El Dorado News-Times
Kentucky Bourbon Trail attendance reaches record heights
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Bourbon tourism reached new heights last year in Kentucky, where visitors flocked to large and small distilleries as the whiskey-making attractions shook off any pandemic-era hangover.
Attendance at distilleries along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail surpassed 2 million in 2022 for the first time ever, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association announced. Venerable bourbon producers and industry newcomers alike benefited from the surge.
Total visits exceeded 2.1 million last year, easily beating the pre-pandemic record of 1.7 million stops in 2019, the distillers’ group said. In the past decade, the “amber adventure” has had a 370% surge in attendance — a boon to the state known around the world for bourbon production, it said.
“The success of Kentucky’s bourbon industry isn’t slowing down anytime soon,” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said.
The distillers’ association created the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in 1999 to give visitors an intimate, educational look behind the state’s most historic distilleries. Total attendance at its 18 participating distilleries nearly reached 1.4 million last year, the group said.
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour launched in 2012 to showcase smaller distilleries had its best year. Now featuring 24 distilleries, its total attendance last year was 738,287.
Spirit companies have invested huge sums into new or expanded visitor centers to play up the industry’s heritage and allow guests to soak in the sights and smells of bourbon-making.
“This is a home run demographic for local communities, generating valuable revenue and tax dollars while boosting a hospitality industry that’s still recovering from the COVID pandemic,” said Kentucky Distillers’ Association President Eric Gregory.