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  • Writer's pictureG. Huddleston

Bourbon Industry Report | August 2013

Updated: Nov 1, 2018

Not a drop of Kentucky's signature distilled beverage was served, but bourbon was definitely the lead item on the agenda at the July 10 meeting of the Agribusiness Industry Network, held at the Kentucky Farm Bureau office in Louisville.

Brittany Dowell with the Kentucky Distillers Association led AIN members through an audio-visual review of the bourbon business, documenting the industry's economic importance to the commonwealth, and pre-eminence among U.S.-produced spirits.

Bourbon distillers are also a growing force in Kentucky's tourism appeal, through their hosting of eight stops on the Kentucky Bourbon trail, as well as seven more destinations where smaller craft distilleries display their wares.

Some 2 million visitors have traveled all or parts of the Bourbon Trail over the past five years, Dowell reported. Distilleries on the trail include Evan Williams in downtown Louisville, Four Roses in Lawrenceburg, Heaven Hill in Bardstown, Jim Beam at Clermont, Makers Mark in Loretto, Town Branch in Lexington, Wild Turkey in Lawrenceburg, and Woodford Reserve near Versailles.

The Evan Williams stop is the only one of the eight that has yet to begin hosting visitors. They are scheduled for a fall opening.

Few Kentuckians know the full story of bourbon's increasing economic impact in the state, Dowell told the group. Production of the beverage increased 50 per cent since 1999, with more than 780,000 barrels going into storage in 2010.

Much of the increase, Dowell noted, came in the premium small batch and single barrel brands. There are currently around 4.7 million barrels of bourbon aging in Kentucky warehouses, easily exceeding the 4.3 million people who comprise the population total for the state.

U.S. distillers are also making a positive contribution to the nation's exports, shipping more than $1 billion per year since 2007. Kentucky bourbon and Tennessee whiskey made up almost 70 per cent of that total.

Despite the contributions from bourbon production to the state's economy, the industry's tax burden in Kentucky is among the highest of any of the states. About 60 per cent of the retail price of each bottle of bourbon goes to taxes and fees, Dowell said.

One particularly onerous tax is the ad valorem charge levied annually on each barrel of bourbon aging in distillers' warehouses. Dowell said the distillers association plans to ask the General Assembly for relief from that expense during the 2014 legislative session.

For additional information on the Bourbon Trail and the member distilleries of the KDA, visit or

Gary Huddleston | AIN Chairman

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