Fast-Growing Spirits Company Founded by Industry Veteran Ray Franklin
Atlanta-based premium spirits company Staghorn is pleased to announce the opening of its first distillery, Garrard County Distilling Co., which has officially begun production in Lancaster, KY. With its towering dual 45 feet tall 36” Vendome Copper and Brass Works column stills, Garrard County Distilling Co. is the largest all-new independent distillery in Kentucky. The $250+ million project is capable of producing up to 8.5 million proof gallons or 150,000 barrels of whiskey a 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.
Located 30 minutes south of Lexington, the 210-acre 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. The company already has nearly 17,000 sourced whiskey barrels aging onsite.
“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.”
“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.”
Garrard County, which was dry until November 2023, was previously home to about ten 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 utilize limestone-rich water from the Lancaster Public Spring aquifer, first tapped by settlers in 1776. Whiskey will be crafted using proprietary yeast and grain sourced locally from within 50 miles of the distillery. Barrel resources will be provided by Independent Stave and ZAK Cooperage. The company will announce its new head distiller in the coming weeks.
“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,” continued Franklin. “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.”
“Communities across Kentucky have benefited greatly from the recent bourbon boom and now I am pleased to say Garrard County will as well,” said Garrard County Judge/Executive Chris Elleman. “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.”
“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,” said Lancaster Mayor Michael Gaffney. “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.”
Garrard County Distilling Co. will be home to All Nations Whiskey, which is already available in select markets nationwide, in addition to several soon-to-be announced whiskey and other spirits brands. All Nations Whiskey was named from the poster hung in bars during Carry Nation’s temperance crusade in the late 1800s, smashing saloons with her infamous hatchet. The tongue-in-cheek posters read: “All Nations Welcome Except Carry.” Travelers to the distillery on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail will be able to visit Carry’s Garrard County birthplace home, which was transported and reconstructed stone by stone on the site.
Design of the distillery was led by Morris Workshop Architects of Lexington, KY. The construction was managed by Doss and Horky Construction of Danville, KY. Garrard County Distilling Co. is a member of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. The project was supported by the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development.