Another year, another record turn out of combined visitors at the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and the unaffiliated Buffalo Trace Distillery.
It was around this time last year we wrote about the fact that slightly more than a million whiskey loving folk such as yourself went to Kentucky to take in all things bourbon. Now new numbers out from the Kentucky Distillers’ Association (KDA) and Buffalo Trace, when put together, have pushed past that total, with just over 1.23 million visits being recorded.
Looking first at the Kentucky Bourbon Trail side of things, 888,733 visits were recorded to nine of the state’s most legendary distilleries last year. Alongside this is the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour, now with 11 participating distilleries, which saw 177,228 visits in total. Combined the entire mix of whiskey makers has grown a very impressive 300 percent in the last 10 years.
“This is a tremendous cause for celebration for the entire Commonwealth,” KDA President Eric Gregory said in a prepared statement. “Think of what 1 million tours means to Kentucky in jobs, tax revenue and positive publicity. The success is staggering.”
Buffalo Trace, meanwhile [PDF], entertained some 170,587 guests, which is up 17% from the previous year. This distillery is typically counted separately from the KDA as it is not a member of this whiskey trade group.
“We continue to surprise even ourselves with the volume of guests we are welcoming weekly,” said Meredith Moody, Buffalo Trace marketing services director. “We are already looking at additional ways to expand our Visitor Center which just went through an expansion last year, and we’re looking at adding another tour to join our current five complimentary tours already in place.”
As has been the case for Kentucky for sometime when it comes to bourbon, this brown spirit is a true economic workhorse for the state. Estimated to be around $3 billion in total value, it generates more than 15,000 jobs with an annual payroll topping $700 million and pours $166 million of tax revenue into state and local coffers each year.
Additionally, KDA member distilleries are in the middle of a $1.3 billion building boom as both new distilleries come online and older ones innovate their existing tourism experiences to adjust to the growing crowds and their interests.
“People don’t just want what’s in the bottle,” Gregory added. “They have a thirst for Kentucky’s Bourbon culture, our legendary Southern hospitality and our unique, authentic and engaging distillery experiences.”
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Nino Kilgore-Marchetti is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Whiskey Wash, an award winning whiskey lifestyle website dedicated to informing and entertaining consumers about whisk(e)y on a global level. As a whisk(e)y journalist, expert and judge he has written about the subject extensively, been interviewed in various media outlets and...