The Kentucky Bourbon Affair is a one week fantasy camp for bourbon lovers. The whiskey affair is the only event put on each year solely by the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. It’s happened continuously since its inaugural event in 2014 until now.
The Kentucky Distillers’ Association has announced that it has canceled its annual Kentucky Bourbon Affair™ fantasy camp in 2020 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, but plans to resume the event in September 2021.
The prestigious seventh annual event was scheduled for September 21 – 26. Ticket sales were set to open last week for more than 30 rare, one-of-a-kind experiences at 22 participating distilleries, with Louisville as the official host city.
Kentucky Distillers’ Association President Eric Gregory said several factors weighed in the difficult decision, including travel restrictions, consumer costs amid an uncertain economy, the ongoing closure of distilleries and hospitality partners to the public, CDC and social distancing guidelines, and more.
“This is not the call we wanted to make, but it is the responsible and appropriate decision under these circumstances with so much uncertainty on the horizon, especially with medical professionals warning that the situation could be worse in the fall,” Gregory said.
“It would be impossible to execute such elegant, intimate experiences that have made the Kentucky Bourbon Affair a bucket-list adventure for Bourbon fans around the globe without straining distillery resources and putting our guests and industry employees at risk.
“That’s not a chance we’re willing to take.”
The Kentucky Bourbon Affair each year welcomes thousands of Bourbon aficionados, enthusiasts and visitors to the Commonwealth for a week of exclusive experiences, rare tastings and culinary events at the world’s most famous distilleries.
Louisville has been the official host city since the inception. Gregory said KDA leadership consulted with Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Louisville Tourism President & CEO Karen Williams during its decision-making process.
Mayor Fischer said, “Our Kentucky distilleries are making the right decision on postponing this event. As much as Louisville loves sharing Bourbonism with the world, our first priority is the health and safety of our residents and visitors.
“We look forward to the event’s return, when we again will celebrate our growing Kentucky Bourbon Trail experience and the resurgence of Whiskey Row.”
Karen Williams, President and CEO of Louisville Tourism, said, “The KDA has been a great partner in helping put Louisville’s Urban Bourbon Experience on the map by hosting their most prestigious event in Bourbon City since 2014.
“We support this difficult decision for this year’s Kentucky Bourbon Affair and commit to working with the distilleries to host an even larger event in 2021, including some exciting additions that we hope to share in the near future.
“I can say now that Mayor Fischer has called Louisville the “Bourbon Epicenter” and next September, it certainly will be impossible to deny that.”
The Kentucky Bourbon Affair was set to partner this year with world-class music promoter Danny Wimmer Presents to coincide with DWP’s Bourbon & Beyond music festival, which today also announced its cancellation for 2020.
“We were very much looking forward to aligning ourselves with the renowned Kentucky Bourbon Affair,” said Danny Hayes, CEO of DWP. “A major part of Bourbon & Beyond’s success is our affiliation with the Kentucky Distillers’ Association.
“While we aren’t able to deliver our vision in 2020, we look forward to the future and our partnership with KDA and KBA.”
Kentucky Distillers’ Association Chairwoman Jessica Pendergrass said distillery representatives and the Board’s Executive Committee spent weeks assessing options and different scenarios in which the events could continue this year.
In the end, she said, it was clearly evident that circumstances require the industry to focus on its essential core business and the emergency at hand, including the production of hand sanitizer for hospitals and first responders and other charitable endeavors.
“We love showcasing our signature industry each year for the Kentucky Bourbon Affair guests,” Pendergrass said. “And this would have been a banner year with the addition of our signature partnership with Bourbon & Beyond.
“But in the midst of this global crisis, the KDA and its members’ priorities are the health and safety of their employees and the well-being and rebuilding of their communities. It is the right decision to postpone this year’s Kentucky Bourbon Affair.”
KDA Director of Events Mary Gratzer said the association is exploring avenues for an online toast and celebration in the coming months, especially among repeat guests and sponsors that have formed an exceptional bond over the last six years.
“Our partners, sponsors and guests make the Kentucky Bourbon Affair remarkable in every way, and we can’t thank them enough for their incredible support each and every year,” said Gratzer. “Their passion and energy truly elevate this annual Bourbon pilgrimage.
“As disappointed as we all are, we know that this is the right course of action at this time. On the bright side, we now have even more time to plan for the Kentucky Bourbon Affair’s return in 2021, and it promises to be one for the ages.”
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