Seven Kentucky artisan distilleries will participate in a new Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour, joining the state's popular Kentucky Bourbon Trail series of tours.
"When you think of Kentucky, you think of bourbon, and this is really going to add to your visitor experience," said Adam Johnson, director of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour was announced Friday morning at the Barrel House Distillery in downtown Lexington.
The other member distillers are Corsair Artisan Distillery, Bowling Green; Limestone Branch Distillery, Lebanon; MB Roland Distillery, Pembroke (Christian County); Old Pogue Distillery, Maysville; Silver Trail Distillery, Hardin (Marshall County); and Willett Distillery, Bardstown.
Each craft distillery contributed water and grains from their secret recipes to create a "new make" — clear, unaged whiskey — for sampling at Friday's news conference.
The small-distillery tours will begin at 10 a.m. Oct. 18. Each distillery will determine its tour hours.
Johnson said more than 13,000 people have completed the Bourbon Trail tour so far in 2012 and have collected stamps for their "passports." That eclipsed the 2011 total of 11,757 completions.
Gov. Steve Beshear praised the bourbon industry for being time-tested and for again expanding at a rapid clip. He said the state has 4.3 million residents, and it has 4.9 million bourbon barrels in the aging process.
The bourbon industry, Beshear said, "gives me a sales tool that is second to none when I am trying to create jobs for Kentucky."
"This is going to really exponentially increase what is going to happen in the commonwealth," he said.
Although Beshear's first attempt at pounding a bung into a sample barrel sent the bung skittering across the floor, the governor's second attempt was successful.
State Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet Secretary Marcheta Sparrow said the new distillery tour is going "to take our signature industry and spread it: It's going to be wonderful for the tourism industry. ... We own bourbon in all its forms."