The Kentucky Distillers’ Association today announced that the famed Kentucky Bourbon Trail® and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour® destinations welcomed nearly two million visits in 2019.
What started as a handful of distillery stops and a few hundred visitors two decades ago has exploded into a globally recognized, bucket-list journey for visitors from all over the world who want to experience Kentucky’s Bourbon culture first-hand.
Featuring 37 participating distilleries, the KBT® and KBTCT experiences have seen a 171% increase in attendance over just the last seven years, with 2019 tallying 1,719,821 combined visits alone.
KDA President Eric Gregory said the ever-growing enthusiasm for America’s only native spirit goes beyond the rich amber liquid in the bottle — with a deeper dive planned for 2020 as the trademark tour officially comes of age.
“Kentucky Bourbon continues to take the world by storm,” Gregory said. “The culture of tradition and hospitality that surrounds our signature industry enchants more and more people each year. It’s an immersive experience unique to the Commonwealth.”
Established by the KDA in 1999, the KBT® attraction will celebrate its 21st birthday in 2020 by throwing a year’s worth of Bourbon fetes. Participating distilleries across the Bluegrass will host a variety of pop-ups, parties, and events to mark the milestone.
In May, every KBT® distillery will host a cocktail celebration to kick off the festivities, and a traveling surprise party pop-up will land at each of the 18 destinations throughout the summer months. The KBT® tour series officially launched in May 1999 with its first-ever brochure.
The birthday events will culminate in September — Bourbon Heritage Month in the Commonwealth — with a closing bash at the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center® at the Frazier History Museum along historic Whiskey Row in downtown Louisville.
Adam Johnson, Senior Director of the KDA’s Kentucky Bourbon Trail® experiences, said Bourbon fans won’t want to miss the special tastings, cocktails and social media moments these commemorative affairs have to offer.
“We invite everyone to come out and celebrate with us.” Johnson said. “This is a momentous occasion and we wouldn’t be here without the millions of devoted fans who have made the pilgrimage to the various KBT destinations and the birthplace of Bourbon.”
Jessica Pendergrass, general counsel at Heaven Hill Brands and Chairwoman of the KDA’s Board of Directors, said, “The iconic Kentucky Bourbon Trail adventure sets the bar for other spirits-focused tourism attractions around the world.
“Traveling together to build bonds and create community is at the heart of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail experience, and we can think of no better way to celebrate than to toast a glass of great Kentucky Bourbon.
“We welcome guests as we celebrate our 21st year and continue to curate and expand authentic experiences among KBT participating distilleries that inspire and educate visitors about America’s signature spirit.”
All Kentucky Bourbon Trail® distilleries are participating in the 21st birthday celebration:
● Angel’s Envy Distillery, Louisville
● Bardstown Bourbon Company, Bardstown
● Bulleit Distilling Co., Shelbyville
● Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, Louisville
● Four Roses Distillery, Lawrenceburg
● Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center, Bardstown
● Jim Beam American Stillhouse, Clermont
● Lux Row Distillers, Bardstown
● Maker’s Mark Distillery, Loretto
● Michter’s Fort Nelson Distillery, Louisvillle
● Old Forester Distilling Co., Louisville
● O.Z. Tyler Distillery, Owensboro
● Rabbit Hole Distillery, Louisville
● Stitzel-Weller Distillery, Louisville
● Town Branch Distillery, Lexington
● Wild Turkey Distillery, Lawrenceburg
● Wilderness Trail Distillery, Danville
● Woodford Reserve Distillery, Versailles
Bourbon is one of the Commonwealth’s most historic and treasured industries, a thriving $8.6 billion economic engine that generates more than 20,100 jobs with an annual payroll topping $1 billion and is in the middle of a $2.3 billion building boom.
There are now 9.1 million barrels of Bourbon and other spirits gently aging in Kentucky warehouses, the highest number in the modern era of American Whiskey. Kentucky now boasts two barrels of spirits for every person living in the Commonwealth.
Bourbon production has skyrocketed more than 360 percent since the turn of the century, with Kentucky distillers filling 2.1 million barrels in 2018, the first and only time that milestone has been topped in the 52 years of record-keeping at the KDA.
Bourbon also is revolutionizing Kentucky tourism and pouring much-needed revenue into local communities. Kentucky Bourbon Trail® visitors spend between $400 and $1,200 on average during their trip. More than 70% of KBT® visitors are from outside Kentucky.
In addition, KDA members are committed to growing responsibly. Over the last two years, the KDA’s Safe Ride KY coalition has delivered over 9,200 free rides to reduce impaired driving with Lyft and prevented underage access to alcohol by catching more than 1,000 fake IDs at their distilleries with Intellicheck software.
“Every member of the KDA’s Kentucky Bourbon Trail program provides an educational experience with a strong emphasis on hospitality and highlights what the great state of Kentucky has to offer,” said KBT® Chairwoman and Angel’s Envy Brand Home Manager Dee Ford.
“We’re excited to see everyone come together to celebrate this milestone birthday in such a collaborative and creative way, and look forward to this being a part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail’s unstoppable growth.”
For more info on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour® destinations , visit www.kybourbontrail.com.