A new documentary being aired in Kentucky will introduce viewers to the colorful characters who craft bourbon.
The documentary draws from oral history interviews conducted by the University of Kentucky's Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History.
The program is called "Kentucky Bourbon Tales: Distilling the Family Business." It features the stories of master distillers and bourbon barons from such distilleries as Wild Turkey, Heaven Hill, Brown-Forman, Woodford Reserve, Maker's Mark, Four Roses, Jim Beam and Bulleit.
It also explains the science and art behind the bourbon-making process and details how the state's signature spirit has become a global phenomenon.
The program will first air Tuesday night on KET and again on the night of Sunday, Dec. 21 on KET2. The program will air several more times this month.
Seven distilleries have joined the Kentucky Distillers' Association and the president of the organization says the KDA is poised for even more growth next year.
Boundary Oak Distillery in Elizabethtown, Casey Jones Distillery in Hopkinsville and Dueling Ground Distillery in Franklin are among the craft distilleries that joined the organization on Monday.
Bluegrass Distillers in Lexington, Kentucky Peerless Stilling Co of Louisville, the Gentleman Distillery in Paris and Three Boys Farm Distillery in Frankfort also became members of the KDA.
The group is now composed of 27 members, the most since the 1930s when the group was re-established after Prohibition. President Eric Gregory says the number of distilleries in the KDA could rise to 40 by next year.
Someone has paid $28,050 for the right to purchase the first bottle of bourbon produced in Hardin County in nearly 125 years.
Boundary Oak Distillery churned out its first batch of bourbon this month and held an online auction to sell barrel sponsorships.
Boundary Oak Master Distiller Brent Goodin says the product inside that barrel should be top quality, when it’s ready to drink in two years.
“We have a very unique distillery in the fact that all of our water comes a spring-fed source. Our grains are all here from Hardin County,” said Goodin. “We think along with those natural aspects of our distillery, along with our wonderful grains that we have here locally, we can make a very superior, high-quality bourbon.”
Goodin says a change in law has made it easier for craft distillers to exist. The $28,000 paid by the auction winner is believed to be one of the top prices ever paid for a Kentucky bourbon.
Kentucky’s bourbon industry keeps growing by leaps and bounds. Highly-anticipated numbers released Tuesday morning show the industry nearly doubled the number of jobs it supports in Kentucky, from just under 8,700 in 2012 to 15,400 this year.
The study was conducted by the Kentucky Agriculture Development Fund and the Kentucky Distillers Association.
The study also shows the impact on the state’s agriculture industry. Bourbon makers buy 40 percent of the grain they use from Kentucky farmers, translating into 56 million in sales. It also means 1,360 agriculture jobs are supported by the bourbon industry.
The report also says Kentucky farmers have the capacity to provide up to 80 percent of the bourbon industry’s grains.
With Kentucky’s bourbon industry continuing to expand, the head of a distiller’s association says the state could soon become “the next Napa Valley.” He also believes bourbon-related tourism could someday help economically-challenged counties in eastern Kentucky.
Every two years the University of Louisville produces an economic impact study focusing on the bourbon industry. The last study, in 2012, showed the industry was responsible for over 9,000 jobs in Kentucky, with over $125 million dollars in taxes going to state and local governments.
Speaking to CN-2 Pure Politics, Kentucky Distillery Association President Eric Gregory said the preliminary numbers he saw from the latest report were so incredible that he asked researchers to double-check their findings. Then he asked them to triple-check the numbers.
Gregory says the report will be made public soon.
He adds that he hopes someday bourbon-related tourism will stretch into Appalachia, with distilleries someday opening in the region. But first, Gregory said, counties wanting to be home to a distillery will have to vote to become “wet”, meaning that alcohol can be legally sold there.
The worldwide bourbon boom emanating from Kentucky has an increasingly Louisville address. At 120 N. 10th St., on the western edge of downtown, Corky Taylor is turning a former tobacco market and burlap bag factory into the Kentucky Peerless Distillery and visitor center.
Executives of the London based liquor conglomerate are expected to offer details Thursday on the timeline for the $115 million project in Shelby County. They're also expected to shed light on what spirits will be produced there.
Diageo calls the project a major investment in Kentucky's bourbon industry. The new facility comes as Kentucky bourbon producers try to keep up with global demand.
Kentucky bourbon makers are churning out larger volumes of whiskey being stored for aging.
The Kentucky Distillers' Association said Tuesday the state's bourbon inventory has topped 5 million barrels for the first time since 1977.
It says Kentucky bourbon distilleries filled 1.2 million barrels last year, the most since 1970.
Production has soared by more than 150 percent in the last 15 years, resulting in nearly 5.3 million aging barrels at the end of 2013.
KDA President Eric Gregory says the surging production comes amid big financial investments by distillers that are creating jobs and attracting record numbers of tourists. Gregory says the bourbon resurgence shows no signs of slowing down.
The KDA's Kentucky Bourbon Trail and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour logged more than 630,000 visits last year, a new record.