Thursday, January 23, 2014
Kentucky Bourbon Trail Sets New Attendance Record
The recent phenomenal growth of bourbon sales has been matched or perhaps even surpassed by the phenomenal growth of bourbon tourism, as measured by visits to the distilleries on the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
In 2013, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail recorded more than 630,000 visits, a new milestone for the tour that showcases the state’s legendary bourbon and craft distilleries. A record 571,701 people visited the 'heritage' distilleries last year, and an additional 61,698 traveled to the participating craft distilleries. That tour was in its first year.
“We’re always thrilled to see double-digit growth among the heritage distilleries, but we’re equally excited to see the fledgling craft tour really take flight,” said Adam Johnson, Director of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail program.
The Craft Tour has greatly expanded the Bourbon tourism footprint, from Marshall County and Land Between the Lakes in far western Kentucky to Mason County in the northern part of the state. “With new distilleries coming on board, more and more people are experiencing the charm and beauty of our communities, which adds revenue to local coffers and greatly boosts tourism efforts. It’s all good news and good business for the Commonwealth,” said Johnson.
The new attendance record for heritage distilleries is a 12 percent increase over 2012 and includes figures from Heaven Hill’s Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, which opened in the fall as the first Louisville stop on the tour. Visitors came from all 50 states and 50 countries and territories, including Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, China, Denmark, Egypt, England, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Peru, Poland, Russia, Rwanda, Spain and Vanuatu.
The heritage tour also incudes Four Roses and Wild Turkey in Lawrenceburg, Heaven Hill in Bardstown, Jim Beam in Clermont, Maker’s Mark in Loretto, Town Branch in Lexington, and Woodford Reserve in Versailles. The Craft Tour added Danville’s Wilderness Trace Distillery last year, joining Barrel House in Lexington, Corsair in Bowling Green, Limestone Branch in Lebanon, MB Roland in Pembroke, Old Pogue in Maysville, Silver Trail in Hardin, and Willett in Bardstown.
Several distilleries are expanding and opening new visitors’ centers to meet the Bourbon tourism boom. Wild Turkey recently completed a new center overlooking the Kentucky River and Woodford Reserve is expanding its homeplace. In addition, dozens of bourbon-inspired restaurants, bars, hotels, transportation companies, markets, specialty food stores, convention and visitors bureaus, and more, all signed on to be official Kentucky Bourbon Trail sponsors in 2013.
Later this year, Kentucky Bourbon Trail distilleries will be hosting exclusive tours and events as part of the inaugural Kentucky Bourbon Affair showcase, a four-day Bourbon 'fantasy camp' in May. The event is being co-hosted by the Kentucky Distillers’ Association and the City of Louisville.
“Kentucky is the one, true home for bourbon, and the only place where visitors can walk in the footsteps of legends and learn the art and science of our timeless craft,” Johnson said. “We hope visitors from all over the world let the spirit lead them to Kentucky in 2014 so they can experience the hospitality, history and elegance of our beloved Commonwealth and our unrivaled passion for creating the world’s best bourbon.”