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Western Ky. bourbon distillers nearly tripling Fulton Co. investment to $26 million

Jackson Purchase Distillery

A startup contract bourbon distillery in far western Kentucky is nearly tripling its original investment in Fulton County to almost $26 million.

Gov. Andy Beshear announced in a release Tuesday that Jackson Purchase Distillery is making an additional investment of around $18 million on top of its original investment in the Hickman facility to put toward land acquisition, new equipment and additional staffing.

Jackson Purchase Distillery’s management group acquired an unused Hickman distilling facility in the spring of 2021 and now produces tens of thousands of barrels of Kentucky bourbon annually for other established brands.

This new expansion will see the distillery’s total production increase to more than 60,000 barrels a year once fully operational as the total number of employees is expected to go from 30 to 54. Fulton native and Jackson Purchase Distillery president and CEO Lloyd Jones says this boost is necessary to keep up with clients’ orders.

“We're really excited about it because it increases our production capacity by about 40,000 barrels,” Jones said. “We've been sold out now for the last year and two years coming forward. So we're gonna be able to meet this demand before us.”

Jones and COO David Salmon have more than 30 years of experience in the bourbon and distilling industry, and their master distiller Craig Beam has a family legacy in the business. Beam has family ties to the founders of both the Jim Beam and Heaven Hill distilleries. He also retired as the master distiller for Heaven Hill before coming to Jackson Purchase Distillery. Terry Ballard, his assistant master distiller, worked for Kentucky Bourbon Distillers in Bardstown presiding over the operations for Willett Distillery for 10 years before making the jump to the Fulton startup.

In addition to producing bourbon for mid-size and larger brands, the distillery also plans to dedicate a segment of its business to fulfilling smaller orders from craft distillers.

The Kentucky spirits industry – which employs more than 5,300 people – has announced around 60 projects totaling nearly $1.4 billion in planned investments since Beshear took office, according to the state release.

“Kentucky’s bourbon and spirits industry continues to see tremendous growth,” Beshear said. “This is not possible without the support of companies like Jackson Purchase Distillery, which is tripling its original investment in this project and creating nearly double the number of quality jobs. The company’s faith in the commonwealth, Fulton County and the surrounding communities is an exciting reminder of our strong economic momentum.”

Salmon is glad to be a part of that bourbon boom.

“Bourbon’s still very dynamic, especially Kentucky bourbon in the U.S.,” he said. “Then with the reduction in tariffs and different things happening internationally, the category continues to grow at double digits.”

The Kentucky Distillers’ Association said last month the number of bourbon barrels in Kentucky reached a record 11.4 million barrels this year. The record was hit after four consecutive years of the industry filling more than 2 million barrels of bourbon.

The distillery’s leadership said community support and engagement has been key for them since they started producing, especially their relationship with the local agricultural community.

“Not only are we buying corn and wheat from the local farmers, but those same farmers that we're buying corn from are coming by and picking up our spent grain and using it for cattle feed,” Jones said. “So it's a true sense of relationship. We really basically look at our operation as more of an agricultural farming operation because of our relationship with the farmers.”

Fulton County Judge-Executive Jim Martin said in the state release that he’s thankful for the company’s commitment to providing a quality Kentucky product in their region.

“Jackson Purchase Distillery is a very good fit for Fulton County,” Martin said. “The principals at the company are committed to success in this venture just as we are equally committed to their success. This project not only involves one of Kentucky’s most historic products being sold throughout the world market but it is agriculturally based in Fulton County history.”

Hickman Mayor Heath Carlton is looking forward to seeing Jackson Purchase Distillery put “Western Kentucky on the Kentucky bourbon map,” and Fulton-Hickman Counties Economic Development Partnership CEO Mark Welch expressed excitement about the future of the partnership between the company and the community.

“Jackson Purchase Distillery is the perfect manufacturing partner for Fulton County,” said Welch. “Our local natural resources are abundant, the distillery’s product is quintessentially Kentuckian and bourbon is in high demand globally.”

A native of western Kentucky, Operle earned his bachelor's degree in integrated strategic communications from the University of Kentucky in 2014. Operle spent five years working for Paxton Media/The Paducah Sun as a reporter and editor. In addition to his work in the news industry, Operle is a passionate movie lover and concertgoer.
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