Eastern Light Distillery - To build $143.7 Million Distillery in Eastern Kentucky

A new day is dawning in Eastern Kentucky as a local resident returns to his homeland to start a new business. Master Distiller Caleb Kilburn and Chief Executive Officer Cordell Lawrence have announced the creation of Eastern Light Distilling. The new $143.7 million investment in Rowan County promises to introduce an innovative new concept that will grow the state’s signature bourbon industry in while supporting the craft bourbon industry as a custom contract distiller for other brands.

Distilling fans will recognize these two names as both have been a part of Kentucky Peerless Distilling in Louisville, Kentucky for many years.

“Eastern Light is the culmination of a lifelong dream to see our state’s signature bourbon industry in my home of Eastern Kentucky,” Kilburn said.

Kilburn was raised in Salt Lick, Kentucky on his family’s dairy farm. Growing up on a farm taught him the meaning of hard work and endowed him with an impressive array of mechanical skills, which would prove invaluable when working in a hands-on craft spirits distillery.

Kentucky Peerless Distilling - Head Distiller Caleb Kilburn Promoted to Master Distiller
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Head Distiller Caleb Kilburn Promoted to Master Distiller at Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co. in 2019.

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“Our signature bourbon industry is making its way into Eastern Kentucky with an exciting new company, Eastern Light Distilling,” stated Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear. “This new distilling operation will not only help foster growth in our craft bourbon industry but will also bring more than $143 million in new economic development investment, well-paying jobs and another great reason for tourists to visit the region. This is the kind of homegrown company that makes Kentucky and our signature bourbon industry so special.” 

Rowan County Judge/Executive Harry Clark mentioned the planning that went into the Eastern Light Distilling project: “I couldn’t be more pleased to see this development finally get underway here in Rowan County. The work leading to today’s announcement spans years of careful planning and significant commitment from both public and private partners. None of it would have been possible were it not for our forward-thinking Governor and legislators when they allocated the Kentucky Product Development Initiative funding to all 120 counties.

“The program has offered unique opportunities for counties like ours to market and make ready sites for economic development on a local level because we know best what we have to offer in our community. We expect Eastern Light Distilling’s announcement today will have an extensive positive impact on this county regarding tourism and economic development, and I believe that this investment speaks volumes to the quality of workforce and expansive capabilities we can bring to the table here in Rowan County.”

Eastern Light Distillery - To build $143.7 Million Distillery in Eastern Kentucky
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Rowan County, Kentucky.

Morehead-Rowan County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development President and CEO Jason Slone spoke on the economic impact of the project: “This is truly a special day for Morehead and Rowan County by having the commonwealth’s signature industry and Eastern Light Distilling become a part of our community. Our community has always been known as the hardwoods manufacturing capital of the world, including the manufacturing of staves and barrels for the industry, and today’s announcement with Eastern Light Distilling is bringing that longstanding vision full circle as the state’s signature industry heads east.

“This investment in our community is a direct result of investments made possible through the Kentucky Product Development Initiative program to generate immediate economic development opportunities that allow us to compete and grow our manufacturing and tourism sectors into the future, ensuring high-wage jobs for future generations.”

Eastern Light’s investment and planned job creation furthers recent economic momentum in the commonwealth, as the state builds back stronger from the effects of the pandemic.

Rowan County Kentucky Historical Marker #788

Rowan County Kentucky Historical Marker
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Erected 1964 by Kentucky Historical Society-Kentucky Department of Highways. (Marker Number 788.)

For Judge John Rowan, 1773-1843. Born Penn., came in 1783 to Ky. Admitted bar, 1795. Member second Ky. Constitutional Convention in 1799. Sec. of State, 1804-06. State Legislature, 10 years. Court of Appeals, 1819-21. U.S. Senate from 1824 to 30. First President of Ky. Historical Society, 1838-43. Buried at his home, Federal Hill, “My Old Kentucky Home,” Bardstown.

Kentucky to Provide $1.9 Million in Tax Incentives

Eastern Light Distilling is expected to create at least 50 new jobs in the area in the coming years.

To encourage the investment and job growth in the community, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority today preliminarily approved a 15-year incentive agreement with the company under the Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance-based agreement can provide up to $1.9 million in tax incentives based on the company’s investment of $143.7 million and annual targets of:

  • Creation and maintenance of 50 Kentucky-resident, full-time jobs across 15 years; and
  • Paying an average hourly wage of $33.17 including benefits across those jobs.

Additionally, KEDFA approved Eastern Light Distilling for up to $100,000 in tax incentives through the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act. This act 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, Eastern Light can receive resources from Kentucky’s workforce service providers. Those include no-cost recruitment and job placement services, reduced-cost customized training and job-training incentives.

The founders of Kentucky Peerless Distilling, Corky Taylor and his son, Carson Taylor shared the following statement in support of Caleb.

“We’d like to congratulate Caleb on his newest endeavor and contribution to the craft community. We are honored to have partnered with such a dedicated distiller and look forward to the future of craft whiskey. The Peerless family stands by our commitment to crafting the highest quality whiskey on the market without interruption.”

Well said sirs.

Learn more about Eastern Light Distilling.
View all Kentucky Distilleries.
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