Pernod Ricard - Building New $250 Million Distillery for Jefferson's Bourbon

Pernod Ricard is the No. 2 worldwide producer of wines and spirits has announced a new $250 million distillery investment to be built in Marion County, Kentucky for its fast-growing Jefferson’s Bourbon brand. The state-of-the-art distillery and related aging warehouses will be built over a five-year period to leverage the strong growth and growth potential of its premium American whiskey portfolio, The American Whiskey Collective.

This investment will include a new 75,000-square-foot facility on a 265-acre site in Lebanon. The site will include a distillery, drying operation, three warehouses and a world-class visitor center and future stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

“American whiskey is an extremely vibrant spirits category, and our strategic investments over the last few years have proven successful,” said Alexandre Ricard, Chairman and CEO, Pernod Ricard.

Pernod Ricard - Chairman and CEO Alexandre Ricard“Our philosophy of partnering with entrepreneurial brand founders, while preserving the heritage and terroir associated with the brands they created, has made us an established player in premium American Whiskey. Jefferson’s founder Trey Zoeller is no exception. This new investment will allow us to grow our share of category sales not only in the U.S., but also in export markets.”

Ann Mukherjee, Chairman and CEO, Pernod Ricard North America, said the new distillery will enable Jefferson’s to efficiently keep up with very strong consumer demand while staying true to the company’s longstanding commitment to sustainability. “American whiskey is booming, and Jefferson’s growth has been phenomenal,” Mukherjee said. “We’re very bullish on the brand’s potential, and we’re committed to making our new Jefferson’s facility one of the most exemplary distilleries in the world in order to achieve it.

Carbon Neutral and LEED Certified Distillery

Pernod Ricard has announced the intention for this new distillery to be carbon neutral once operational. The facility is also expected to be the first distillery of its size in the U.S. to achieve LEED certification, an internationally recognized sustainability framework for healthy, efficient, carbon and cost-saving environmentally friendly buildings. The distillery and warehouses will include such low carbon technologies as:

  • Electrode boilers powered by certified renewable electricity, enabling the distillery to not use fossil fuels during bourbon production.
  • On site electric trucks and facility vehicles also powered by renewable electricity.
  • Extensive use of solar and natural lighting throughout the property and facility.

In addition, as part of Pernod Ricard’s commitment to protect and nurture the terroir surrounding its facilities, Jefferson’s will continue to partner with local farmers and suppliers to source ingredients and casks.

“Our company is an agricultural company at its core and so it is vital that we lead the category forward – in partnership with our farmers and growers – and remain committed to the long-term sustainability of our people, our industry and our planet. This investment is the latest illustration of that belief,” said Mukherjee.

Pernod Ricard’s Irish Distillers and Chivas Brothers brand companies recently announced plans to invest in decarbonizing their distilleries and creating new carbon neutral facilities, following the example set by The Absolut Company, which has consistently set the industry standard for sustainable production. Pernod Ricard is on track to meet the ambitious targets set out in its 2030 global sustainability & responsibility roadmap, ‘Good Times from a Good Place,’ which align with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

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New Pernod Ricard Distillery Rendering

Pernod Ricard - Building New $250 Million Distillery for Jefferson's Bourbon, Rendering
Pernod Ricard - Building New $250 Million Distillery for Jefferson's Bourbon, Rendering

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Pernod Ricard Distillery to Produce 7.5 Million Proof Gallons

According to Pierre Joncourt, SVP, Operations, Pernod Ricard North America, “Construction of the new distillery – which will have a 7.5 million proof gallon capacity — is expected to begin in January 2023. Our target completion date for the distillery and related warehouses is 2025.”

Founded in 1997 by Trey Zoeller and his father Chet, Jefferson’s joined the Pernod Ricard portfolio in 2019 when the company acquired the brand’s parent, Castle Brands. Known for his unrelenting thirst for adventure, as well as a decades-long passion for crafting the world’s most unique expressions of bourbon, Trey Zoeller continues to guide Jefferson’s in his role as Founder and Chief Strategist. Since the acquisition, Jefferson’s U.S. sales have doubled.

“For the last 25 years we have been sourcing, contract distilling and — through Kentucky Artisan Distillery — distilling ourselves,” Zoeller said.

“It is now time for us to take more control of our destiny. The carbon neutral, state-of-the-art distillery we are building would not be possible without Pernod Ricard’s forward thinking, integrity, and commitment to Jefferson’s and the Bourbon category’s future.” 

Pernod Ricard USA’s capital investment in the new distillery and visitor center is expected initially to add roughly 55 new company jobs in Kentucky while generating extra economic benefits for Kentucky-based businesses during the construction period. It is the latest in a series of moves made by Pernod Ricard to expand its investment in U.S. manufacturing and grow its share in the lucrative American spirits and wine market.

  • In 2022, the company’s Ft. Smith, Arkansas manufacturing plant has invested in new canning and bottling lines.
  • In August 2019, Pernod Ricard acquired the TX Whiskey brand, based in Fort Worth, Texas. TX is known for its bourbon made from a proprietary yeast derived from the pecan tree, the official state tree of Texas.
  • In July 2019, Pernod Ricard acquired a majority stake in Rabbit Hole Distillery, known for its super-premium bourbon and iconic distillery in Louisville, Kentucky.
  • In 2016, the company bought a majority stake in Smooth Ambler, the award-winning West Virginia whiskey distiller. Pernod Ricard assumed full ownership of the brand late last year.

“U.S. whiskey sales are expected to account for a significant amount of Pernod Ricard USA’s total volumes within the next 5-10 years, and the U.S. whiskey export business also has enormous growth potential,” Craig Johnson, SVP American Whiskey Collective, said. “To help achieve these ambitious performance goals, the American Whiskey Collective was created the result will be further accelerated growth from our ‘new fashioned’ whiskey portfolio, focused on pushing boundaries rather than adhering strictly to tradition,” said Johnson.

Pernod Ricard was founded in 1975 from the merger of two French anise-based spirits companies: Pernod, created in 1805, and Ricard, created in 1932. Pernod Ricard holds one of the most comprehensive portfolios within the industry, with 240 premium brands available in over 160 countries, including Jameson Irish Whiskey, Absolut Vodka, Glenlivet and Chivas Brothers. A global leader in wine and spirits, with 18,500 employees worldwide, Pernod Ricard will be building one of the largest LEED-certified distilleries globally and the first to locate in the commonwealth.

Lebanon Community Leaders React to the Distillery Project

State Sen. Jimmy Higdon spoke on the importance of new investments for the region.

“It is certainly good news to hear of Pernod Ricard’s location in Lebanon/Marion County. New jobs and investment benefit our community, region and state,” said Sen. Higdon.

State Rep. Michael “Sarge” Pollock thanked the people who made this project possible.

“This is tremendous news for our community and proves what we’ve known all along – that Lebanon and Marion County has so much to offer in terms of quality of life and opportunity,” Rep. Pollock said. “I appreciate all the work of those who made it possible.”

Marion County Judge/Executive David R. Daugherty welcomed new industry to the area.

“Marion County is thrilled by Pernod Ricard locating in our area,” said Judge Daugherty. “The fact that a new distillery will bring increased job opportunities for our residents is always such a great benefit for our county. The distillery will, no doubt, become a tourist destination that will showcase to so many more visitors the great people and way of life in Marion County that we get to experience daily. We are so excited to share this with tourists visiting our community.”

Lebanon Mayor Gary D. Crenshaw spoke on the economic impact the project will have on the community.

“The investment by Pernod Ricard in our community will have a long-lasting positive economic impact on Lebanon and Marion County,” Mayor Crenshaw said. “Their location here energizes the dynamics for increased tourism, restaurant and hotel expansion. We’re grateful for this opportunity to partner with an industry leader to create something great here in Marion County.”

Marion County Economic Development Executive Director Brooklyn Leep supported the project as well.

“We are so grateful that Pernod Ricard has chosen Marion County as its home to not only expand its bourbon footprint, but also provide an unparalleled visitor center experience for bourbon lovers across the globe,” said Leep. “We look forward to supporting the company every step of the way as it brings its wonderful vision to reality in Lebanon, Kentucky.”

Jerry Carter, president and CEO of Inter-County Energy, said he is excited about partnering with the company.

“Inter-County Energy is excited to partner with Pernod Ricard in their new distillery and visitor center campus in Lebanon-Marion County,” Carter said. “Meeting our members’ requests – and specifically, Pernod Ricard’s requirements for sustainable 100% renewable energy for the Lebanon-Marion County project – is a cornerstone principle for Inter-County Energy.”

To encourage investment and job growth in the community, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) in December preliminarily approved a 15-year incentive agreement with the company under the Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance-based agreement can provide up to $1.6 million in tax incentives based on the company’s investment of at least $181 million and annual targets of:

  • Creation and maintenance of 55 Kentucky-resident, full-time jobs across 15 years; and
  • Paying an average hourly wage of $82.35 including benefits across those jobs.

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, Pernod Ricard 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.

Learn more about Jefferson’s Bourbon
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