One of the most ambitious new projects to emerge in Kentucky bourbon in years has the potential to make big waves in the whiskey world. The massive Garrard County Distilling Co. just outside Lexington, Kentucky, began filling its first barrels on January 2. Those barrels will soon be joined by many, many, more, the facility can produce 8.5 million gallons or 150,000 barrels of whiskey per year.
Owned by Atlanta-based Staghorn, the $250+ million independent distillery project in Lancaster, KY, will support the company’s brands and provide much-needed liquid for a bevy of other startup and established brands looking for whiskey.
“We are living in the greatest era ever for whiskey; there has been an explosion of interest worldwide,” says Ray Franklin, the founder and president of Staghorn. “Our goal from day one has been to craft the finest whiskeys in the world, and with our new facility, we can fuel the growth of our brands and help others too, plus bring some much-needed jobs to a region looking for them.”
Construction of the facility began during the pandemic, allowing the project to fly under the radar of most whiskey fans. Situated on a 210-acre site, the 50,000+ sq ft distillery has dual forty-five-foot tall Vendome Copper and Brass Works column stills and two rickhouses capable of holding 25,000 barrels each. Plans are to expand the number of rickhouses to twenty-four by 2030, meaning 600,000 barrels of spirits can be aged onsite.
If you haven’t heard of Staghorn yet, that’s understood. The brand was launched in 2018 by industry veteran Franklin and released its first product, All Nations Whiskey, in 2020, made with whiskey sourced from Kentucky distilleries. Eschewing the temptation to overextend, All Nations Whiskey was kept on a slow rollout, only being released in a small part of Kentucky and Atlanta while its new home was being constructed.
Named after early Prohibition pioneer Carrie Nation, a Kentucky native, All Nations bourbons range from premium to super premium. Over the last several years, they have won multiple Double Gold medals at the San Francisco World Wine and Spirit competitions.
As part of its plan to expand its footprint, Staghorn will be debuting several other new brands and products in 2024 while also expanding All Nations with an eye for national distribution. They have 17,000 sourced barrels already aging in their rickhouses to fuel this movement. Those will fill the gap until its homemade whiskeys come of age in about four years. Garrard County Distilling will be announcing a head distiller in early February.
The state-of-the-art facility will surely attract visitors to Kentucky’s famous Bourbon Trail. To take advantage of their presence, Garrard County recently revoked its dry status, which had extended back to the days of Mrs. Nation, a noted resident. To highlight the importance of Carrie Nation to their brand, Staghorn paid to relocate her actual birth house located nearby onsite. The stone house will be incorporated into a visitor center with a separate tasting room and restaurant open by the year’s end.
“Garrard County Distilling Co. is Staghorn’s first distillery and the dedication and size at which they are entering the category is a true testament to the worldwide appeal of bourbon from our great commonwealth,” said Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear. “Staghorn’s investment is a welcome addition to the Lancaster and Garrard County communities, as well as to Kentucky tourism. I want to thank the company’s leadership for their vision to grow in the commonwealth, contributing to Kentucky’s position as the bourbon capital of the world.”