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Pulaski Co. gets new tourism development project

By Crystal Staley/Danielle Jones

Frankfort, KY - Gov. Andy Beshear announced today Horse Soldier Bourbon expects to create more than 50 jobs with a new $200 million tourism development project that will bring bourbon and tourism dollars to Pulaski County.

"Kentucky's bourbon industry continues to expand, bringing quality jobs and tourism dollars to communities in every corner of the commonwealth," said Gov. Beshear. "Today's announcement further reinforces our commitment to ensuring Kentucky is a top tourism destination, but also a premiere location for businesses to grow and expand. I want to thank Horse Soldier Bourbon and the leaders in the Somerset community for being an integral part of our ongoing efforts to ensure that Kentucky is a better, brighter place for the future."

Horse Soldier Bourbon is an award-winning, ultra-premium bourbon brand founded by retired members of the U.S. Special Forces - the first to enter Afghanistan, on horseback, following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The hand-selected detachment of Green Berets later became known as the "Horse Soldiers," and their story was told in the 2018 action drama film "12 Strong".

Never satisfied, the Horse Soldiers committed themselves to a new mission in 2014 to make history again, this time by creating a world-leading, ultra-premium bourbon brand.

Since then, Horse Soldier Bourbon has been expanding its brand state-by-state, all while developing a long-term investment plan to build a world-class distillery experience in Somerset-Pulaski County. The Horse Soldier team was training on the Cumberland River on Sept. 11, 2001, when the call came to defend our nation in its darkest hour. Now 20 years later, they are coming home.

"Horse Soldier Bourbon is excited to start this new phase of work with the local community in Somerset and Pulaski County. We understand both the importance of building a good team and the value of finding a place to call home," said Horse Soldier Bourbon CEO John Koko. "From the mountains of Afghanistan to the rolling hills of Kentucky, there's one thing we've seen time and time again: You're only as good as the company you keep."

Horse Soldier Bourbon is currently distilled in Columbus, Ohio. The company will transfer its operations to the new distillery campus in Somerset once the project is completed. The distillery will compliment Lake Cumberland as a premier, off-the-water attraction in Somerset, adding to the area's thriving tourism industry that welcomes nearly 5 million visitors annually.

Horse Soldier Farms will be the first Southeastern Kentucky distillery experience and serve as a southern gateway to Kentucky's legendary Bourbon Trail. The Somerset-Pulaski County distillery project will consist of a 27,585-square-foot distillery visitor center; 4,600-square-foot activity center; 5,000 person-capacity amphitheater; 500 person-capacity outdoor event space; an adventure center; 3,200-square-foot wedding chapel; 60-key luxury lodge and 20 cabins; and a retail village.

Upon the recommendation of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, Horse Soldier Farms LLC received approval from the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority for incentives totaling over $29.9 million for the new distillery project. Through the Tourism Development Act, eligible Kentucky businesses can receive an annual reimbursement for taxes paid on qualifying tourism development projects.

"This administration continues to support tourism development because we understand the direct economic value that our industry brings to both rural and urban communities throughout the commonwealth," said Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet Secretary Mike Berry. "This new project will expand one of Kentucky's most sought after tourism experiences to Southeastern Kentucky, bringing bourbon and additional revenue to the Lake Cumberland region."

Tourism is an $8.9 billion industry in Kentucky. In Pulaski County, tourism supports 1,025 jobs and generated $115 million in economic impact in 2020 despite the spread of COVID-19. This year, the commonwealth has approved six tourism development projects for a total economic investment of over $182.6 million to companies seeking to expand operations in Kentucky to incorporate tourism.

Chris Girdler, CEO of the Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority, welcomed the Horse Soldier expansion to the Somerset community that thrives from Lake Cumberland and outdoor adventure tourism.

"It has been an absolute honor to get to know these true American heroes and a privilege to call them friends. They continue to live out their legendary journey by creating an iconic and symbolic brand that is known throughout the world," said Girdler. "We are so grateful that they selected Somerset and Pulaski County as their new headquarters and we welcome them home."

Somerset Mayor Alan Keck has been a longtime advocate for expanding the state's thriving bourbon industry to Somerset.

"So much of my vision for Somerset has been about changing the expectation for what people believe is possible. By doing that, we've been able to generate excitement in this community that builds every day, because we're telling our story and showing the world how special this community truly is," said Mayor Keck. "I am forever grateful to the Horse Soldier Bourbon team for embracing that excitement and choosing to marry their legendary story with ours. Somerset is home to so many signature Kentucky experiences. I am thrilled bourbon is now one of them and cannot wait to share in the extraordinary experience Horse Soldier Farms will bring to our community."

Throughout the pandemic, spirits companies have continued pledging to invest and create jobs in the commonwealth. Today, roughly 70 spirits facilities employ more than 5,100 people. In 2021 alone, Kentucky's spirits industry has seen 12 new-location or expansion announcements with over $270 million in planned investments and 267 announced full-time jobs.

Year-to-date, private-sector new-location and expansion announcements in Kentucky include more than $2.8 billion in total planned investment and the creation of 6,600-plus full-time jobs across the coming years.

On Oct. 19, Horse Soldier Bourbon will host a private ground breaking ceremony in Somerset to mark the 20th anniversary of the team's insertion into Afghanistan.

For more information on Horse Soldier Bourbon, visit

A detailed community profile for Pulaski County can be viewed here. Information about Somerset-Pulaski County tourism is available at

For the latest Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet updates, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn. To learn more about the cabinet or for information relating to tourism development projects, visit

This story was posted on 2021-09-23 14:18:16
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