Gov. Janet Mills talks to Boston Brands employees on Wednesday, when the company announced a $4 million expansion. To her left in the pink jacket is Heather Johnson, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development. Credit: Lori Valigra

LEWISTON, Maine — Boston Brands of Maine, which bottles the best-selling Fireball Cinnamon Whisky in Lewiston, said Wednesday it plans to invest $4 million to expand production and create 50 manufacturing jobs.

The expansion will upgrade existing lines and equipment to increase production by 20 percent. The company currently employs 169 people.

This is the second expansion in two years for Boston Brands, which is a division of Sazerac Co. of Metairie, Louisiana. Boston Brands announced a $1 million expansion that added about 30 full-time jobs in December 2017.

[Subscribe to our free morning newsletter and get the latest headlines in your inbox]

“We are delighted to continue our investment in Maine and its workforce,” Sazerac President and CEO Mark Brown said in a statement. “This is yet another example of Sazerac’s long-term commitment to the people of Maine.”

Gov. Janet Mills and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Heather Johnson attended the official announcement Wednesday morning, joining Boston Brands plant manager Andy Muschinski.

Sazerac moved into the Lewiston plant in 2013 when another bottler left the state.

“We are excited we will be able to continue our growth in the Lewiston-Auburn area,” Muschinski said. The company has three buildings with production and warehousing.

The expansion will be done in existing space by improving efficiency. That includes replacing an old bottling line with a new, automated line that can handle up to 150 bottles per minute. Boston Brands also will add two storage tanks.

Boston Brands took on more production after its parent company, Sazerac, in January bought 19 brands from Star Industries of Syosset, New York, and Black Prince Distillery of Nutley, New Jersey.

Muchinski said some of those spirits will be produced in Lewiston.

Cases of spirits from the two companies were stacked in the warehouse during Wednesday’s media event. They included Alesi Vodka, Llord’s Triple Sec, Caribayu Gold Rum, Majorska Vodka and Llord’s Anisette, Sour Peach, Sour Apple and Peppermint.

The company also will add new production shifts.

Muchinski said the jobs will pay from $14.50 an hour for a general laborer to $24 per hour for team leader. The jobs are new positions.

The company will start posting the jobs within the next few weeks and phase them in over the next six months.

“These are good-paying manufacturing jobs that will put people to work,” Mills said. “Those people will shop locally and support businesses in the community where they live and work.”

[Fireball unseats Allen’s coffee brandy as Maine’s best-selling liquor]

Boston Brands made headlines in January when its Fireball Cinnamon Whisky beat sales of Allen’s Coffee Flavored Brandy, which held the top slot as Maine’s best-selling liquor for about 15 years.

More than $10.1 million worth of Fireball was sold in Maine in 2018, including $4 million worth of small, 50-milliliter bottles called “nips.” Allen’s sold $9.6 million worth, according to the Maine Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations.

Related: 2013 was a big year for Maine beer

[bdnvideo id=”1444751″]