There are 4.7 million barrels of Bourbon aging in Kentucky as you read this. That is a barrel for each of the state’s 4.3 million residents with 400,000 barrels left over for good measure. While I know that your eyes might be getting red just thinking about that much Bourbon, the good news is that the spirits industry here in Kentucky has been booming while much of the rest of the economy has been lagging.
In 1999, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association formed the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® tour to better serve the thousands of Bourbon aficionados who want a firsthand look at the art and science of crafting Bourbon, and to have the opportunity to sample a bit of what the various distilleries have to offer as well. In fact, as Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer put it, Bourbon “isn’t just a drink anymore. It’s a culture, a lifestyle and an essential part of our tourism efforts.” As proof of that, more than 25,000 people have completed all six stops on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® (http://www.kybourbontrail.com/) tour since 2007 and all Kentucky Bourbon distilleries have enjoyed more than 2 million individual visits in the last five years. While many states are creating wine trails, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail is the only one of its kind in the world. The trail tour features six distilleries — Four Roses, Heaven Hill, Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey and Woodford Reserve.
Bourbon got its start back in the 1700’s with the first settlers of Kentucky. Like most farmers and frontiersmen, they found that getting crops to market over narrow trails and steep mountains was a daunting task. They soon learned that converting corn and other grains to whiskey made them easily transportable, prevented the excess grain from simply rotting, and gave them some welcome diversion from the rough life of the frontier. Since then, generations of Kentuckians have continued the heritage and time-honored tradition of making fine Bourbon and people throughout the world have welcomed the “diversion from the rough life” that it use brings them.
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail® has now taken an important step in bringing the Bourbon lifestyle and culture to an even larger audience by hiring its first manager to work with distilleries that are part of the tour. Adam Johnson, formerly the Executive Director of the Danville/Boyle County Convention and Visitors Bureau, has taken on the job of attracting even more visitors to the tour and bringing those additional tourism dollars to Kentucky.