Startup E.J. Curley & Co. plans to establish a facility at Camp Nelson with an $18 million investment. Phase I of the project includes a more than $5 million investment.
E.J. Curley’s investment includes the construction of a 22,500-square-foot facility. The new distillery will offer two Kentucky mash bills that will reflect traditional bourbon whiskey, with plans to launch a first-of-its-kind Kentucky-blended international spirit in the near future.
Historic Tours to Start in ’21 with Distilling Starting in ’22
An E.J. Curley & Co. Revival Tour is planned for later this year, a soft launch where visitors can buy spirits and mixed drinks, visit historic nature trails and enjoy other experiences. Spirits production in a new distillery is slated to begin by May 2022, along with the opening of a tasting room. Company leaders expect to welcome more than 100,000 visitors annually.
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“Phase 1 jobs will include distilling operations, management personnel, sales and other key positions,” said Rick Baker, CEO of E.J. Curley. “Within 18-24 months, Phase 2 will be supported by $10 million in new capital investment to increase production capacity to 15,000 to 18,000 barrels per year with significant rickhouse storage, also in Jessamine County.
“The story of E.J. Curley is really interesting. His family was from Tuam Ireland. They emigrated like so many people from Ireland eventually landing in Kentucky in the distilling business. As a 23 year old young man he volunteered as a soldier and was stationed at Camp Nelson and was a part of training 10,000 troops most of them emancipated slaves who fought there. So, every time we go there we realize we are standing on the shoulders of a very important history for Kentucky, for the region and for the world.
“We’ve got a mile of riverfront, the palisades at our back. There’s a bridge spanning the river that we hope to have bourbon on the bridge at some point in the future. We’ve got a deep aquifer to draw our water from that has a 60,000 per day refresh rate. Very much like Fiji water it has a 7.7 pH, it’s a fantastic source for drinking water and it’s perfect for making bourbon.
“We’ve got a lot of assets to work with. With the 57 acres we are going to transform it into a glamping [a fusion of modern luxury and camping] site. Obviously we’ll have a great distillery there and try to make great products. It’s something that I think we can turn into a distillery like no other in the world and really drive tourism to that area. And thank goodness we have great distilleries around us like Wilderness Trail Distillery and Woodford Reserve Distillery who are already on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. We are close enough by we might just get a stop and look. We are really excited about it.”
“The continued growth of the bourbon industry in our state is great news for the future of Kentucky and our residents,” Gov. Beshear said. “E.J. Curley & Co. is bringing back a historic distillery to our state, and this new venture will create  quality job opportunities in Jessamine County and the surrounding region. Thank you to the leaders at E.J. Curley for this commitment to the commonwealth, and I look forward to watching the company grow well into the future.”
“We are delighted to be the lone distillery in Jessamine County,” said E.J. Curley President Matthew Parker. “The history of Camp Nelson and Boone’s Knoll is a shining star for the commonwealth, and it thrills us to revive production of America’s spirit at the original location of E.J. Curley & Co. We are thankful for the steadfast support of our economic development partner, Craig McAnelly, Jessamine County Judge/Executive David West and our Kentucky project manager Annie Franklin.”
The Camp Nelson-based company is reviving the E.J. Curley name, which dates back to the Civil War-era and was known as Kentucky River Distillery at the Kentucky Palisades following prohibition until the 1960s.
Kentucky is home to 66 spirits operations employing more than 5,100 people full-time statewide. In 2020, the industry announced 20 projects in Kentucky, totaling more than $300 million in new investment and nearly 230 projected jobs.
“We are excited to bring E.J. Curley Distillery back to Jessamine County,” said Judge/Executive West. “The 52 new jobs and progressive investments planned by this company for Jessamine County will make a tremendous impact on our community. E.J. Curley Distillery has deep roots in Jessamine County that go back to its beginnings after the Civil War. Many of our residents’ families are historically tied to this company, so we’re delighted help E.J. Curley become the next member of Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail!”
McAnelly, executive director of the Jessamine County Joint Economic Development Authority, said this project has long been in the works and took a collaborative effort to make a reality.
“Several years in the making, this project has seen several potential investors,” McAnelly said. “Knowing the rich history and story to be told, we’re certain this site will someday become a destination location for Kentucky. Jobs produced by this distillery won’t just come from manufacturing but will also be generated by tourism. We want to thank the Cabinet for Economic Development for their assistance throughout this project.”
To encourage investment and job growth in the community, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) on Thursday preliminarily approved a 10-year incentive agreement with the company under the Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance-based agreement can provide up to $350,000 in tax incentives based on the company’s investment of over $5 million and annual targets of:
- Creation and maintenance of 52 Kentucky-resident, full-time jobs across 10 years; and
- Paying an average hourly wage of $37 including benefits across those jobs.
Additionally, KEDFA approved E.J. Curley for up to $50,000 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.
By meeting its annual targets over the agreement term, the company can be eligible to keep a portion of the new tax revenue it generates. The company may claim eligible incentives against its income tax liability and/or wage assessments.
In addition, the company 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.
A Bit of History about Camp Nelson [Video]
Camp Nelson was a Union supply depot and industrial center during the Civil War. It is also important as Kentucky’s largest recruitment center for African-American troops and as a refugee center.