In one of bourbon country’s largest single projects, Gov. Matt Bevin and leaders of Stoli Group broke ground recently for Kentucky Owl Park, a nearly $150 million lakeside complex to include a distillery, visitors center, cooperage, rickhouses, bottling center, restaurant and other facilities at Bardstown’s 420-acre Haydon Materials Quarry.
“Global demand for bourbon continues to bring significant economic impact to Kentucky through jobs, investment and tourism,” said Gov. Bevin. “This new project by Stoli Group in the heart of bourbon country will serve to accelerate this trend. Stoli Group will offer numerous employment opportunities and support many families in and around Nelson County. I congratulate the company and look forward seeing this concept come to life over the coming years.”
Site prep and construction for the project’s first phase — which includes the distillery — could begin early next year with an opening targeted for 2020. It would create approximately 57 of the park’s anticipated 77 total full-time jobs. The park will be home to Stoli Group’s newly created American Whiskey Division, including its storied 140-year-old Kentucky Owl brand.
“Stoli Group will put great resources into these endeavors — both the distillery experience and the growth of this very important category for our company. As master blender, Dixon Dedman will continue to manage the production of Kentucky Owl — the crown jewel of the new division, which will remain a small batch offering,” said Dmitry Efimov, head of Stoli Group’s American Whiskey Division. “This site will be home to additional brands that we will create or acquire. With the continued strength and growth of American whiskies and bourbons, we are beginning to evaluate those opportunities.”
Stoli Group purchased the Haydon Materials Quarry, formerly Cedar Creek quarry, along John Rowan Boulevard in Bardstown, to provide a unique topographical setting. In the long-term, company leaders plan to establish the park as a premier destination on the Bourbon Trail. Their plans include a freshwater lake for fishing and recreation, a gourmet restaurant, a convention center and hotel, a vintage passenger train and a refurbished train station.
Established in 2013, Stoli Group is responsible for the management, distribution and marketing operations of SPI Group’s global spirits portfolio. One of the world’s leading wine and spirits organizations, SPI Group is an independent company headquartered in Luxembourg committed to a mission of building a respected portfolio of select premium brands. Additionally, SPI Group develops large-scale real estate projects, including the Finos Tequila distillery in Jalisco, Mexico and the award-winning Bayou Rum distillery and visitors center in Lacassine, Louisiana, and farms 14,000 acres of agricultural land, including for its Stoli and elit Vodkas in Tambov, Russia.
Sen. Jimmy Higdon, of Lebanon, said Stoli Group promises to grow the state’s strong reputation in the bourbon industry.
“I am so pleased to hear Stoli Group has chosen this Bardstown location to be Kentucky’s newest bourbon-based economic development project,” Sen. Higdon said. “Kentucky’s signature bourbon industry has showed no sign of slowing, and with this huge investment in the region and the creation of new Kentucky jobs, I have no doubt that Stoli Group will join the ranks of great distillers.”
Rep. Chad McCoy, of Bardstown, said the project will have a substantial impact on the already thriving local bourbon industry.
“Stoli Group understands the rich tradition of bourbon in the commonwealth, and we are thrilled the company is expanding a recently acquired family business to Bardstown,” said Rep. Chad McCoy, who serves as vice-chair of the Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee. “The distillery is a boon for our community and will cement Bardstown’s transformation into the premiere bourbon destination for Kentuckians and people from all over the world.”
Bardstown Mayor Dick Heaton said the company has found the perfect home in Nelson County.
“We are extremely happy to have Stoli Group’s American Whiskey Distillery join our growing family of distilleries in Bardstown and Nelson County,” Mayor Heaton said. “Bardstown is known as the Bourbon Capital of the World. This new investment is a testament that there is no better place to make bourbon, educate and entertain visitors than Bardstown, Kentucky. The announcement comes as a result of much hard work by many people in the public and private sector here. The City of Bardstown is proud to be a part of this exciting project.”
Nelson County Judge-Executive Dean Watts said the project will have a positive impact on the community.
“The announcement of Stoli Group’s American Whiskey Distillery coming to Nelson County is excellent economic news,” Judge-Executive Watts said. “We appreciate their investment in our community and look forward to helping with their success.”
To encourage the investment and job growth in the community, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) in September preliminarily approved the company for tax incentives up to $2 million through the Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance-based incentive allows a company to keep a portion of its investment over the agreement term through corporate income tax credits and wage assessments by meeting job and investment targets.
In October, KEDFA approved SPI Group for up to $1.2 million in tax incentives through the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act (KEIA). KEIA allows approved companies to recoup Kentucky sales and use tax on construction costs, building fixtures, equipment used in research and development and electronic processing.
In addition, SPI Group can receive resources from the Kentucky Skills Network. Through the Kentucky Skills Network, companies can receive no-cost recruitment and job placement services, reduced-cost customized training and job training incentives. In fiscal year 2017, the Kentucky Skills Network provided training for more than 120,000 Kentuckians and 5,700 companies from a variety of industry sectors.