bourbon

Documentary Features Kentucky Bourbon Tales

Dec 15, 2014

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.

Abbey Oldham/WKU Public Radio

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.

Abbey Oldham/WKU Public Radio

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.

Abbey Oldham

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.

Kevin Willis

One of commonwealth’s signature industries will be celebrated this week as the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival runs from Tuesday to Sunday in Bardstown.

The six day festival includes numerous events for both bourbon enthusiasts and teetotalers.

There are tastings, barrel-making demonstrations, cooking classes, and a 5-K run and walk.

The growth of premium small-batch bourbons and the spirit’s colorful history have contributed to its unprecedented growth in recent years.    

Festival executive director Linda Harrison says scores of people will line up for an autograph from Kentucky’s master distillers this week.

“Wonderful people, and they love to talk about bourbon and how much they love their craft,” Harrison said.

One of the more sought-after figures is Jimmy Russell, who’s been making Wild Turkey bourbon for 60 years at the distillery near Lawrenceburg.

Angel's Envy, Michter's, and Evan Williams are just a few of the names highlighting Louisville's growing trade in bourbon.

Groundbreaking For Diageo Distillery Held in Shelby County

Aug 21, 2014
Abbey Oldham/WKU Public Radio

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.

It's a good time to be a whiskey maker, and craft whiskeys are all the rage, with names like Bulleit, Redemption, Templeton and George Dickel.

Kentucky Bourbon Inventory Tops 5 Million Barrels

Jul 22, 2014
Abbey Oldham/WKU Public Radio

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.

Abbey Oldham/WKU Public Radio

Kentucky’s bourbon capital is set to grow even stronger.

The Bardstown Bourbon Company announced Thursday plans to build a new distillery in the Nelson County town that will create 35 jobs and represent an investment of $25 million. The company says it will also build a visitor’s center and warehouses, in addition to the 45,000-square-foot distillery.

The company will produce bourbon as well as other spirits using local ingredients. Construction on the project is expected to begin this summer, with the facility opening in 2016.

It would mark the fifth distillery in Bardstown, joining Barton 1792, Heaven Hill, Jim Beam, and Willett. Maker's Mark is also close by, in the town of Loretto.

The Bardstown Bourbon Company has hired Steve Nally to serve as its first master distiller. He has over 40 years of experience in the industry and is a member of the Bourbon Hall of Fame.

Photo Gallery: The Kentucky Bourbon Trail

May 28, 2014

Nearly 2.5 million people from around the world visit distilleries across the Kentucky Bourbon Trail each year. WKU Public Radio photojournalist Abbey Oldham photographed three distilleries including the oldest, Woodford Reserve, and one of the youngest, Wilderness Trace.

She also photographed Wild Turkey, where Master Distiller Jimmy Russel taught her how to taste corn mash and remove a bung hole by hand.

The bourbon distilleries are one of the things that makes Kentucky a special place, with a rich history and a bright future of keeping bourbon making alive and well in the Bluegrass State. 

Abbey was in Bourbon Country to document the production of Mainstreet "Kentucky Spirits", which will air on WKU PBS this Saturday (May 30) at 7 pm, Sunday (June 1) at 1:30 pm, Monday (June 2) at 8 pm, and Friday (June 6) at 9:30 pm.

Abbey Oldham/WKU Public Radio

Two members of Kentucky’s Washington delegation are marking the 50th anniversary of the date congress formally recognized bourbon whiskey as a distinct American product.  The Courier-Journal reports Representatives John Yarmuth, a Democrat and Andy Barr a Republican, have introduced a resolution recognizing the importance of bourbon to the Bluegrass State. 

Bourbon was a $2 billion dollar industry in 2010. Ninety-five percent of the world’s bourbon comes from Kentucky and the industry employs some 9,000 Kentuckians.

A distillery in Owensboro will once again produce Kentucky’s signature spirit.

Officials with TerrePURE Kentucky Distillers announced Tuesday afternoon that they are purchasing the Charles Medley Distillery and will create bourbon and other lines of spirits.

The project is expected to create as many as 70 new jobs at the distillery, which sits on 28 acres of land in Daviess County. TerrePURE will invest $23 million to purchase and refurbish the distillery.

The company plans to renovate and repair buildings at the site, and install new equipment. TerrePURE says its goal is to have the distillery operational in 18 months.

The President of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation, Madison Silvert, says a 2012 economic impact study shows the distilling business has a far-reaching impact on jobs in the Bluegrass State.

“The job multiplier for distilling was 3.19, so that means that for every new distilling job, 2.9 new jobs are created somewhere in the commonwealth," Silvert told WKU Public Radio. "That is the third largest job multiplier of all industries in the state of Kentucky, behind light truck manufacturing and automobiles.”

According to the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, the state exported $383 million of its distilled spirits in 2013. That accounts for 21 percent of the U.S. total in that area.

Silvert added that it will mean a lot to the Owensboro area community to have the Medley Distillery up and running again.

Governor Makes Tax Credit For Bourbon Makers Official

Apr 15, 2014
Abbey Oldham/WKU Public Radio

Kentucky's bourbon industry is about to gain an income tax credit.  Beginning next year, distilleries can get the credit for state and local property taxes paid on aging barrels of bourbon.  Gov. Steve Beshear signed the bill into law Tuesday afternoon. 

Under the new law, distilleries are required to invest the tax credit in capital improvements, including construction, renovation, tourism-related facilities and equipment.  Last year, the barrel tax generated about $14 million in state and local property taxes.

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