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By Gene Clabes
Kyforward Senior Editor
Lexington’s tourism efforts got a boost today with the addition of the new Alltech Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co. as the seventh member of the increasingly popular Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
Located in downtown Lexington, the nearly completed $6 million distillery is scheduled to open October 1. It is the first distillery built in Kentucky in 100 years, according to Jeff Conder, chairman of the Kentucky Distillers Association and vice president for Beam, Inc.
“This is an exciting and inspiring day for all of us. We’re honored that Town Branch is joining our prestigious tour of distilleries.
“We are grateful for the continued growth and success of our signature industry, and that bourbon has returned to the heart of the Bluegrass. We applaud and congratulate Alltech on this impressive new distillery – and proudly welcome them to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.”
The 20,000 square foot distillery is being built with Kentucky limestone and features glass walls on three sides to showcase the copper stills and fermentation tanks to outside view.
“We are pleased that Town Branch Bourbon is open for business in downtown Lexington,” said Jim Browder, president of the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The addition of a designated Kentucky Bourbon Trail tour stop in the heart of the city will give visitors even more reason to come — and stay – in Lexington.”
Kentucky Bourbon Trail® distilleries have recorded more than two million visits in the last five years, with 450,000 in 2011 alone, said KDA President Eric Gregory. Visitors have traveled from all 50 states and more than 50 countries, he said.
“If you want proof of the skyrocketing global popularity of Kentucky Bourbon, look no further than the Kentucky Bourbon Trail tour,” Gregory said. “Tourists from around the world are literally pouring into Kentucky to experience the one, true authentic home for Bourbon.”
The KDA’s Passport program – which rewards visitors who tour all participating distilleries – continues to grow at an incredible rate, said Adam Johnson, the KDA’s Director of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® experience.
Nearly 12,000 people completed the historic journey last year, Johnson said. That record looks to fall soon as visitors flock to Kentucky in September for Bourbon Heritage Month activities and the Kentucky Bourbon Festival.
“We love adding another reason for people to visit the Kentucky Bourbon Trail experience and to sample our hospitality,” Johnson said.
This success is all part of the unprecedented resurgence in Kentucky Bourbon, Conder said.
An economic impact study by the University of Louisville, released earlier this year, confirmed the industry’s signature status: $2 billion in annual gross state product; 9,000 jobs with an annual payroll of $415 million; and $126 million in local and state tax revenue every year.
In addition, more than 4.9 million barrels of Bourbon are currently aging in Kentucky, the highest inventory in more than 30 years. That means there are more barrels than the 4.3 million people living in the state, according to the latest Census figures.
Bourbon also is a rising global symbol of Kentucky craftsmanship, responsible for 70 percent of all U.S. spirits exports, Conder said. To meet this growth, Kentucky distilleries are investing nearly $220 million in equipment, aging warehouses and new facilities.
“Bourbon is in its largest expansion phase since Prohibition,” Conder said. “And only Kentucky, the birthplace of Bourbon, can provide the genuine experience with our rich history, tours, tastings and so much more.
“Today’s announcement is a great example of our industry’s success and we look forward to continuing this spirited momentum. A healthy, thriving Bourbon industry is good for our economy, it’s good for our local communities and good for our beloved Commonwealth.”