Eastern Light Distilling - Groundbreaking July 3, 2024

In June of 2023 Master Distiller Caleb Kilburn and Cordell Lawrence, distilled spirits industry veterans, announced they were going to build Eastern Light Distilling, a new distillery in Eastern Kentucky. Rather than building their new distillery near the amber triangle between Lexington, Louisville and Bardstown, the pair announced they would be their dream in Rowan County, near Kilburn’s boyhood home. The dream of that distillery became a bit more of a reality as they just celebrated the groundbreaking for this new $143.7 million where they’ll be distilling bulk spirits for other brands as well as building their own.

Eastern Light Distilling Breaks Ground

“We are thrilled to celebrate this important moment as we bring Eastern Light Distilling to life,” said Caleb Kilburn, Eastern Light Distilling Founding Partner and Master Distiller. “Being from Eastern Kentucky, I’m grateful for the opportunity to grow the industry that I’m so passionate about in the region that I call home.”

Eastern Light Distilling sits on a 230-acre campus in Morehead, Kentucky that will soon be home to a 50,000-square-foot full-service distillery, nine rickhouses with an average capacity of 33,000 barrels each, a full bottling facility, and a unique Bourbon tourism experience. When fully operational the distillery will employ more than 50 full-time staff, and produce upwards of 97,000 barrels per year.

“Eastern Light Distilling is adding to the historic growth we’re seeing all across Kentucky’s signature bourbon industry,” said Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear. “Today’s official groundbreaking ceremony marks another significant step forward for our spirits industry as it continues to provide incredible job opportunities for the Eastern Kentucky region. Congratulations to Eastern Light Distilling’s leadership on reaching this exciting milestone.”

“Eastern Light will fill a tremendous need in the Bourbon industry, operating with a fully customizable solutions-based model that will help craft distillers and bourbon brands to not only reach their goals and bring their products to market, but to flourish,” said Cordell Lawrence, Founding Partner and Chief Executive Officer of Eastern Light Distilling. “We believe in removing barriers to entry in the spirits space so that we can share our passion with likeminded creators while prioritizing quality, inspiring creativity, and investing in the state’s signature Bourbon industry and the health of the region.”


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Blending Bourbonism and Entrepreneurism

Caleb and Cordell’s shared passion for the Bourbon industry has inspired a unique solution to growing challenges in the spirits space that blends Bourbonism and entrepreneurism, allowing refreshing new brands to flourish. Eastern Light will collaborate with fellow craft makers from inception to branding to help cultivate their ideal bourbon creations.

“Kentucky’s bourbon industry is booming, and Eastern Light Distilling shows that the prosperity from this important sector is being shared widely,” said the Governor’s Senior Advisor Rocky Adkins. “This is a proud moment for all of Eastern Kentucky as this great project takes shape. I want to thank and congratulate Eastern Light Distilling’s leaders as well as the local officials who made this project possible.”

“Eastern Light Distilling’s new project is a tremendous boost for Rowan County and the entire Eastern Kentucky region,” said Judge Executive Harry Clark. “This groundbreaking not only symbolizes the arrival of significant investment and job creation but also heralds a new era of tourism and economic growth for our community. We are proud to welcome Eastern Light Distilling and look forward to the innovative spirit and prosperity it will bring to our area. This initiative is a testament to our community’s potential and a bright future ahead.”

“The investments by Eastern Light Distilling are set to be transformative. It will further bolster the expanding manufacturing and tourism sectors in Morehead, and surrounding counties, by adding 50 new full-time jobs to support the Gateway region,” said Jason Slone, President and CEO of Morehead-Rowan County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development. “We share in the excitement and are delighted to assist in welcoming the Commonwealth’s Signature Industry to Northeastern Kentucky!”

“Very few people get to live out their lifelong dreams, so it’s with great pride that we salute Caleb and Cordell on their bold new venture with Eastern Light Distilling. Their industry experience and knowledge will allow more innovative distillers from around the world to use Kentucky Bourbon in their craft,” said Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. “It’s even more exciting to think of all the opportunities this distillery will bring into Eastern Kentucky. Today’s groundbreaking is a win for Bourbon entrepreneurs, Bourbon connoisseurs, and Bourbon communities!”

“The Kentucky Chamber is proud to support the bourbon industry and the incredible economic impact it has on our state,” said Jacqueline Pitts, Senior Vice President of Communications and Marketing, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. “Eastern Light Distilling is an exciting example of continued growth and investments from one of our signature industries!”

Distilling Operations to Begin Late 2025

In the coming months, Eastern Light looks forward to making significant and visible strides in the development of their new distillery campus, with massive construction progress, gradual hiring, and ultimately an incomparable contribution to the economy of Eastern Kentucky.

The Eastern Light team is proud of the time, effort and support that’s already been committed to this project and is excited to keep the ball rolling. The project remains on track for operations to begin in late 2025. The co-founders are grateful for the support and enthusiasm they’ve been met with in response to this project and are excited for what’s to come.

Eastern Light is a locally owned and operated distillery being developed in the foothills of Eastern Kentucky. Headquartered in Rowan County, Eastern Light delivers an innovative concept that will support the craft Bourbon industry as a custom contract distiller. 


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Bourbon Investments in Kentucky Continue to Grow

The project also represents a major success for the Kentucky Product Development Initiative, a program designed to increase investment in sites and buildings statewide, as the Rowan County site was approved for nearly $600,000 in state support earlier in 2023.

Eastern Light Distilling’s investment and job creation build on the best four-year period for economic growth in Kentucky history.

The state’s bourbon and spirits industry recorded its best year for growth in 2022, with over $2.1 billion in new investments and approximately 700 new jobs for Kentucky residents. The sector followed with a strong 2023, including $713.8 million in new investments and 229 full-time jobs.

Eastern Light will be working with some well-known distillery builders and designers including Buzick ConstructionJoseph & Joseph Architects and Vendome Copper & Brass Works.

Related Story
A New Day is Dawning in Eastern Kentucky as Startup ‘Eastern Light Distilling’ Begins to Take Shape
Master Distiller Caleb Kilburn and Cordell Lawrence Announce $143.7 Million Startup Distillery in Eastern Kentucky

Learn more about Eastern Light Distilling.
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