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Kentucky Bourbon Trail hits 2m visitors

Visitor numbers to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail surpassed two million for the first time last year, a trade body has confirmed.

Woodford Reserve, Kentucky Bourbon Trail
Woodford Reserve is one of the distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail

The trail’s 2,135,555 visits in 2022 beat its previous record of 1.7m in the pre-pandemic year of 2019, an increase of 38%, according to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association (KDA).

Last year’s attendance was 738,287.

The KDA created the Kentucky Bourbon Trail (KBT) in 1999, which now includes 18 participating distilleries.

Over the past decade, the number of visitors to the state’s Bourbon Trail has soared by 370%.

Kentucky governor Andy Beshear said: “It’s incredible to see attendance for the Kentucky Bourbon Trail reach an all-time high in 2022, the same year this signature industry saw record-breaking investments and job growth.”

More than 70% of visitors are from outside of Kentucky, and nearly half have household incomes of more than US$100,000, KDA president Eric Gregory noted.

“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,” Gregory added.

The KDA said Bourbon tourists tend to be younger, spend between US$400 and US$1,200 on their trip, travel in large groups and stay longer than the average visitor to Kentucky.

Bourbon is a US$9 billion ‘economic and tourism powerhouse’, the KDA said, sustaining more than 22,500 jobs with an annual payroll topping US$1.23bn.

The industry also pays more than US$285m in local and state taxes, and US$1.8bn in federal alcohol duty.

The KDA also highlighted that the sector is in the middle of a US$5.2bn building boom as distillers plan new projects and expansions.

Bourbon production has spiked by more than 475% since the turn of the century.

There are more than 11.4 million barrels of Bourbon ageing in warehouses across the state.

Distillers filled more than 2.6m barrels in 2022, the fourth year in a row that production topped the 2m milestone.

Kentucky remains the only place in the world that taxes ageing barrels of spirits, according to the KDA.

Bourbon producers are trying to change the way in which taxes are levied on maturing barrels of spirits.

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