As the world’s thirst for bourbon, America’s Native Spirit grows, so does the traffic to Kentucky’s world-famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour. Tourist traffic set a new record with almost 900,000 visitors in 2015.
Eric Gregory, President of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association reports that the tours attracted all-time record attendance of 895,873 guests. And bourbon is not just popular in the U.S., guests came from all over the world including all 50 states and 15 countries, from Australia to Norway, Puerto Rico, France, Ireland, Germany, China, Japan and Italy, and more.
Attendance has doubled in attendance in just five short years!
~Eric Gregory, President of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association
“What a phenomenal success story,” Gregory said. “The growth and impact of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail is advancing Kentucky tourism beyond our wildest dreams. The entire Commonwealth is seeing tremendous benefits from the increased investment and revenue.”
Bourbon tourists, on average, spend $1,000 on their trip, according to an economic impact study conducted by the University of Louisville. More than 85 percent are from outside Kentucky, the study found. They also stay longer and come in larger groups than typical tourists.
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Going for 1,000,000 Visitors in 2016
Gregory predicted the tour will reach 1 million visitors in 2016, particularly if the Kentucky legislature passes much-needed tourism reforms this session. The bipartisan measure has passed the state Senate and is currently awaiting action in the Kentucky House of Representatives.
$1.3 Billion Distillery Building Boom
In addition, KDA member distilleries are in the middle of a $1.3 billion building boom, Gregory said, from innovative new tourism centers to expanded production facilities, all to meet the growing global thirst for Kentucky’s signature spirit.
“The impact is real and significant,” Gregory said. “We get calls every week from local leaders who want a Kentucky Bourbon Trail distillery in their area. They know it means jobs and tax dollars and positive publicity.”
Kentucky Bourbon Trail and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour Visitor Data for 2015
The historic Kentucky Bourbon Trail tour, which showcases nine of the state’s legendary distilleries, set a new milestone with 762,009 visits in 2015, shattering the previous year’s record by 22 percent.
Participating distilleries include (click links for maps and driving directions):
- Bulleit’s Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville
- Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, Louisville
- Wild Turkey in Lawrenceburg
- Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg and Cox’s Creek
- Heaven Hill Distillery in Bardstown
- Jim Beam American Stillhouse in Clermont and Louisville
- Maker’s Mark in Loretto
- Town Branch Distillery in Lexington
- Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour® saw 133,864 visitors among its 10 participating distilleries, a 39 percent increase over the previous year. The KDA created the KBT Craft Tour – the first of its kind in the country – in 2012 to feature the state’s thriving micro distilleries.
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour includes:
- Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co. in Louisville (New to the craft trail.)
- Hartfield & Co. Distillery in Paris (New to the craft trail.)
- Barrel House Distillery in Lexington
- Corsair Distillery in Bowling Green
- Limestone Branch Distillery in Lebanon
- MB Roland Distillery in Pembroke
- New Riff Distilling in Newport
- Old Pogue Distillery in Maysville
- Wilderness Trail in Danville
- Willett Distillery in Bardstown
Kentucky Bourbon Trail Passport Completions Hit 14K
Guests on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail each get a Passport as they tour around the state. Guests can get their Passport stamped as they visit each distillery. The KDA created the souvenir Passport program in 2007 to reward visitors with a complimentary T-shirt once they complete tours of all Kentucky Bourbon Trail® distilleries.
Adam Johnson, who directs both tours for the KDA, said KBT Passport completions held steady in 2015 at 14,226. Since it’s inception, nearly 90,000 people have finished the tour.
“This year is the 10th anniversary of the KBT Passport program and Lexington’s Cricket Press has designed one of our best shirts ever,” Johnson said. “This is a keepsake that you’re not going to want to miss. There’s a very good chance we’ll change the souvenir gift next year.”