Kentucky Bourbon Trail Raises-the-Bar by Welcoming 1.7 Million Visits, Announces 21st Birthday Celebration

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It’s been nearly two and a half centuries since “The shot heard ’round the world” started the American Revolution that lead to the formation of the United States which led to the formation of Kentucky as the 15th state in 1792. These days “The shot enjoyed ’round the world” is a shot of Kentucky’s amber spirits – bourbon. For today’s bourbon fans it’s not just a shot it’s a lifestyle, a reason for celebration, a gathering of friends and family. It’s a spirit that brings people together unless you are quarreling over that last raffle ticket to qualify for the opportunity to purchase that rare bottle of bourbon just released at your local liquor store but that’s another story.

Bourbon Brings People Together

Kentucky Bourbon Trail - Bourbon CarafeBourbon brings people together, unless you are quarreling over the last bottle of a rare bourbon you just pulled off a shelf at your local liquor store. Other than that, yes, bourbon brings people together and in 2019 bourbon brought people to the Commonwealth of Kentucky in record numbers.

The Kentucky Distillers’ Association has reported that the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour® celebrated a new world record in visits. The combined Bourbon Trail’s welcomed 1,719,821 visits in 2019. That’s a 171% increase in attendance over just the last seven years.

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is made up of the heritage distillers that make the majority of the world’s bourbon today. The Craft Tour is made up of the smaller distilleries many of whom just started distilling (legally) in the last five to 10 years. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail welcomed nearly 1.2 million visits while the Craft Tour welcomed around 450,000 visits respectively. More than 70% of visitors are from outside the state Kentucky.

Kentucky Bourbon Trail Comes of Age – Turning 21 in 2020

What started as a handful of distillery stops and a few hundred visitors two decades ago in 1999 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. Today’s tours feature 37 distilleries of all shapes, experiences and sizes, some that produce a barrel of spirits a week while others produce two-hundred plus barrels per day.

Kentucky Distillers’ Association 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 turns 21 years 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.”

As the Kentucky Bourbon Trail celebrates its 21st birthday in 2020 it will be 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 Kentucky Bourbon Trail 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 listed below throughout the summer months. The tour series officially launched in May 1999 with its first-ever brochure.

The birthday events will culminate in September — Bourbon Heritage Month — 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 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 Kentucky Bourbon Trail destinations and the birthplace of Bourbon.”

Jessica Pendergrass, general counsel at Heaven Hill Brands and Chairwoman of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association’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 Kentucky Bourbon Trail participating distilleries that inspire and educate visitors about America’s signature spirit.”

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Kentucky Bourbon Trail Distilleries Participating in the 21st Birthday Celebration

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Kentucky’s Amber Spirits Generates a Lot of Green(backs)

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.

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 Kentucky Distillers’ Association. Bourbon is also 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.

“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 Kentucky Bourbon Trail Chairwoman and Angel’s Envy Distillery 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.”

Related Story
Kentucky Distillers’ Barrel Inventory Exceeds 9 Million for the First Time in 50+ Years

See all Kentucky Distilleries.

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