bourbon

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.

Kentucky To Offer Bourbon Tax Credit

Apr 3, 2014
Abbey Oldham/WKU Public Radio

State lawmakers have effectively eliminated a tax on aging barrels of bourbon in a move to protect one of the state's signature industries.

Kentucky spends that tax money on public education, making it difficult to eliminate the tax completely. This week lawmakers approved a tax credit that would offset the cost of the tax. Public schools would still get their tax money, but overall state revenues would decrease by about $14 million in five years once the tax credit is fully implemented.

Kentucky distillers have increased their inventory of aging bourbon by more than 1 million barrels since 1999. State tax collections have more than doubled since then.

The law requires Kentucky distillers to spend the savings from the tax on improving facilities in Kentucky, including remodeling to promote tourism.

From its earliest days as America's homegrown whiskey elixir, Kentucky bourbon has been traveling on boats.

In fact, boats were a key reason why Kentucky became the king of bourbon. In the late 1700s, trade depended on waterways, and distillers in the state had a big advantage: the Ohio River. They'd load their barrels onto flatboats on the Ohio, which flowed into the Mississippi, taking their golden liquor as far down as New Orleans.

Kevin Willis

The producers of Maker's Mark bourbon have announced a distillery expansion to keep pace with growing demand for the Kentucky whiskey.

The $67 million expansion announced Thursday comes about a year after the brand caused a stir. In early 2013, the whiskey known for its bottles sealed in red wax announced it was cutting the amount of alcohol in each bottle to stretch supplies. After backlash from customers, Maker's Mark quickly scrapped the idea and restored the alcohol volume to its typical level.

The expansion was in the works long before the flap and it comes amid growing sales at Maker's.

The brand shipped more than 1 million cases in 2011 and it forecasts shipments to reach 2 million cases later this decade.

Jim Beam

Jim Beam is turning to Hollywood for its latest spokesperson as the company gets set to launch its first-ever global marketing campaign.  

In a video posted on the Jim Beam website, Master Distiller Fred Noe takes actress Mila Kunis on a tour of Jim Beam's Kentucky facilities.

Kunis, who’s starred in movies along with TV shows like That 70s Show and Family Guy, will be the centerpiece of Jim Beam’s new campaign branded “Make History”.  

The announcement of the world-wide marketing effort comes two weeks after Japanese company Suntory announced it was purchasing Jim Beam. The ads featuring Kunis start next month.

Kevin Willis

Kentucky’s bourbon distillers are celebrating a record number of visitors in 2013.

The eight facilities that make up the Kentucky Bourbon Trail saw a 12 percent jump in visits last year, with nearly 572,000 visitors touring facilities such as Four Roses,  Maker’s Mark, and the recently-opened Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in downtown Louisville.

Kentucky Bourbon Trail director Adam Johnson  attributes part of the tourism draw to the efforts distillers have made to improve their facilities.

“Name the distillery, and they’ve put some serious money in expanding that experience for their visitors," Johnson told WKU Public Radio. "Woodford Reserve, for example—they’re working hard on their place and hope to be open in the spring with a much more expanded experience, just like Jim Beam has done, just like Maker’s Mark has done, just as Wild Turkey has done.”

Johnson says the rising popularity of bourbon and other Kentucky-made spirits has also trickled down to the commonwealth’s growing list of smaller craft distilleries. Nearly 62,000 visits were made last year to members of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour, including Corsair Artisan Distillery in Bowling Green, and Limestone Branch in Lebanon.

Here is a list of the member distilleries that are a part of the Bourbon Trail and Craft Tours:

In a $16 billion deal this week, Japanese beverage giant Suntory announced it plans to purchase Beam Inc., the maker of Jim Beam bourbon and the owner of other popular bourbon brands like Maker's Mark.

Those and most other bourbons are made in Kentucky, and the deal has some hoping the drink's growth in the global market won't come at the expense of its uniquely Kentucky heritage.

Jim Beam

A Japanese company has announced plans to acquire the producer of Jim Beam bourbon.

Suntory Holdings of Osaka, Japan, has agreed to purchase Beam Incorporated for $16 billion.

The Courier-Journal reports that under a deal approved by leadership at both companies, the current Beam management team would continue to lead the business from Beam headquarters outside Chicago, with Jim Beam maintaining its distillery in Clermont, Kentucky.

Beam Incorporated owns many of the most famous names in the world of bourbon, including Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Knob Creek, Basil Hayden, Bookers, and Old Grand-Dad.

The company’s portfolio also includes brands of vodka, rum, tequila, as well as Irish and Scotch whiskies.

The acquisition of Beam Incorporated by Suntory Holdings is expected to finalized in the second quarter of this year.

Kentucky authorities are dangling a $10,000 reward for information that helps solve the disappearance of some sought-after bourbon. 

It's become a compelling mystery in a state that produces 95 percent of the world's bourbon. What happened to 65 cases of 20-year-old Pappy Van Winkle bourbon and nine cases of 13-year-old Van Winkle Family Reserve rye? The whiskey was taken from the Buffalo Trace Distillery at Frankfort in mid-October.

The missing whiskey is valued at more than $26,000.

Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton said Monday the reward could provide "a heck of a Christmas" for someone who helps crack the case.

Melton says a crime stopper's group put up $1,000, but he declined to identify any other donor.

The sheriff says his detectives have interviewed more than 100 people.

The principal of Bardstown High School is denying that he was involved in the theft of some of the world's most prized bourbon. Chris Pickett met with detectives Monday and denied claims that he offered to sell bottle of Pappy Van Winkle to an Elizabethtown liquor store.

An attorney for Pickett told the Courier-Journal that this client “did not” try to sell bottles of the famous bourbon. The lawyer says Pickett was simply inquiring as to whether any Pappy Van Winkle was available for purchase.

Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton—who is investigating the bourbon theft—said his office needed to verify information before clearing Pickett of any suspicion related to the case.

Sixty-five cases of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon and nine cases of rye were stolen from the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort. Investigators originally described the crime as an apparent inside job. Video surveillance taken October 20 at a Hardin County liquor store shows Pickett entering and leaving the store.

Sheriff Melton later described the individual in the video as a “person of interest.”

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