Design team selected for bourbon distillery

David Morris Photo

Horse Soldier Bourbon's distillery will be built on a 202-acre expanse of rolling hills overlooking Lake Cumberland, once home to Waitsboro Hills Golf Course.

Horse Soldier Bourbon's efforts to locate here have taken a huge step forward with the selection of a design team for their new distillery.

The award-winning team of industry experts hail from around the globe -- offering collective experience in designing and building the world-renowned McCallan Distillery in Scotland, World Tower 3 in New York City, the U.S. Spy Museum, The Jameson and Absolut brand-homes and guest experiences in Europe as well as extensive Kentucky distillery construction experience.

Horse Soldier assembled the team through a comprehensive process over the past several months. Members include Kentucky firms EOP (architecture), VITOK (engineering) and Carman (landscape), along with London-based firm Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (architecture) and BRC Imagination Arts (experiential design) from California.

Horse Soldier Bourbon co-founder John Koko said the site for the distillery, a 202-acre expanse of rolling hills overlooking Lake Cumberland and once home to Waitsboro Hills Golf Course, provides a fresh green canvas from which to bring the company's long-term investment plan of producing its ultra-premium bourbon in this area to life. The $50 million project will expand Somerset-Pulaski County's economic impact, creating jobs and attracting travelers from across the world to Kentucky's Bourbon Trail.

"We are committed to doing everything at the highest level," Koko said. "We adhere to tradition, but we understand the importance of innovation. This requires working with the right people, in the right place, at the right time. We don't believe in settling."

SPEDA President and CEO Chris Girdler said the Horse Soldier distillery experience will be second-to-none.

"I've said from the beginning of this project that the community will be astounded by Horse Soldier's plans for the Waitsboro Hills property, and this announcement goes a long way in proving that," Girdler said. "We are thrilled to have such incredible architecture and engineering influence in The Capital of Lake Cumberland."

Phase 1 of the project is expected to take several months and will include producing a concept, vision, set of detailed drawings, and a master plan for Horse Soldier's world-class distillery experience. Based on these deliverables, business and financial plans will be established to support the project, and then it will move into Phase 2, the design-build stage.

Girdler said plans for a Whiskey & War Stories event locally in the fall are underway, where development renderings and further information about the Horse Soldier Bourbon project will be unveiled.

When elected in 2018, Somerset Mayor Alan Keck made recruiting a bourbon distillery to the community one of his top priorities. The design team announcement is welcome news during a time that has otherwise been challenging for the economy because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

"We've stayed aggressive in marketing and promoting this community even when the rest of the world came to a halt," Keck said. "Horse Soldier Bourbon has been an outstanding partner in this endeavor and I am thrilled they are continuing to move forward with enthusiasm in Somerset while growing their brand across the nation and world."

Pulaski County Judge-Executive Steve Kelley said it is exciting to see Horse Soldier making such progress.

"With such a product, and a wonderful story, I anticipate a great future for them here in Somerset and Pulaski County," Kelley said. "I'm thankful they chose us as partners in their company plans."

The Horse Soldier brand was founded by retired members of the U.S. Special Forces, first to enter Afghanistan on horseback following 9/11.

Koko said Horse Soldier Bourbon is eager to start this new phase of work with community members 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," Koko said. "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."

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