Former Widow Jane President and Master Distiller Takes Helm at Largest All-New Independent Distillery in Kentucky
Atlanta-based premium spirits company Staghorn has named award-winning craft whiskey maker Lisa Wicker as the first Master Distiller of its recently opened Garrard County Distilling Co. in Lancaster, Kentucky. The former Widow Jane Distillery leader will oversee whiskey making at the largest all-new independent distillery in the commonwealth, capable of producing 8.5 million proof gallons or 150,000 barrels of whiskey a year. The distillery began operations in January.
Wicker brings more than 20 years of distilling and winemaking experience to Garrard County Distilling Co. In her new role as Master Distiller, she will manage all aspects of whiskey production, including grain selection, fermentation, distillation, blending, and aging for the company’s owned whiskey brands, including All Nations, as well as contract-distilled whiskey.
Prior to joining Garrard County Distilling Co., Wicker was the President and Master Distiller of Widow Jane Distillery in Brooklyn, NY, where she worked for nearly six years. There, her highly regarded whiskeys earned such accolades as Whisky Magazine’s Best Small Batch Bourbon 2022, Best in Class at the 2019 Whiskies of the World Awards, and a Double Gold Medal at the prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Competition. She was also nominated for the Icons of Whiskey Master Distiller/Blender of the Year. Under Wicker, Widow Jane was the largest heirloom corn crop whiskey in the U.S. for several years.
Wicker’s other experience in the spirits industry includes lead distilling roles at Lexington Brewing & Distilling Company, Samson & Surrey, Limestone Branch, and Starlight Distillery. For years, she served as a consulting distiller at George Washington’s Distillery, the revival of our first president’s historic distillery at Mount Vernon, Virginia.
“I am so grateful to the team at Staghorn for this amazing opportunity to lead the whiskey-making team at this beautiful new facility,” said Wicker. “Though this is one of the largest distilleries in Kentucky, my focus will remain on creating whiskeys using the hands-on, traditional craft disciplines I have honed over the past several decades.”
“When we were looking for a head distiller at Garrard County Distilling Co., we wanted someone with deep experience in time-honored distilling methods but also someone with an eye for what’s next. This made Lisa our obvious first choice,” said Ray Franklin, Founder of Staghorn.
Until the whiskey currently in production matures, Wicker will focus her attention on Staghorn’s All Nations brand, selecting and blending whiskey from the company’s more than 17,000 sourced-barrel inventory. Garrard County Distilling Co. plans to announce several new brands in 2024.
“High-rye and wheated bourbons are going to be the calling card for Garrard County Distilling Co., but I am also excited to explore rye whiskey, American single malt and some other emerging categories,” continued Wicker. “Key for me will be to have a premium whiskey for everyone, so expect a broad portfolio across multiple price points, from your daily sipper to the bottle you pull out for special occasions.”
Located 30 minutes south of Lexington, the 210-acre Garrard County Distilling Co. site includes the 50,000+ sq ft distillery, as well as two 20,000 sq ft rickhouses, with plans for a total of 24 aging warehouses by 2030, each holding nearly 25,000 barrels. A visitor center with tasting room and restaurant is scheduled to open by the end of this year. This is the first commercial distillery in the formerly dry county since the 1800s.