Kentucky Bourbon Trail

National Corvette Museum

A ten-county region in southern Kentucky is seeing the biggest increase in tourism revenue in the state.

The region including Warren, Barren, Simpson, and Logan counties experienced a 6.7 percent jump in tourism and travel spending in 2014 versus the year before. A report from the Kentucky Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet says the state saw a 4.4 percent increase in tourism dollars last year. 

Telia Butler, with the Bowling Green Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, says record-setting attendance at the National Corvette Museum was one reason why the southern Kentucky region saw its gains.

“We definitely can thank the sinkhole that happened in February of last year. They made lemonade out of lemons out of what could have been a very negative thing over what happened over there,” Butler said, referring to the sinkhole that opened up beneath the Corvette Museum’s skydome, swallowing up several vintage vehicles.

Far from driving visitors away from the museum, the massive publicity created by the story drew visitors from around the world to the Bowling Green attraction.

Abbey Oldham

Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail is celebrating another record-breaking year in attendance. The Trail’s nine participating distilleries greeted 627,032 visitors in 2014, an increase of 10 percent over the previous year.

The nine smaller facilities that make up the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour are also seeing an explosion in popularity.

“The first craft distillers that came in are now on their second and third phases of expansion,” said Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers Association. “And just in the first year of our Craft Tour—from the first to second years—(attendance) has gone up over 50 percent.”

Gregory said he expects the number of Craft Tour distilleries to increase to at least a dozen by the end of the year. He also expressed optimism that the Bourbon Trail, which is mostly made up by the state’s larger “heritage” distilleries, will see increased membership in 2015.

“We’ve got a number of big-name distilleries that have announced, like Michter’s in downtown Louisville. It’s our hope that Angel’s Envy, when they get up and running, will come on board. Brown-Forman has announced the Old Forester distillery on Whiskey Row.”

Frankfort-based Buffalo Trace, which is not a member of the Bourbon Trail, saw a 26 percent increase in visitors last year.

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

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.

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.

Emil Moffatt

Kentucky added over 1,700 jobs in the tourism sector last year, bringing the total number of commonwealth residents employed in the tourism industry to 175,000.  Bob Stewart, Kentucky’s Secretary of Tourism, Arts and Heritage says the number of jobs dependent on visitors is actually a lot more. 

“We think about the front-line folks, but there are lots of other jobs,” said Stewart. “People who are involved in marketing; people who are involved in management of business and attractions and so-forth and so-on. It really does ripple through the economy.”

Overall, Kentucky saw a 2.6 percent boost in tourism spending, bringing the overall economic impact to $12.6 billion in 2013. 

Stewart says the Bourbon Trail and so-called “adventure tourism”, or activities that make use of the state’s natural resources – are among the reasons for the boost in tourists.  He also says the number of industry conventions and business meetings are also on the rise. 

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:

bizpics.com

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is expanding to include a small distillery that's tucked in the shadows of skyscrapers in downtown Louisville.

Heaven Hill Distilleries' new distillery will become the eighth stop on the popular tourist attraction that has drawn more than 2.5 million visitors in the past five years.

Mayor Greg Fischer said Thursday that bringing the Bourbon Trail to Louisville will enhance the city's bourbon tourism efforts.

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail takes visitors to several rural and rustic settings to visit the places where iconic bourbons such as Maker's Mark, Wild Turkey, and Woodford Reserve are crafted.

Kentucky is home to 95 percent of the world's bourbon production.

Kentucky Bourbon Trail Honored by National Geographic

Mar 5, 2013
Kevin Willis

Kentucky’s signature spirit is getting some love from a well-respected publication.

National Geographic has designated the Kentucky Bourbon Trail as one of its top 10 "Best Spring Trips."

The Kentucky tourism attraction is showcased along with excursions and festivals in New Zealand, India, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, South Africa and Argentina.

Only three American trips made the top 10.

The Bourbon Trail attracted more than 500,000 visitors in 2012, the first time the tour has broken the half-million mark since its creation in 1999 by the Kentucky Distillers' Association.