As the world’s thirst for Bourbon grows, so does the number of tourist stops on Kentucky’s famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail. The Kentucky Distillers’ Association (KDA) has announced the addition of two new members to the craft tour map – Boone County Distilling in Boone County and Bluegrass Distillers in Lexington.
The KDA started the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in 1999 for the states (and the nations) largest distilleries. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail now includes 10 distilleries. In 2012, to help serve the unique needs of the new startup craft distillers the association created the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour which now includes 13 craft members.
“The Craft Tour offers the opportunity for visitors to experience our smaller distilling operations that are building upon centuries of rich traditions and heritage,” KDA President Eric Gregory said. “They are the next generation of our timeless craft.”
Are All Association Members on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail?
As we recently reported, membership in the association now totals 33. Membership is broken into three groups based on the number of barrels or barrel equivalents of Kentucky produced distilled beverage spirits each year. Heritage members have more than 25,000 barrels of aging spirits, Proof members have between 10,000 to 24,999 barrels of aging spirits and Craft members have less than 10,000 gallons of aging spirits. There are about 52 total licensed distilleries in the state so as you can see, not all DSPs are members.
Doing some simple math, I was wondering why there were 33 members in the association but only 10 of the large distilleries and 13 of the craft distilleries on the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail. I talked to KDA President to find out.
Gregory explained that most members first join the association to join forces with other distilleries to work together for common goals like regulatory issues, economic development, legal defense and networking. Once they get their distillery up and running then they can decide if they would like to join in on the tourism side of the business.
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If You Build It They Will Come
Gregory said some distillery’s choose not to be listed on the Bourbon Trail because they are, “too busy making juice” to stop and host tourists. The larger distilleries may have hundreds of employees but some of the craft spirits startups are truly small business that may only have two to four full-time employees and they simply don’t have the manpower to stop operations for visitors. Once they are ready for tourism KDA members work with new trail members to prepare them for the fire hose of traffic that will soon come.
One thing Gregory noted that all distilleries discover is, “You can never have enough bath rooms or parking spaces.”
Boone County Distilling
Boone County was founded in 2013 and started distilling in October 2015. The distillery idea came about by a chance meeting between co-founders Josh Quinn and Jack Wells. In a strange turn of events, the two met in 1997 at the grand opening of an Irish Pub called Jack Quinn’s. Josh was a young police officer who just happened to play the bagpipes. Josh and some of his police and firefighting friends used to play music on occasion at the local bars. While performing at Jack Quinn’s he met the owner, Jack Wells. The two became good friends and eventually decided to build a distillery together. Like Josh told me, “Josh Quinn performing at Jack Quinn’s bar, it was destiny.”
How Hard Could It Be to Build a Distillery?
The idea of building a distillery evolved in Jack’s basement over a period of about a year, beginning in the fall of 2011. Josh and Jack would gather regularly to enjoy a glass of whiskey. Josh says during one of their gatherings, the story went something like this.
“Jack (Wells), the entrepreneur, says ‘Let’s build a distillery, how hard can it be?’ My investigative personality (remember, he’s a police officer by trade) replies “I don’t know, but we’ll figure it out”….the rest is basically history.”
Josh and Jack quickly figured out that building a world class craft distillery is anything but easy. As Josh pointed out, “Building a distillery is the opposite of easy and takes 5 or 6 times more money that you think it will, hind sight is always 20/20.”
16 years after meeting, the two opened Boone County Distilling and it’s now part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour.
Boone County Distilling is located at 10601 Toebben Drive, Boone County, Kentucky.
Bluegrass Distillers was founded in 2012 and started distilling in 2013. Company founders Nate Brown, Sam Rock, and Matt Montgomery, say the company prides itself on handcrafting quality products using organic and locally sourced Kentucky ingredients.
“We are very excited about becoming part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour,” Brown said. “And we are pleased to continue to do our part to honor the tradition of Kentucky by making our craft spirit right here in the heart of the Bluegrass.”
Bluegrass Distillers, located at 501 West Sixth Street in Lexington.
Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour Members
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour distilleries were visited by 175,000 visitors in 2016. Craft distillers made up 17% of the more than 1,000,000 visits by tourists to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in 2016. Here’s a complete list of the 13 Craft Tour members.
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour include,
- Barrel House Distillery, Lexington
- Boone County Distilling, Independence
- Bluegrass Distillers in Lexington
- Corsair Distillery, Bowling Green
- Hartfield & Co. Distillery, Paris
- Kentucky Artisan Distillery, Crestwood
- Kentucky Peerless Distillery, Louisville
- Limestone Branch Distillery, Lebanon
- MB Roland Distillery, Pembroke
- New Riff Distillery, Newport
- Old Pogue Distillery, Maysville
- Wilderness Trail Distillery, Danville
- Willett Distillery, Bardstown
Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour – Mint Julep Cup
As Bourbon fans travel around the state, they have their Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour Passport stamped at each stop. Once they’ve visited all 13 craft members, they are rewarded with a custom Mint Julep cup.
“We proudly welcome Boone County Distilling and Bluegrass Distillers to the Craft Tour,” Gregory said. “Its growing line-up, stretching to all corners of the Commonwealth, makes for an exciting itinerary for Bourbon visitors.”