Kentucky’s largest independent distillery just named its first distiller

One Kentucky distillery is poaching the distiller from another.

Atlanta-based Staghorn, which opened its new $250 million Garrard County Distilling Co. in January just outside Lancaster, announced on Feb. 13 that it has hired Lisa Wicker as its first master distiller.

The new operation is the largest independent distillery in the Kentucky.

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Wicker was hired away from the Lyons Brewing & Distilling Co. in Lexington, owned by Alltech. She was named the first CEO of the new entity, which includes Kentucky’s largest craft brewery, in January 2023.

Before that, Wicker was the master distiller for Widow Jane Distillery, a rapidly growing Brooklyn bourbon brand that was bought out by Heaven Hill in 2022. During her six years with Widow Jane, her whiskeys won many awards including Whisky Magazine’s Best Small Batch Bourbon 2022.

Lisa Wicker has been named the master distiller of the new Garrard County Distillery in Lancaster. Provided
Lisa Wicker has been named the master distiller of the new Garrard County Distillery in Lancaster. Provided

Her resume also includes stints at Limestone Branch Distillery in Lebanon, Starlight Distillery in Starlight, Ind., Preservation Distillery in Bardstown, and as a consulting distillery at George Washington’s Distillery at Mount Vernon, among others.

Now Wicker will operate Garrard County Distilling Co., which is capable of producing up to 150,000 barrels of whiskey a year.

“I am so grateful to the team at Staghorn for this amazing opportunity to lead the whiskey making team at this beautiful new facility,” said Wicker in a news release. “Though this is one of the largest distilleries in Kentucky, my focus will remain on creating whiskeys using the hands-on, traditional craft disciplines I have honed over the past several decades.”

Lisa Wicker went from heading up Kentucky’s largest craft brewery to running the state’s largest independent distillery, the new $250 million Garrard County Distilling Co. Provided
Lisa Wicker went from heading up Kentucky’s largest craft brewery to running the state’s largest independent distillery, the new $250 million Garrard County Distilling Co. Provided

Wicker also will select and blend barrels for Staghorn’s All Nations brand, named in homage to temperance crusader Carrie Nation, who was a native of Garrard County. The name is a nod to signs in bars that read, “All Nations Welcome Except Carrie.”

The distillery is expected to announce new brands soon as well.

Garrard County Distilling Co. was built by Staghorn, which sells All Nations whiskeys including All Nations Bourbon, a reference to anti-alcohol crusader Carrie or Carry Nation, born in Garrard County. The new distillery will make bourbon and other whiskeys including All Nations and new labels to be announced soon. Provided
Garrard County Distilling Co. was built by Staghorn, which sells All Nations whiskeys including All Nations Bourbon, a reference to anti-alcohol crusader Carrie or Carry Nation, born in Garrard County. The new distillery will make bourbon and other whiskeys including All Nations and new labels to be announced soon. Provided

“When we were looking for a head distiller at Garrard County Distilling Co., we wanted someone with deep experience in time-honored distilling methods but also someone with an eye for what’s next. This made Lisa our obvious first choice,” said Ray Franklin, founder of Staghorn, in the release.

The new Garrard County Distilling Co. sits on 210 acres in Lancaster, south of Lexington. Provided
The new Garrard County Distilling Co. sits on 210 acres in Lancaster, south of Lexington. Provided