Kentucky Bourbon Economy Thriving in Latest Report

Spurred by a decade of legislative changes to Kentucky’s archaic alcohol laws, the Commonwealth’s signature bourbon industry now provides more jobs, generates more payroll, pays more taxes, attracts more tourists and features more distilleries than ever before, according to the newly published Bourbon Economic Impact Report.

The record-breaking statistics were released today by Gov. Andy Beshear, Senate President Robert Stivers, House Speaker David Osborne, Agriculture Commissioner Jonathan Shell and leaders of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association trade group.

“Kentucky’s economy is booming, and the bourbon industry is helping us build a strong economy for generations to come,” said Gov. Andy Beshear. “Today, this signature industry is generating $9 billion in total economic impact, with more on the way. We thank our distilleries for working hard to create more good jobs and boosting our tourism industry across the Commonwealth.”

“Kentucky’s bourbon economy is stronger than ever thanks to the dedication of our elected officials to update archaic alcohol laws that were forcing distillers to look elsewhere and the men and women who work in the industry every day,” said Eric Gregory, president of KDA. “With modern alcohol laws now in place, the signature industry continues to help build a stronger Kentucky.”

The report used data from 100 distilleries in 42 counties and found that the industry continues to grow local communities with jobs, tax revenue, agriculture, tourism and out-of-state spending.

“Traditionally, bourbon is known as a manufacturing powerhouse, but its influence really extends beyond production, as we continue to foster and grow partnerships with our local communities,” said Jessica Pendergrass, 2024 KDA Chair and General Counsel/Chief Compliance Officer at Heaven Hill. 

“While the bourbon report includes a deep analysis of industry metrics, forecasts, and of course, accolades from enthusiasts, our KDA members, deeply rooted in the Commonwealth, are proud to share the compelling story of how “Bourbon Builds Kentucky.”

The newest report found that distillers are making significant impacts in agriculture and tourism industries since the original 2009 report was published.

When it comes to the bourbon economy taxes, the report found that Kentuckians are receiving $358 million in state and local taxes every year from distillers.

And, even though it remains the highest taxed large manufacturing industry in KY at $.17 per dollar, no other industry in the state has higher shares of national employment (27%), labor compensation (26%) and output than distilling. Kentucky distillers shipped more than $500 million in exports in 2022, almost all of which was bourbon.

“Not only is bourbon building Kentucky communities, but it’s also elevating Kentucky’s stature internationally as exports grow and distillers across the globe look to Kentucky for how to do it right,” added Pendergrass.

The full study completed by Dr. Paul Coomes can be found here and a topline summary can be found here. The industry’s recap of recent legislative changes can be found here.

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