Kentucky Bourbon Trail - Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcomed More Than 2 Million Visitors in 2022

2020 and 2021 were off years for tourism across the world but with Covid restrictions mostly in the rearview mirror, bourbon fans flocked to the world-famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail® and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour® in 2022 in record numbers. And if you tried to schedule a tour in 2022 you know what it was like. If you didn’t make a reservation well in advance, especially with the heritage distilleries, you likely were stuck outside looking in.

We are happy to report that visitor numbers to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour reached 2,135,555 total visits. That was 38% higher than the previous high set in 2019 of 1.7 million visits. The growth to visits on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail has grown a phenomenal 370% in just the last 10 years.

The Kentucky Distillers’ Association – KDA has been around since 1880. The non-profit trade association’s purpose it to unite, promote, protect and elevate the state’s signature Bourbon and distilled spirits industry. The Association created the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in 1999 with seven members to give visitors an intimate, educational look behind the state’s most historic distilleries. As laws have changed over the year craft distilleries started popping up and in 2012 the Association created the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour.

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The Kentucky Bourbon Trail now has 18 participating distilleries and welcomed 1,397,268 visits in 2022. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour which focuses on the smaller distilleries now features 24 distilleries and welcomed 738,287 visits last year.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear congratulated the KDA and members of the state’s signature Bourbon and distilling industry on their focus and success.

“It’s incredible to see attendance for the Kentucky Bourbon Trail reach an all-time high in 2022, the same year this signature industry saw record-breaking investments and job growth,” said Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear.

“The success of Kentucky’s Bourbon industry isn’t slowing down any time soon, and I am grateful to KDA, the distilleries, our tourism partners and all the amazing Kentuckians who work hard to make this industry so special.”

KDA President Eric Gregory said Kentucky Bourbon Trail experiences are an integral part of local and state tourism efforts. Research shows Bourbon tourists trend younger, spend between $400 and $1,200 on their trip, travel in large groups and stay longer than the average visitor to Kentucky. More than 70% of visitors are from outside Kentucky, he said, and nearly half have household incomes over $100,000.

“This is a home run demographic for local communities, generating valuable revenue and tax dollars while boosting a hospitality industry that’s still recovering from the COVID pandemic,” said Gregory.

“Bourbon is a key driver for tourism in Kentucky, drawing visitors from around the world to our Commonwealth,” said Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet Secretary Mike Berry. “In a post-pandemic environment, travelers are thirsty for our native spirit and all the exciting opportunities tourism has to offer.” 

“We celebrate this good news and look forward to welcoming even more guests to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail tours.”

Pro Tip When Visiting Kentucky Distilleries – “Book Now, Bourbon Later”

Kentucky Bourbon Trail - Book Now, Bourbon Later
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Book Now, Bourbon Later

As visits to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail become more popular, trying to get in to visit a distillery gets a little harder. It is always a good idea to book ahead online or call ahead to make reservations. The same thing is true for dining and overnight accommodations, book early.

“The tremendous growth can be challenging,” said Director of the KDA’s Kentucky Bourbon Trail Mandy Ryan. “Most distilleries now require reservations, so booking experiences in advance is crucial. 

“We are thrilled to welcome visitors from all over the world to experience our rich history and Southern hospitality. But please plan ahead so you can slow down and savor our Bourbon culture and everything Kentucky has to offer. Like we say – the proof is here.”

The KDA recently launched a social media campaign encouraging people to “Book Now, Bourbon Later” due to the rise in Bourbon tourism and a growing demand for authentic, curated and rare experiences.

  1. Plan your route first.
  2. Don’t wait until the last minute to book.
  3. Know that most distilleries cannot accommodate walk-ins.
  4. Don’t forget to make restaurant reservations, too.
  5. Remember to respect the Trail. Be kind, be responsible and be respectful.
  6. Bonus Tip: If it is festival time like during the Kentucky Bourbon Festival make plans well in advance.

Amber Spirits is a $9 Billion Industry in Kentucky

Bourbon is one of Kentucky’s most treasured industries, a booming $9 billion economic and tourism powerhouse sustaining more than 22,500 jobs with an annual payroll topping $1.23 billion each year and paying over $285 million in local and state taxes and $1.8 billion in federal alcohol taxes.

A key export, the iconic industry is currently in the middle of a $5.2 billion building boom, from innovative new tourism experiences to expanded production facilities, bottling centers and aging warehouses, all to meet the growing global thirst for Kentucky Bourbon. 

Bourbon production has soared more than 475% since the turn of the century. 

Kentucky now boasts more than 11.4 million barrels of Bourbon aging in warehouses across Kentucky, the most in its revered distilling history. Distillers filled more than 2.6 million barrels last year alone, the fourth year in a row that production topped the 2 million mark.

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Kentucky Bourbon Trail 20 Year Growth Run Ends with Pandemic – Traffic Nose-dives 66% in 2020
Kentucky Bourbon Trail Raises-the-Bar by Welcoming 1.7 Million Visits in 2019, Announces 21st Birthday Celebration
Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour Creates Regions, Adds Members and Now Features 20 Fabulous Stops

How Bourbon Tourism Got Started According to Bill Samuels, Jr. of Maker’s Mark Distillery

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