In the 1970s and 1980s, clear spirits were all the rage and amber spirits like bourbon were on the decline with oak barrels sitting around collecting dust. Fast forward to the here and now and oh my how those fortunes have changed. Today, bourbon fans are willing to stand in line for hours in below freezing temperatures, just to get a chance to score a 23 year old bottle of Pappy.
Could Bourbon Anchor a Festival as the Headliner?
In 2017 festival producer Danny Wimmer Presents (DWP) worked with the city of Louisville on a festival idea that put that brown spirit – Bourbon – front and center as the key selling point of a festival. A festival that promised to bring together bourbon, music and food in a way that would celebrate the makers; makers of bourbon, makers of music and makers of food in a whole new light. It was pretty clear when the event opened in September of 2017 that the event had legs. When the numbers were all added up, the inaugural Bourbon & Beyond Festival attracted more than 50,000 attendees over two days. The festival producers and the city were both pleased with the results.
“When I first came here (to Louisville) with Danny Wimmer we were learning about bourbon,” explained DWP CEO Danny Hayes. “I didn’t even like bourbon. (Listen to the video below and you’ll hear the crowd gasp.) Marty and Mike, who were the very first two people in this city to embrace us, were with me when I ordered a vodka tonic. They immediately hauled my butt to this place (Evan Williams Bourbon Experience) where Whiskey Jean did a tasting for me and I discovered Evan Williams Black. That was my introduction to bourbon and I’ve never looked back. Bourbon & Beyond exceeded our every wish. We think it was a great success for a first year festival.”
DWP also produces the Louder Than Life Festival. It’s a rock music festival which features a selection of bourbons, whiskey, craft beer and food with musicians such as Ozzy Osbourne and Rob Zombie. In 2017 the first ever Bourbon & Beyond Festival and the fourth annual Larger Than Life Festival were on back to back weekends at the same location and drew a combined total of more than 110,000 spirits, music and food fans. The festival producer now had a pair winners.
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Deal Seeks to Generate $1 Billion Economic Impact for Louisville
Click to watch the video to get the inside scoop on the new $1 Billion deal.
Based on the success of these two events DWP and the city have announced a new long term deal that projects to generate $1 billion in economic impact for the city of Louisville. DWP along with Louisville / Jefferson County Metro Government, Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Louisville Water Company have announced the signing of a 10 year lease for Champions Park. The lease provides for the continued production of Louder Than Life and Bourbon & Beyond, as well as a future country music festival now in development and a future spirits conference.
Danny Wimmer Presents estimates that over the next 10 years it will invest in excess of $180 million in the production and execution of the three festivals. Prior to the execution of this agreement, Louisville Metro Government conducted an economic and fiscal impact study that shows that DWP’s festivals have over $63 million in estimated economic impact to Louisville annually. Over a 10-year period, the combined estimated economic impact to Louisville is over $1 billion.
Bourbon Author Fred Minnick Shares His Perspective
“In the 1980s (an event like Bourbon & Beyond) was unfathomable, nobody cared about bourbon back then,” said spirits author Fred Minnick. “Today, the Master Distillers actually have top billing over real rock stars. Think about that for a second. We’ve always said the Master Distillers are rock stars. Today, Fred Noe had billing over Stevie Nicks last year. To put that into perspective, that’s what bourbon has always wanted.”
“People behind the scenes have a passion for this industry that goes back generations and generations. And not many people from the outside have cared a lot about bourbon to the point where they want to help. A lot of people come to bourbon and say, ‘Hey, can you sponsor this…’ These guys (DWP) actually say, “How can we help you?”
600 Cases of Bourbon Sold Over 2 Weekends
“I want to put this into perspective from a simple pouring which is when you take a bottle and pour it. It’s a measurement in the drinks business of case sales, it’s how they measure volume. Between Louder Than Life and Bourbon & Beyond they poured 600 cases of bourbon. 600 cases, that makes them the largest volume bourbon festival in the world and I believe the largest spirits festival in the world.”
A Toast by Fred Minnick
In the 1700s, Louisville found its whiskey legs,
In the 1800s, Louisville thrived with Whiskey Row,
In the 1900s, Louisville was a bourbon juggernaut,
Today, Louisville is Bourbonism,
Today, Louisville is the Spirits Capital of the World.
10 Years of Memorable Experiences on the Way
The Danny Wimmer Presents byline says, “DWP creates memorable and all-encompassing festival experiences, leaving both consumers and partners with lasting and meaningful impressions. By combining A-list music talent with local cuisine and culture, DWP has become recognized within the industry for delivering the highest-quality entertainment experiences to fans, artists, sponsors, partners and host cities.” It looks like DWP will be creating memorable experiences for the city of Louisville for at least the next 10 years and for that, we raise a glass.