffalo Trace Distillery on Wednesday announced a $600 million expansion, the largest investment related to distilled spirits in Kentucky history, according to Gov. Andy Beshear's office.
Bourbon maker Sazerac plans to build about 20 bourbon cask warehouses in Laurel County and expand Robinson Stave and Cumberland Cooperage in London, creating up to 50 full-time jobs, the state said.
In October, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority approved various state tax incentives of up to $3 million for the project, which must meet job and wage targets.
The announcement was hailed by Beshear and local officials as a major economic boon for an area that historically has had above-average unemployment.
"This is a significant investment by Sazerac in Kentucky as our signature bourbon industry continues to grow at an incredible rate," said Governor Beshear. “I am very excited about the job creation in Southeast Kentucky and the growth of a company that has invested so much in the Commonwealth over the past 25 years. Thank you to the leaders of Sazerac for continuing to deepen their roots in the bluegrass state.”
What Sazerac is planning in Laurel County
Finished white oak casks await shipment to various brands of bourbon from Robinson Stave Mill and East Bernstadt Cooperage in East Bernstadt, Ky., Sunday, December 13, 2021.
Sazerac, a privately held, family-owned liquor company based in Louisville and Metairie, La., is buying the 198-acre Rowland Acres Industrial Park from the London-Laurel County Economic Development Authority to build the new cask warehouses. Work on the project is expected to begin before the end of the year, with the first of seven barrel stores expected to be completed in spring 2025.
The company purchased Robinson Stave and Cumberland Cooperage in 2014 and is planning a 72,000 square foot expansion to increase cask production capacity.
According to the state, Sazerac has invested $1.2 billion in the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfurt. Sazerac also owns the Barton 1792 Distillery in Bardstown, the Glenmore Distillery in Owensboro, and its headquarters in Jefferson County.
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Earlier this year, Buffalo Trace also received approval from Anderson County officials over neighbors' objections to building a 20-Rickhouse barrel storage campus outside of Lawrenceburg. And Franklin County residents there have been fighting a possible major camp expansion.
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A Buffalo Trace spokeswoman said the Laurel County project is in addition to these projects.
"We are excited to continue expanding in Laurel County and appreciate the warm welcome we have received from local government and the Economic Development Agency," said Mark Brown, Sazerac's President and CEO, in a statement. “We invested in London-Laurel County because we know the residents are hardworking Kentuckians who take pride in their craft. Our construction of new cask storage facilities and expansion of our cooperage operations will enable the continued growth of Kentucky's distinctive bourbon industry.”
According to the state, there have been more than 60 spirits-related announcements since the Beshear administration began, generating more than $1.4 billion in new investment and creating more than 1,100 full-time jobs.
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Laurel County Judge Executive David Westerfield said the Sazerac project will have a long-term impact on the region.
"This multi-million dollar expansion is monumental for Laurel County," Westerfield said in the press release. "Sazerac's Cumberland Cooperage in East Bernstadt offers some of the best jobs in our county and we're excited to see them expanding their presence in our community."
London Mayor Troy Rudder echoed this. "Sazerac's Cumberland Cooperage offers some of the best paying jobs and benefits in the area and we are fortunate that they continue to grow here," Rudder said in the press release.
The expansion announcement comes as lawmakers consider a possible tax cut on aging spirits in cask. Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, is co-chair of the Bourbon Barrel Taxation Task Force. No invoice has been submitted in advance.
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Andy Bescher
63rd Governor of Kentucky

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