Here’s the real story about how the Kentucky Bourbon Trail got started according to Bill Samuels, Jr. Distillery tours are all about history, tradition and great story telling. And of course, the product has to be great as well otherwise; there would be no story and no visitors. While attending the Brewing and Distilling Symposia during the Alltech #REBELation conference in Lexington, Kentucky, the speakers took questions from the audience. The Brewing and Distilling panel was made up of Bill Samuels, Jr. Chairman Emeritus, Maker’s Mark Distillery, Greg Koch, CEO and Co-Founder of Stone Brewing Company, Bill Owens, Founder and President, American Distilling Institute and Dr. Pearse Lyons, President and Founder of Alltech.

Question: How did the Kentucky Bourbon Trail get started?

Bill Samuels, Jr. Chairman Emeritus, Maker’s Mark Distillery jumped at the chance to answer this question.

Answer: The Real Story of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Got Started

I had been out of school about two months. And I’m down at the distillery and my father comes into the office and he said you know, we ought to have a visitor program. This is back in 1967. And I looked at him and said, “Why would we want to have a visitor program if we haven’t ever had the first visitor?” And he said, “Well, you know, your sister has a hard time keeping a job and the only thing she does really well is talk. And so, it was in the spring of 1968 that we had the first full time visitor program at a distillery. ~ Bill Samuels, Jr.

That was the beginning of distillery tours in Kentucky. It was in 1999 that the Kentucky Distillers’ Association formed what is now commonly known as the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® and it has been growing ever since. In 2014, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail had record attendance with more than 725,000 visitors from all 50 states and 25 countries from across the world.

Kentucky Bourbon Trail® is a registered trademark of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association.

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