MOREHEAD, Ky. (FOX 56) — It’s no secret that the Kentucky bourbon industry, specifically the bourbon trail, brings billions of dollars to the state’s economy every year.
If you look at a map of the Bourbon Trail, the majority of the state’s distilleries are in the central, western, and northern parts of the state.
That will be changing very soon as a new era of the bourbon industry comes to eastern Kentucky.
Eastern Light Distilling has plans in place with the Rowan County government to build and open a $143 million facility in Morehead that will bring at least 50 new jobs to the county.
Rowan County Judge Executive Harry Clark said it wasn’t a hard sell to convince the distillery to choose Rowan County. In fact, it is a homecoming of sorts, as the person the county was in contact with is a Morehead State University graduate and a native of Bath County.
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Clark says the county’s willingness to be open to new opportunities and new business is the key to its growth. It’s an exciting time for not only Clark but also the county he grew up in and the surrounding counties as well.
I always like to say it’s just not all about round counting,” Clark explained. “We’ve got a great relationship with the surrounding counties, and when one does good, we all do good. We recognize that, and that’s how we’ve been able to boom here in Rowan County. Rowan County is the focal point of the region. But we all work together, and we know that if we all pull the chain in the same direction, we’re going to get something, and it benefits all of us, and we cheer each other on. But it’s just a great region to be in. That truly is a reflection of being a great place to be.”
2022 was a record year for the Bourbon industry as a whole in Kentucky, with more than $2 billion in new investments.
Once open, the distillery’s greater impact goes far beyond the bourbon. Construction will take a number of months, putting local contractors to work, and the 50 new jobs will bring a number of families to the area, thus boosting the local schools.
Last year, the Bourbon Trail alone attracted a record 2.1 million visitors. Once complete, those Bourbon lovers will have the chance to explore eastern Kentucky and all it has to offer.
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Beyond the tourism boost, Clark said it’s Kentucky farmers who will feel the biggest impact.
“They’ll more than likely purchase their goods, their grains from local farmers, which, you know, that’s I mean, that’s wonderful,” Clark outlined. “Now, there’s no loser in this game and the byproduct will be able to feed cattle. They use that a lot in cattle feed. So, it just amazes me that we have such a unique situation that we’re actually. Are our loggers or harvesting the timber? They’re hauling it to a local stave me all they’re making these days. It goes from there to a cooperage to make the barrel and now we’re going to actually put the bourbon into the barrel and I don’t know many places that can actually say that.”
The distillery will be located near the local airport in Rowan County, making it easily accessible while not adding too much extra traffic to the city of Morehead.
Eastern Light Distilling is expected to break ground on the facility either later this year or in early 2024.
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