A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Bourbon Heritage Month: Festival, proclamation highlight impact of native spirit on state’s economy

As the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival kicks off in Bardstown, Gov. Matt Bevin praised Kentucky’s $8.5 billion Bourbon industry for its growing impact on the state’s economy and notable boost to tourism, declaring September “Bourbon Heritage Month” in the Commonwealth.

“Kentucky’s historic Bourbon industry is currently enjoying tremendous growth. The love of Bourbon is quickly becoming a global phenomenon,” Bevin said. “This homegrown success story is a testament to our proud tradition of engineering and manufacturing excellence.

“Our administration strives every day to create a more business friendly environment in the Commonwealth, and we expect that Kentucky’s best days of economic growth are yet to come.”

America’s original and only native spirit, Bourbon was officially named a distinctive product of the United States by Congressional Resolution in 1964. Although Bourbon can be made anywhere in the country, Kentucky produces 95 percent of the world’s supply.

Warehouses across the Commonwealth currently hold more than 6.8 million barrels of Bourbon, the highest inventory in 44 years, according to data compiled by the non-profit Kentucky Distillers’ Association.

With 1.5 barrels for every person living in the Bluegrass, the state’s signature industry today provides Kentuckians with as many as 17,500 jobs and over $800 million in payroll, while generating more than $825 million in local, state and federal tax revenue.

“The remarkable growth of Kentucky’s signature spirit has had an extraordinary ripple effect for adjacent industries,” KDA President Eric Gregory said. “With $1.2 billion dollars in capital projects just finished or underway, the industry is utilizing local farmers, researchers, manufacturers, architects, builders, engineers and laborers.

“Kentucky Bourbon is clearly the new fuel for the Bluegrass economy”

The growth has had a tremendous impact on the state’s agriculture industry as well, with distillers’ local corn purchases up 65 per cent over the last two years.

Kentucky manufacturers of distilling and warehousing equipment also are racing to keep up with expanding facilities spurred by the growing global thirst for Kentucky Bourbon.

In his official proclamation, Bevin highlighted the impact the Kentucky Bourbon industry has had on state tourism, citing the more than one million visits to Kentucky Bourbon Trail and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour distilleries in 2016.

The KDA fully expects this record-breaking milestone to be surpassed in 2017 as many Kentucky Bourbon Trail experiences now include by-the-drink sales and cocktail programs thanks to the passage of landmark tourism reforms under Senate Bill 11 last year.

“Thanks to this new legislation, our members are investing money and energy to make each visitor’s experience unique and memorable,” Gregory said. “Now guests can relax, sip a cocktail and enjoy genuine Kentucky Bourbon hospitality as part of their tour.”

Gregory also notes that in 2017, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail adventure grew to 10 participating distilleries while the Craft Tour® expanded to 13 locations across the Commonwealth – and more are on the way, he said.

For 137 years, the KDA has fulfilled its mission to promote, protect and elevate Kentucky’s Bourbon and distilled spirits industry through training and education, groundbreaking legislation, innovative tourism experiences, and social responsibility initiatives.

Its 35 members represent a diverse and vibrant homegrown industry, from legendary, global brands to small emerging family businesses.

Gregory said: “We thank Governor Bevin for this honor and his continued support, and we look forward to his partnership as we continue the tradition of hard work and hospitality that has advanced Kentucky’s distilled spirits industry to be the tremendous economic driver it is today.

“We look forward to this week’s Kentucky Bourbon Festival and encourage everyone to celebrate Kentucky Bourbon Heritage Month by enjoying Bourbon like a true Kentuckian: responsibly.”

From Kentucky Distillers’ Association

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