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Andy Beshear
Old Capitol Annex
300 West Broadway
Frankfort, KY 40601
Jeff Noel
2024-07-02 11:13:27
For Immediate Release
Brandon Mattingly

Gov. Beshear Joins Eastern Light Distilling To Break Ground on New $143.7 Million Distillery in Morehead Creating 50 Full-Time Jobs

Project in Rowan County supported by state site and building development funding

FRANKFORT, Ky. (July 2, 2024) – Today, Gov. Andy Beshear joined local officials and company leadership at Eastern Light Distilling for the groundbreaking of its new $143.7 million Morehead distillery, a project that is creating 50 new full-time positions.

“Eastern Light Distilling is adding to the historic growth we’re seeing all across Kentucky’s signature bourbon industry,” said Gov. Beshear. “Today’s official groundbreaking ceremony marks another significant step forward for our spirits industry as it continues to provide incredible job opportunities for the Eastern Kentucky region. Congratulations to Eastern Light Distilling’s leadership on reaching this exciting milestone.”

Announced in June 2023, the new facility will introduce an innovative new concept that will grow the state’s signature bourbon industry in Eastern Kentucky while supporting craft bourbon makers as a custom contract distiller. The locally owned venture is led by Kentucky bourbon industry veterans, including CEO Cordell Lawrence and Caleb Kilburn, an internationally recognized master distiller.

The project also represents a major success for the Kentucky Product Development Initiative, a program designed to increase investment in sites and buildings statewide, as the Rowan County site was approved for nearly $600,000 in state support earlier in 2023. 

“We are thrilled to celebrate this important moment as we bring Eastern Light Distilling to life,” said Caleb Kilburn, Eastern Light Distilling founding partner and master distiller. “Being from Eastern Kentucky, I’m grateful for the opportunity to grow the industry that I’m so passionate about in the region that I call home.”

“Eastern Light will fill a tremendous need in the bourbon industry, operating with a fully customizable solutions-based model that will help craft distillers and bourbon brands to not only reach their goals and bring their products to market, but to flourish,” said Cordell Lawrence, founding partner and CEO of Eastern Light Distilling. “We believe in removing barriers to entry in the spirits space so that we can share our passion with likeminded creators while prioritizing quality, inspiring creativity and investing in the state’s signature bourbon industry and the health of the region.”

Eastern Light sits on a 230-acre campus in Morehead, Kentucky, that will soon be home to a 50,000-square-foot full-service distillery, nine rickhouses with an average capacity of 33,000 barrels each, a full bottling facility and a unique bourbon tourism experience. Employing more than 50 full-time staff, the distillery will deliver an unmatched bourbon contribution to Eastern Kentucky, producing upwards of 97,000 barrels per year.

Gov. Beshear’s Senior Advisor Rocky Adkins congratulated the company on this milestone: “Kentucky’s bourbon industry is booming, and Eastern Light Distilling shows that the prosperity from this important sector is being shared widely. This is a proud moment for all of Eastern Kentucky as this great project takes shape. I want to thank and congratulate Eastern Light Distilling’s leaders as well as the local officials who made this project possible.”

Rowan County Judge/Executive Harry Clark welcomed the new project: “Eastern Light Distilling’s new project is a tremendous boost for Rowan County and the entire Eastern Kentucky region. This groundbreaking not only symbolizes the arrival of significant investment and job creation but also heralds a new era of tourism and economic growth for our community. We are proud to welcome Eastern Light Distilling and look forward to the innovative spirit and prosperity it will bring to our area. This initiative is a testament to our community's potential and a bright future ahead.”

Jason Slone, president and CEO of the Morehead-Rowan County Chamber of Commerce and executive director of the Morehead-Rowan County Economic Development Council, spoke on the significant investment: “The investments by Eastern Light Distilling are set to be transformative. It will further bolster the expanding manufacturing and tourism sectors in Morehead, and surrounding counties, by adding 50 new full-time jobs to support the Gateway region. We share in the excitement and are delighted to assist in welcoming the Commonwealth’s Signature Industry to Northeastern Kentucky.”

President of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association Eric Gregory congratulated the co-founders: “Very few people get to live out their lifelong dreams, so it’s with great pride that we salute Caleb and Cordell on their bold new venture with Eastern Light Distilling. Their industry experience and knowledge will allow more innovative distillers from around the world to use Kentucky Bourbon in their craft. It’s even more exciting to think of all the opportunities this distillery will bring into Eastern Kentucky. Today’s groundbreaking is a win for Bourbon entrepreneurs, Bourbon connoisseurs and Bourbon communities.”

Senior Vice President of Communications and Marketing at the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Jacqueline Pitts mentioned the impact of the project: “The Kentucky Chamber is proud to support the bourbon industry and the incredible economic impact it has on our state. Eastern Light Distilling is an exciting example of continued growth and investments from one of our signature industries.”

Eastern Light Distilling’s investment and job creation build on the best four-year period for economic growth in state history.

The state’s bourbon and spirits industry recorded its best year for growth in 2022, with over $2.1 billion in new investments and approximately 700 new jobs for Kentucky residents. The sector followed with a strong 2023, including $713.8 million in new investments and 229 full-time jobs.

Since the beginning of his administration, Gov. Beshear has announced more than 1,000 private-sector new-location and expansion projects totaling nearly $32 billion in announced investments, creating more than 54,700 jobs. This is the highest investment figure secured during the tenure of any governor in the commonwealth’s history.

The robust job creation has been accompanied by rising wages across the commonwealth. The average incentivized hourly wage in 2022 and 2023 topped $26 in consecutive years for the first time.

Gov. Beshear has announced some of the largest economic development projects in state history, which have solidified Kentucky as the electric vehicle battery production capital of the United States: Ford Motor Co. and SK On’s transformative $5.8 billion, 5,000-job BlueOval SK Battery Park in Hardin County; AESC’s $2 billion, 2,000-job gigafactory project in Warren County; Toyota’s $1.3 billion investment in Scott County; and INFAC North America’s $53 million investment in Taylor County, among others.

The Governor’s administration also secured the largest General Fund budget surplus and Rainy Day Fund, as well as the most jobs filled in state history. Last year, Kentucky set the record for the longest period with the lowest unemployment rates in state history.

Kentucky also secured rating increases from major credit rating agencies Fitch Ratings and S&P Global Ratings, and Moody’s Investors Service upgraded Kentucky’s credit outlook from stable to positive.

In March, Site Selection magazine ranked Kentucky third nationally and first in the South Central economic development projects per capita in its 2023 Governor’s Cup rankings. In April, Site Selection placed Kentucky second in the South Central region and top 10 nationally in its 2024 Prosperity Cup ranking, which recognizes state-level economic development agencies for their success in landing capital investment projects.

Gov. Beshear announced a “Supply Kentucky” initiative with the goal of boosting job growth, reducing costs and providing more security in the supply chains of our Kentucky companies.

To encourage investment and job growth in the community, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) in June 2023 preliminarily approved an incentive agreement with the company under the Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance-based agreement can provide tax incentives based on the company’s investment and annual job targets.

Additionally, KEDFA approved Eastern Light Distilling for tax incentives through the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act. This act allows approved companies to recoup Kentucky sales and use tax on construction costs, building fixtures, equipment used in research and development and electronic processing.

For more information on Eastern Light Distilling, visit

A detailed community profile for Rowan County can be viewed here.


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