Kentucky Bourbon Distilleries Hosted Over 1.39 Million Visitors In 2017 - The Whiskey Wash

Kentucky Bourbon Distilleries Hosted Over 1.39 Million Visitors In 2017

By Nino Marchetti / January 26, 2018

Once again it looks as if Kentucky bourbon country has blown it out of the water when it comes to a record number of visitors descending upon various distilleries to enjoy their favorite brown spirit. Whereas 2016 saw a total of over one million visitors combined between the members of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association (KDA) and Buffalo Trace, which is not a member, 2017 took that up to roughly 1.395 million whiskey lovers.

The KDA, which by far always reports the larger numbers, said its various Bourbon Trail and Bourbon Trail Craft Tour members reported 1,194,233 visits last year, the ninth straight year of double digit increases in turnout. This breaks down to 940,780 stops on the historic big trail tour, which showcases 10 of the state’s distilleries, and 253,453 stops at the 13 distilleries on the craft side of things.

Woodford Reserve (image copyright The Whiskey Wash)

This growth in the KDA related visits, looked at over a long period of time, showcases a phenomenal 314 percent in the past 10 years with visitors pouring into the Commonwealth from all corners of the world.

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

Buffalo Trace, meanwhile, reported approximately 201,491 guests at its historic distillery last year. A new record for visitation, it is an increase of 18 percent over last calendar year, and a total increase of 287% since 2010. It comes as a $1.2 billion, decade long expansion project is under way. This includes building new barrel warehouses on the farm it owns adjacent to the distillery, at a rate of one new warehouse every four months for the next ten years. These new warehouses will hold 58,000 barrels, and construction on the first one is nearly complete.

The distillery will also expand its distilling operation, which includes new mash cookers, a boiler and fermenters. In order to make room, the existing bottling hall will be moving to another area on site starting this spring/summer and the bottling lines will be modernized to allow for more efficiency and better capacity.  This is the first large scale structural expansion at Buffalo Trace Distillery’s campus since the 1950s.

“We are bursting at the seams, so to speak, in all areas, distillation, bottling and tourism, so we’re looking forward to our new expansion,” said Meredith Moody, marketing services director at Buffalo Trace. “It took us 15 years to get to 100,000 visitors, but only three years to get to 200,000, so the momentum just keeps going.”