Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners unveils an ultra-patriotic Horse Soldier Bourbon compound in Kentucky

Horse Of Course

Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners unveils an ultra-patriotic Horse Soldier Bourbon compound in Kentucky

Southeast Kentucky’s Horse Soldier Farms will feature a distillery visitors center for the veteran-founded bourbon-maker and various indoor and outdoor attractions and amenities. (Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners)

Having garnered acclaim for its landscape-integrated Macallan single malt whisky distillery and visitor experience in the Scottish Highlands, London-headquartered Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP) has hopped across the pond for another distillery project, this one in Pulaski County, Kentucky.

RSHP’s newly unveiled master plan for the Horse Soldier Bourbon distillery compound in Somerset will extend the heavily, merrily traveled Kentucky Bourbon Trail into the southeastern region of the Bluegrass State for the first time. A formal groundbreaking ceremony for the $200 million project, dubbed Horse Soldier Farms, was held earlier this week with Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear and other noted Kentuckians in attendance.

RSHP, as mentioned, is no stranger to designing destination whisky distilleries (and not its first in Kentucky, although the first to be commissioned.) However, Horse Soldier Farms, which will encompass a bucolic 227-acre site overlooking houseboat-famous Lake Cumberland on land that was once a golf course, is a unique project for the venerable British firm due to its, well, sheer Americanness. The distillery, for example, is set to feature 12 fermentation vats configured in precise formation around a column still fabricated with salvaged metal from the Statue of Liberty

That being said, RSHP, which was tapped to lead the Horse Soldier Bourbon project in July of last year, is expanding its presence in the United States and Canada with other in-the-works projects that include 33 Park Row in Manhattan, the residential 204 South 12 St. in Philadelphia, and St. Lawrence Market in Toronto.

aerial rendering of a distillery complex set amid rolling hills
Northern aerial view of Horse Soldier Farms looking towards Lake Cumberland. (Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners)

Horse Soldier Bourbon was established in 2014 by a group of retired members of the U.S. Army who, as Green Berets from the 5th Special Forces Group, were the first American soldiers to enter Afghanistan on horseback following the events of 9/11 (hence the bourbon’s moniker). In a nod to the military backgrounds of its founders, Horse Soldier has previously incorporated remnants of world-altering events into the production of its award-winning bourbon. The forthcoming Horse Solider Farms, which will be centered around a roughly 28,000-square foot distillery visitor center, follows a similar path.

The overall design narrative of the project shares the story of the 12 Horse Soldiers. Planned major elements include a sunken water feature and adjacent stillhouse paying tribute to the Twin Towers and a water garden that features a replica of Douwe Blumberg’s America’s Response Monument (also known as the Horse Soldier Statue) at Ground Zero. As detailed in an RSHP press release, visitors can also tour The Everyday Heroes gallery, an exhibition space that will honor “the heroes of 9/11 and the everyday heroes in our communities.”

Joining the state-of-the-art distillery and myriad patriotic attractions at Horse Soldier Farms will be a retail and dining district, a 60-unit luxury and cabins, a large chapel, event facilities, 5,000-capacity outdoor amphitheater, and health and wellness spaces that will be open to area residents, visitors, and veterans alike. Per the press release, the sprawling village will offer “both spirits- and non-spirits-based activities.”

rendering of a war monument replica in a water garden
A replica of America’s Response Monument at Horse Soldier Farms. (Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners)

“It is an honor to be chosen to work with the Horse Soldier Bourbon creators and partners to assist them in realizing their vision for Horse Soldier Farms. This will mark a new and exciting event within the Kentucky Bourbon Trail,” said Graham Stirk, senior partner and lead architect at RSHP. “We’ve begun to thread the Horse Soldier story into the wider landscape narrative and the emerging distillery design. This essentially will contain important symbolic features fundamental to what will become the Horse Soldier Farms experience. We are encouraged and excited by Horse Soldier’s ambition to create an environmentally conscious bourbon facility that will propel our team, Horse Soldier, and the bourbon industry into a new era of climate-conscious spirit production.”

Led by John Koko, veteran and Horse Soldier president and CEO, the bourbon-maker is currently headquartered in Saint Petersburg, Florida and the signature product is produced in Columbus, Ohio. The operational shift to Kentucky is a homecoming for several of the founders of Horse Soldier Bourbon as they were once stationed at the state’s Fort Campbell.

“Many of us spent decades living in Kentucky before we went off to serve,” said Koko in a statement shared by the Commonwealth Journal. “When the attacks of September 11 happened, several of our guys were based out of Ft. Campbell and training along the Cumberland River, when they received word that the towers had fallen. For many of our guys, Kentucky feels like we are ‘coming home’ as opposed to expanding to some place new. Now that we’ve all retired, we are committed to chasing the American dream we fought so hard to defend.”

Joining RSHP in the role of lead design architect for the project is Lexington-based EOP Architects. A host of other Kentucky-based firms have also been tapped to join the larger design team including VITOK (engineering), Brown + Kubican (structural engineering), CRM Companies (facilities management), D.W. Wilburn Inc. (construction), and CARMAN (landscape architecture and civil engineering). Burbank, California-based BRC Imagination Arts is heading the experiential design elements for the project.

Per the Commonwealth Journal, construction work is set to kick off later this year following this week’s ceremonial groundbreaking. The project, both in construction and operation, is slated to generate hundreds of temporary and permanent jobs in the region while contributing to Kentucky’s multi-billion-dollar bourbon business and the booze-soaked tourism industry it has spawned.