New packaging operation for Wild Turkey in Lawrenceburg, Ky. - WDRB 41 Louisville News

New packaging operation for Wild Turkey in Lawrenceburg, Ky.

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LAWRENCEBURG, Ky. (AP) -- The bourbon boom continues.

A new $44 million bottling line and packaging operation is now up and running at the Wild Turkey Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.

Tuesday morning, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear turned the switch to begin the ceremonial start of the new line.

Before, he told a crowd of invited guest and employees that it is a good time to be in the bourbon industry.

"Kentucky has a secret weapon when it comes to fighting the global recession," says the governor, "that secret weapon is bourbon."

The worldwide thirst for bourbon is no secret though.

The Italian company which now owns Wild Turkey, Gruppo Campari of Italy, has invested more than $100 million in the operations known as Wild Turkey Hill just in the past couple of years including an additional distillery and new warehouses.

"You have huge bourbon markets in Australia, Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom," Gruppo Campari CEO tells WDRB News, "there is so much more consumer interest in brown spirits like Wild Turkey.

Eric Gregory of the Kentucky Distillers Association says global demand for bourbon continues to grow.

"We are now exporting to 127 different countries," explains Gregory, "and the new free trade agreements passed by Congress have opened up new markets to us like South Korea."

While the new bottling line in the giant 145,000 square foot building is highly automated, about 60 new jobs are being added.

Nathan Noble was hired earlier this year. "I've always wanted to work in the bourbon industry, it is iconic for the state of Kentucky," he says, "I applied for it, I had several interviews and that is how I got here and I am very happy."

Bourbon is not only a growing spirits industry but a tourism attraction as well as the Kentucky Bourbon Trail continues to attract a growing number of visitors.

"More than a half million people touring from all 50 states and more than 50 countries," says Gregory.

The next addition at Wild Turkey is a four million dollar visitors center overlooking the Kentucky River which is still under construction.

When it is finished early next year, the visitors center will be the newest addition to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

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