Maker's Mark to get $3.2 million in tax incentives to improve roads

jpatton1@herald-leader.comAugust 29, 2013 

Maker's Mark's growth in popularity has prompted the company to improve the road to the distillery.

PHOTO BY MARK CORNELISON | STAFF — Herald-Leader Buy Photo

The Maker's Mark distillery in Loretto will be a little easier to get to.

The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority approved $3.2 million in tax incentives Thursday for infrastructure improvements.

Maker's Mark president Rob Samuels said the distillery plans to improve the county roads in and around the distillery to better manage the thousands of visitors, trucks and employees moving through the rural campus, known as Happy Hollow.

"We've got 11/2-lane road access, which worked well when we were a much smaller regional brand, but we've outgrown the on-site infrastructure," Samuels said. "We have a bottleneck here on site."

The improvements have nothing to do with distilling, but the KEDFA report, released Thursday, hints at bigger things to come, saying "the proposed project includes infrastructure improvement that will enable the company to double future capacity at the Marion County facility."

On Thursday, Samuels would not comment on Maker's Mark's expansion plans, saying only: "Without this investment, we can't continue to grow."

In May, Maker's Mark, owned by suburban Chicago-based Beam Inc., also received approval for $100,000 in tax incentives for an $8.23 million investment for a new barrel-rinse center, offices and a 50,000-barrel warehouse.

Maker's Mark and Beam have said they are experiencing "tightness" in the supply of bourbon, particularly with premium labels such as Maker's.

Earlier this year, Maker's announced that it would lower the alcohol volume of its product, in essence water it down slightly, to increase the supply. But after fans protested, the distillery reversed course, warning then that customers might experience shortages. Anecdotally, shoppers in Lexington have said that bigger sizes in particular are hard to come by.

The better roads won't help much with that right away, Samuels said.

"We are doing our very best to manage the limited amount of Maker's Mark as demand grows," Samuels said. "When you have demand greater than supply, you have to make tough choices. We are doing our best to keep the shelves stocked."

Janet Patton: (859) 231-3264. Twitter: @janetpattonhl.

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