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More people are beating a path to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. In 2013, mainline distilleries welcomed a record 571,701 visitors — with an additional 61,698 visits to at least one “craft” or small distillery — according to an annual tally released Thursday.
The figures are self-reported by the Kentucky Distillers’ Association‘s eight “heritage,” or major, distilleries and eight craft distilleries. Two Sazerac-owned distilleries, Buffalo Trace and Barton’s, are not KDA members, so actual tourism numbers might be higher.
The number of visits to heritage distillers rose 12 percent over 2012, boosted by the addition of the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in Louisville, which Heaven Hill Distillery opened last fall.
“We’re always thrilled to see double-digit growth among the heritage distilleries, but we’re equally excited to see the fledgling craft tour really take flight,” said Adam Johnson, director of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
Besides Wilderness Trace, the Craft Tour includes Barrel House in Lexington, Corsair in Bowling Green, Limestone Branch in Lebanon, M.B. Roland in Pembroke, Old Pogue in Maysville, Silver Trail in Hardin and Willett in Bardstown.
Visitors to the distilleries came from all 50 states and 50 countries and territories, according the news release.
Created by the KDA in 1999, the Bourbon Trail also includes Four Roses and Wild Turkey in Lawrenceburg, Heaven Hill in Bardstown, Jim Beam in Clermont, Maker’s Mark in Loretto, Town Branch in Lexington, and Woodford Reserve in Versailles. Several of those distilleries are expanding visitor centers to accommodate the increase.
“With new distilleries coming on board, more and more people are experiencing the charm and beauty of our communities, which adds revenue to local coffers and greatly boosts tourism efforts,” Johnson said.
Fueled by the boom in bourbon, distillery tourism has grown every year and has become a major economic driver, according to studies by University of Louisville economists.
(c)2014 the Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, Ky.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.