A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Craft Tour mark more than one million visitor for second year in a row

For the second year in a row, visitors made more than one million stops at Kentucky Bourbon Trail and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour distilleries as the thriving tourist attraction continues its record growth.

Now at an all-time high of 23 participating distilleries – with more coming this summer – attendance along the amber adventure has grown by a phenomenal 314 percent in the past 10 years with visitors pouring into the Commonwealth from all corners of the world.

In all, KBT and KBTCT distilleries registered 1,194,233 visits in 2017, the ninth straight year of double-digit increases in turnout, said Kentucky Distillers’ Association President Eric Gregory, who is entering his second decade as head of the non-profit trade group.

That includes 940,780 stops on the historic Kentucky Bourbon Trail tour, which showcases 10 of the state’s distilleries, and 253,453 stops at the 13 distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour.

“We’re thrilled with the sensational success of our Kentucky Bourbon Trail experiences and their impact on the Bluegrass economy,” Gregory said. “Bourbon has spawned a renaissance in state tourism, from restaurants and bars to hotels, specialty shops, tour companies and more.”

That “more” is coming quickly in 2018.

Adam Johnson, the KDA’s Senior Director of Kentucky Bourbon Trail Experiences, said a new KBT website, new affinity group for Passport holders and a host of new participating distilleries all are part of significant changes coming this year.

The KDA also is partnering with the Frazier History Museum in downtown Louisville to develop the “Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center,” which will become the official starting point of the KBT® excursions when it opens in August.

“Our guests are always thirsty for new things to see and do,” Johnson said. “We’re going to make it easier for visitors to plan and book their trips and enhance their experience with our world-class sponsors and accommodations.”

The KDA created the trademark tour in 1999 to give visitors an intimate, educational look behind America’s only native spirit at Kentucky’s finest distilleries. The KBT Craft Tour, featuring the state’s micro-distilleries, launched in 2012 as the first of its kind in the country.

KBT members are Angel’s Envy, Louisville; Bulleit’s Stitzel-Weller Distillery, Louisville; Four Roses, Lawrenceburg and Cox’s Creek; Heaven Hill in Bardstown and its Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, Louisville; Jim Beam in Clermont and Louisville; Maker’s Mark, Loretto; Town Branch, Lexington; Wild Turkey, Lawrenceburg; and Woodford Reserve, Versailles.

KBTCT members are Barrel House and Bluegrass Distillers in Lexington; Boone County Distilling, Richwood; Corsair, Bowling Green; Hartfield & Co., Paris; Kentucky Artisan, Crestwood; Kentucky Peerless, Louisville; Limestone Branch, Lebanon; MB Roland, Pembroke; New Riff, Newport; Old Pogue, Maysville; Wilderness Trail, Danville; and Willett, Bardstown.

Visit www.kybourbontrail.com to learn more.

Kentucky Bourbon is one of the Commonwealth’s most historic and treasured industries, a booming $8.5 billion economic engine that generates as many as 17,500 jobs with an annual payroll topping $800 million, and pours $825 million into tax coffers each year.

In addition, the industry is in the middle of a $1.2 billion building boom, from innovative new tourism centers to expanded production facilities, all to meet the growing global thirst for Kentucky’s signature spirit.

There are now 39 companies operating 52 distilleries in the Commonwealth making 6.8 million barrels of aging Bourbon – all modern records. Distillers also paid a record $19.2 million last year in barrel taxes that fund critical local programs such as education, public safety and health.

KDA President Gregory said, “We’re excited that 2018 is going to be another banner year for Bourbon tourism with innovation, expansion and more reasons to visit the one, true and authentic home for Bourbon and distilled spirits.”

From Kentucky Distillers’ Association

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