Kentucky Bourbon Tourist Numbers Continue Their Astronomical Climb - The Whiskey Wash

Kentucky Bourbon Tourist Numbers Continue Their Astronomical Climb

By Nino Marchetti / February 14, 2019

In the years since we’ve been tracking the number of bourbon tourists visiting Kentucky, there has one simple, but very remarkable, trend that’s happened year over year – it keeps going up, up, up. In 2015, for example, there was a total of over 1 million visitors combined between the members of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association (KDA) and Buffalo Trace, which is not a member. Jump forward to 2017, and that number is up over 1.39 million. And now, for last year, it comes in at a staggering total of around 1.63 million!

Looking first at Buffalo Trace, the distillery reported recently it had over 231,000 visitors during the 2018 calendar year. That is said to be a 15 percent increase in visitors from 2017, and a 345 percent increase from 2010.

Michter's whiskey

Whiskey aging at Michter’s in Kentucky (image copyright The Whiskey Wash)

“It’s exciting to be growing in all aspects, we are thrilled that so many people took their time to come and see our team at work,” said Meredith Moody, Buffalo Trace director of Homeplace development, in a prepared statement. “Our growth in visitation has allowed us to expand our tour offerings to six different complimentary tours, and offer our guests a unique look at the Distillery with each visit.

“Having just completed an expansion of our Visitor Center in 2015, we are looking forward to again expanding our tour capabilities to accommodate even more guests as we continue to grow.”

The KDA, meanwhile, noted a record 1.4 million distillery stops last year, which is a 370 percent increase over the last 10 years. Breaking this down a bit more, the popular Kentucky Bourbon Trail distillery stops logged 1 million visits for the first time since its creation in 1999, while the smaller KBT Craft Tour tallied some 340,000 distillery stops, said to be the most since its founding in 2012.

The member distilleries of the KDA are said to now pour $8.6 billion each year into the state’s economy, generate more than 20,100 good-paying jobs with an annual payroll topping $1 billion, provide $235 million in local and state tax revenue, and be in the middle of a $2.3 billion building boom.

“The Bourbon economy is good for communities across the state, whether it’s a distillery in your hometown, stave mill, corn grower or trucking company,” said Kentucky House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins. “It is difficult to overstate just how much an impact this signature industry has had on our economy, especially in recent years.”