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Staghorn Opens New Independent Distillery in Garrard County With $250 Million Investment, Creating 60 Full-Time Jobs

January 17, 2024

Project is first commercial distillery in formerly dry county since 1800s

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Jan. 17, 2024) – Today, Gov. Andy Beshear announced that Atlanta-based premium spirits company Staghorn is opening its first distillery, Garrard County Distilling Co., which has officially begun production in Lancaster, Kentucky.

The more than $250 million project is capable of producing up to 150,000 barrels of bourbon per year while supporting the local economy with more than 60 new jobs. This is the first commercial distillery in the formerly dry county since the 1800s.

“Garrard County Distilling Co. is Staghorn’s first distillery, and the size of the project is a testament to the worldwide appeal of bourbon from our great commonwealth,” said Gov. Beshear. “Staghorn’s investment is a welcome addition to the Lancaster and Garrard County communities, as well as to Kentucky’s booming tourism sector. 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.”

Located 30 minutes south of Lexington on a 210-acre site, the project will include a more than 50,000-square-foot distillery, as well as two rickhouses, with plans for up to 24 aging warehouses by 2030, each holding nearly 25,000 barrels. A visitor center with a tasting room and restaurant is scheduled to open by the end of this year. The company already has nearly 17,000 sourced barrels of bourbon aging onsite.

Garrard County, which was dry until November 2023, was previously home to about 10 small distilleries in the 1800s when it was an important railroad hub for hemp, flour and whiskey. The distillery property was formerly owned by Revolutionary War hero James Speed.

Onsite production will use limestone-rich water from the Lancaster Public Spring aquifer, first tapped by settlers in 1776. Bourbon will be crafted using proprietary yeast and grain sourced locally from within 50 miles of the distillery, and barrel resources will be provided by Independent Stave and ZAK Cooperage.

“Staghorn’s vision for Garrard County Distilling Co. is to craft the finest whiskeys and spirits in the world at scale to make an immediate impact in the market,” said Staghorn founder and President Ray Franklin, a near 25-year industry veteran. “To support this goal, we will be hiring nothing but the best in the business, respecting long-honored traditions and craftmanship to assure our products are nothing short of remarkable. When selecting the site for Garrard County Distilling Co., it was critically important to me that our location choice would have a significant impact on the local economy. The folks of Garrard County and Lancaster have been a real pleasure to work with, and we can’t wait to welcome visitors to this peaceful corner of the commonwealth.”

Staghorn is a premium spirits company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded by industry veteran Ray Franklin in 2018, Staghorn owns Garrard County Distilling Co., an all-new independent distillery in Kentucky, producing premium whiskeys and spirits. Currently, Staghorn’s brand portfolio includes All Nations Whiskey, which was awarded multiple Double Gold medals at the prestigious San Francisco Wine and Spirits Competition. Garrard County Distilling Co. is a member of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association.

Garrard County Judge/Executive Chris Elleman spoke on the positive impact of the bourbon industry: “Communities across Kentucky have benefited greatly from the recent bourbon boom, and now I am pleased to say Garrard County will as well. Working in close cooperation with Staghorn, we will be bringing more than 60 jobs to the local economy, as well as increased commerce for vendors supporting the facility and tourism dollars. It is a great win for the county.”

Lancaster Mayor Michael Gaffney mentioned the county’s history in showing his support for the project: “As recently as three months ago, Garrard County was dry, but we were already working cooperatively with the team at Staghorn on this project because we clearly understood the benefits this distillery would bring to Lancaster and the surrounding area. We see Garrard County Distilling Co. as a real opportunity to not only grow our economy, but to share our central Kentucky heritage with folks from around the world … over a glass of whiskey, of course.”

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

Since the beginning of his administration, Gov. Beshear has announced nearly 1,000 private-sector new-location and expansion projects totaling nearly $29 billion in announced investments, creating nearly 51,300 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 $591 million 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.

Site Selection magazine placed Kentucky first in the South Central region and top 5 nationally in its 2023 Prosperity Cup ranking, which recognizes state-level economic development agencies for their success in landing capital investment projects.

Gov. Beshear has also 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.

For more information on Staghorn, visit

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

Information on Kentucky’s economic development efforts and programs is available at Fans of the Cabinet for Economic Development can also join the discussion at, on Twitter @CEDkygov, Instagram @CEDkygov and LinkedIn.


Media Contact:

Crystal Staley

Brandon Mattingly

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