The famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail® and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour® journeys continued their record-breaking tourism trend last year with 725,000 visits across an all-time high of 18 participating distilleries.
“The monumental growth of our Kentucky Bourbon Trail experiences is proof that they’re the hottest tourism attractions around,” said Eric Gregory, President of the nonprofit Kentucky Distillers’ Association that created the landmark journey in 1999.
“Some of our distilleries are up 200 percent in attendance over the last five years, which is great news for local communities that are reaping the tourism benefits,” he said. “And that best news is that we keep adding more and more distilleries.”
The historic Kentucky Bourbon Trail® tour, which showcases nine of the state’s legendary distilleries, set a new milestone with 627,032 visits in 2014. That shatters last year’s record of 571,701 for a 10 percent increase.
In the last five years, tourism growth has averaged 62 percent with two distilleries – Wild Turkey and Four Roses – up more than 200 percent, Gregory said. “A colossal increase that’s simply amazing,” he said. “We couldn’t be more thrilled.”
The adventure also set a new record with nine participating heritage distilleries when it added Louisville’s historic Stitzel-Weller Distillery and its Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience in September.
The tour also features the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in Louisville; Four Roses and Wild Turkey in Lawrenceburg; Heaven Hill in Bardstown; Jim Beam, Clermont; Maker’s Mark, Loretto; Town Branch, Lexington; and Woodford Reserve in Versailles.
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour® – in just its second full year of existence – saw 96,471 visits among its nine participating distilleries, a 56 percent increase over its first year, said Adam Johnson, Director of the KDA’s Kentucky Bourbon Trail® programs.
All craft distilleries averaged high double-digit growth with three – Corsair in Bowling Green, Silver Trail in Hardin and Wilderness Trail in Danville – increasing between 125 and 225 percent over 2013, Johnson said.
The total for both adventures was 723,503 – the most in the history of the KDA’s Kentucky Bourbon Trail® tour. And, the 18 participating distilleries marks a new high point, Johnson said, with more on the way.
The Craft Tour added New Riff in Newport last year, joining Barrel House, Lexington; Corsair, Bowling Green; Limestone Branch, Lebanon; MB Roland, Pembroke; Old Pogue, Maysville; Silver Trail, Hardin; Wilderness Trail, Danville; and Willett, Bardstown.
“We actually have a waiting list of distilleries that we’re working to add,” Johnson said. “It’s a good problem to have, and it definitely is a benefit to our visitors who have finished the tour but are thirsty for a new round of hands-on, educational experiences.”
The record number of distilleries caused Passport numbers to dip slightly in 2014 to 14,312 completions from 14,915 in 2013, Johnson said. “That’s completely expected and understandable since the quest to finish all tours is longer,” he said.
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. Since then, more than 75,000 people have finished the tour.
The KDA is exploring ideas to enhance the Passport program with an upscale reward and additional incentives now that’s it’s tougher to achieve, Johnson said. “Our Passport holders are a very elite club. They deserve to be rewarded and recognized as such.”
For more information, visit online at www.kybourbontrail.com. The KDA’s website is www.kybourbon.com.
Johnson said each year brings fresh excitement in working with distilleries – old and new, large and small – as they invent more unique, innovative and interactive tours that showcase the art and science of Kentucky’s signature spirit.
“With the exceptional experiences offered by the Kentucky Bourbon Trail tours, it’s the perfect framework to visit the Bluegrass and see what makes our beloved Commonwealth the one, true and authentic home for Bourbon.”
For more information, contact Eric Gregory at (502) 875-9351 or Adam Johnson, (502) 875-9351, mobile (859) 583- 0301
The KDA is a non-profit trade association founded in 1880 to promote and protect Kentucky’s signature Bourbon and distilled spirits industry. Member benefits include media relations, international trade development, private sampling events, technical assistance, economic development support, networking, legal defense, marketing strategies, governmental and regulatory advocacy and innovative tourism experiences through its Kentucky Bourbon Trail® and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour® adventures. The KDA maintains an open membership policy, champions a strong commitment to the responsible and moderate consumption of spirits, and fights to curb underage drinking and drunk driving. For more information about joining the KDA’s distilling family, contact KDA President Eric Gregory at (502) 875-9351. Visit www.kybourbon.com and www.kybourbontrail.com to learn more. KENTUCKY BOURBON TRAIL®, KENTUCKY BOURBON TRAIL CRAFT TOUR®, KENTUCKY BOURBON AFFAIR™ and BOURBON TRAIL™ are trademarks/service marks of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association.