The Kentucky Bourbon Trail experiences eclipsed two million in total attendance last year for the first time in its history, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association announced.
The 2,135,555 total visits easily shattered its previous record of 1.7 million stops in 2019, a 38% increase. In the last 10 years, the amber adventure has skyrocketed by a phenomenal 370% in attendance.
The KDA created the KBT in 1999 to give visitors an intimate, educational look behind the state’s most historic distilleries. Total attendance through its 18 participating distilleries last year was 1,397,268.
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour launched in 2012 as the first excursion in the country to showcase smaller distilleries. Now featuring 24 distilleries, its total attendance last year was 738,287.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear congratulated the KDA and members of the state’s signature Bourbon and distilling industry on their focus and success.
“It’s incredible to see attendance for the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® reach an all-time high in 2022, the same year this signature industry saw record-breaking investments and job growth,” Gov. Beshear said.
“The success of Kentucky’s Bourbon industry isn’t slowing down any time soon, and I am grateful to KDA, the distilleries, our tourism partners and all the amazing Kentuckians who work hard to make this industry so special.”
KDA President Eric Gregory said KBT and KBTCT experiences are an integral part of local and state tourism efforts. Research shows Bourbon tourists trend younger, spend between $400 and $1,200 on their trip, travel in large groups and stay longer than the average visitor to Kentucky.
More than 70% of visitors are from outside Kentucky, he said, and nearly half have household incomes over $100,000. “This is a home run demographic for local communities, generating valuable revenue and tax dollars while boosting a hospitality industry that’s still recovering from the COVID pandemic.”
Secretary Mike Berry of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet said, “Bourbon is a key driver for tourism in Kentucky, drawing visitors from around the world to our Commonwealth. In a post-pandemic environment, travelers are thirsty for our native spirit and all the exciting opportunities tourism has to offer.
“We celebrate this good news and look forward to welcoming even more guests to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail tours.”
Founded in 1880, the KDA is the voice for Bourbon and spirits issues. Its diverse membership produces the overwhelming majority of the world’s Bourbon, from legendary, global brands to emerging micro distilleries that are building the next generation of America’s only native spirit.
KBT members are Bardstown Bourbon Co., Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience and Lux Row Distillers in Bardstown; James B. Beam Distilling Co., Clermont; Wilderness Trail Distillery, Danville; Four Roses and Wild Turkey, Lawrenceburg; and Cox’s Creek; Angel’s Envy Distillery, Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, Michter’s at Fort Nelson, Old Forester Distilling Co., Stitzel-Weller Distillery, Louisville; Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co., Lexington; Maker’s Mark Distillery, Loretto; Green River Distilling Co., Owensboro; Bulleit Distilling Co., Shelbyville; and Woodford Reserve Distillery, Versailles;
KBTCT members are Preservation Distillery and Willett Distillery in Bardstown; Kentucky Artisan Distillery, Crestwood; Boone County Distilling Co., Florence; Whiskey Thief Distilling and Castle & Key Distillery in Frankfort; Dueling Grounds Distillery, Franklin; The Bard Distillery in Graham; Casey Jones Distillery, Hopkinsville; Limestone Branch Distillery, Lebanon; Barrel House Distilling Co., Bluegrass Distillers and James E. Pepper Distillery in Lexington; Copper & Kings and Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co., Louisville; Second Sight Spirits, Ludlow; The Old Pogue Distillery, Maysville; Log Still Distillery, New Haven; New Riff Distillery, Newport; Hartfield & Co., Paris; MB Roland Distillery, Pembroke; Boundary Oak Distillery, Radcliff; Jeptha Creed Distillery, Shelbyville; and Neeley Family Distillery, Sparta.
Mandy Ryan, Director of the KDA’s Kentucky Bourbon Trail® experiences, said the tremendous growth can be challenging. Most distilleries now require reservations, so booking experiences in advance is crucial.
The KDA recently launched a social media campaign encouraging people to “Book Now, Bourbon Later” due to the rise in Bourbon tourism and a growing demand for authentic, curated and rare experiences,
“We are thrilled to welcome visitors from all over the world to experience our rich history and Southern hospitality,” she said. “But please plan ahead so you can slow down and savor our Bourbon culture and everything Kentucky has to offer. Like we say – the proof is here.”
Bourbon is one of Kentucky’s most treasured industries, a booming $9 billion economic and tourism powerhouse sustaining more than 22,500 jobs with an annual payroll topping $1.23 billion each year, and paying over $285 million in local and state taxes and $1.8 billion in federal alcohol taxes.
A key export, the iconic industry is currently in the middle of a $5.2 billion building boom, from innovative new tourism experiences to expanded production facilities, bottling centers and aging warehouses, all to meet the growing global thirst for Kentucky Bourbon.
Bourbon production has soared more than 475% since the turn of the century.
Kentucky now boasts more than 11.4 million barrels of Bourbon aging in warehouses across the Bluegrass, the most in its revered distilling history. Distillers filled more than 2.6 million barrels last year alone, the fourth year in a row that production topped the 2 million mark.
Visit www.kybourbon.com and www.kybourbontrail.com to learn more.