Four Roses, the Lawrenceburg bourbon distillery owned by Japanese beer maker Kirin, is expanding its bottling plant in Cox's Creek near Bardstown in Bullitt County.
On Thursday, the bourbon maker received preliminary approval for as much as $800,000 in tax incentives from the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority for an $8.4 million expansion.
The new 60,000-square-foot bottling plant will house a high-speed line and a single-barrel line, according to the state. Four Roses expects the plant to be by spring 2018.
"Four Roses is vital to Kentucky's rich bourbon heritage," Gov. Steve Beshear said in a statement. "It's exciting to see the company continue to grow its operations, create jobs and contribute to the renaissance of one of the commonwealth's signature industries."
The company anticipates creating 30 full-time jobs with an average wage, including benefits, of $26 an hour. Four Roses reported 45 full-time Kentucky resident employees at present in Anderson and Bullitt counties.
"Four Roses' growth in the U.S. bourbon market continues to demonstrate that attention to quality and detail is what the consumer wants in our premium bourbons," said John Rhea, chief operating officer of Four Roses.
Established in 1888 and one of the most popular bourbon brands in the 1930s, '40s and '50s, Four Roses had fallen out of favor and had been relegated to bottom-shelf status as a blend in the United States until Kirin bought the brand in 2002 and returned it as a Kentucky straight bourbon.
It quickly began winning awards and expanding, seeing years of double-digit sales growth.
"In reality, there's no one in the world who could have predicted growth like we've had," Four Roses master distiller Jim Rutledge said.
Soon, Four Roses will have more liquid to work with.
Last year, Four Roses' contract with Diageo to make bourbon used in its popular Bulleit brand came to an end, nearly doubling the Four Roses inventory.
"Now we're putting away every drop we can," Rutledge said. "Because we did have that contract, we just gained 40 percent distillation and warehouse capacity. So even with that kind of growth, we won't have to increase distilling and warehouse for now. We can plan."
Last year, the distillery opened a second, $500,000 visitors center at its Cox's Creek site, where Four Roses bourbon is matured and bottled and where barrels are selected for their increasingly popular private bottlings. That visitors center had almost 50,000 tourists, and its manager, Julie Gorham, recently was named the top whiskey attraction manager in the world.
Four Roses traditionally has released a single-barrel and a small-batch special bourbon, but this year, Rutledge said, the company decided not to do a single-barrel release — usually about 10,000 to 12,000 bottles put out right before the Kentucky Derby — to conserve top-quality bourbon.
"We wanted to keep one (of the special releases), and I was certain I wanted to maintain small batch, because it shows our uniqueness with our 10 recipes," Rutledge said. Four Roses uses two mash bills and five yeast strains to create a wide variety of natural flavors to blend together.
Next year, Four Roses plans a special release for Rutledge's 50th anniversary as master distiller and one the next year to honor Al Young, the brand's longtime ambassador. Both are in the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame.
"We want to make sure we have barrels for that and for our regular releases," Rutledge said. "For my anniversary, I want to be able to pick the recipes all myself, and Al the next year."