Kentucky Distillers Association

Abbey Oldham/WKU Public Radio

Kentucky’s distillers want to be able to sell drinks by the glass, just like wineries and breweries.

Current state law prohibits distilleries from selling drinks to visitors, something spirits producers say costs them money. Distillers can offer guests a tasting as part of a tour, but each person is limited to a total of one ounce of liquor.

Kentucky Distillers’ Association Director of Governmental and Regulatory Affairs Kristin Meadors says her group has been speaking with lawmakers and is prepared to help craft legislation ahead of the 2016 General Assembly.

Meadors believes allowing distilleries to sell to visitors the bourbon, rye, vodka, and other spirits they produce on site would help elevate the Kentucky distillery experience to what is found in other parts of the country.

“When you go to a winery in Napa, what do you do? They provide you with a flight, and you purchase a flight for sometimes 20, 30, or 50 bucks. And so you sit there and enjoy it, and you pair it with some wonderful foods,” Meadors told WKU Public Radio.

“So we want you to linger a little bit more, experience a distillery, and pair the bourbon with some great Kentucky Proud products that we have across the state.”

The changes sought by the KDA would allow a distillery visitor to purchase a shot of a small batch spirit, a flight of spirits, or a cocktail.

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:

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. 

Kentucky Bourbon Production Tops 1 Million in 2012

Apr 30, 2013
Kevin Willis

The amount of bourbon produced by Kentucky distillers has topped 1 million barrels for the first time in nearly 40 years.

Officials with the Kentucky Distillers' Association said Monday that 1,007,703 barrels were filled in 2012. The last time the total went over a million was in 1973 when 1,004,877 barrels were produced.

The group's president, Eric Gregory, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that Kentucky's distilleries are experiencing double-digit sales growth and seeing landmark production levels while investing in new facilities.

The group says bourbon production is up more than 120 percent since 1999.

Kevin Willis

One of the big issues Kentucky lawmakers are expected to take up in the next legislative session is an overhaul of the state tax code. It's something that the commonwealth's bourbon distillers will have their collective eyes on, because a provision under consideration would create a new tax credit for manufacturers designed to offset a longstanding barrel tax.

"We pay a tax on every barrel that is aging in the commonwealth, as long as it sits in one of our warehouses. So if you're drinking a bottle of 18-year- old bourbon, it's been taxed 18 times," says Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers Association. "That makes Kentucky non-competitive in the global marketplace. We are the only alcohol manufacturer in the world that pays such a tax."

Tax legislation designed to help Kentucky's bourbon distillers has previously passed in the Senate, but has never made it out of the House. Gregory says distillers are sensing a renewed seriousness on the part of many lawmakers to get a tax code overhaul passed next year, either in the regular session that begins January 8, or during a special session.