The Kentucky Bourbon Trail continued to pour it on last year: The trail welcomed 509,292 visitors in 2012, a 15 percent increase over the year before.
Travelers from all 50 states and more than 50 countries came to at least one of the seven distilleries now on the trail, said Adam Johnson, director of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
Three of the distilleries — Four Roses, Jim Beam and Maker's Mark — opened new tourist centers last year, and Wild Turkey broke ground on a visitors center that will open this year.
Also last year, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail launched a line of merchandise, including apparel, glassware and specialty items, sold at the distilleries and online. And the tour for the first time picked up sponsors, including the bourbon-themed Louisville Marriott East hotel and others.
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According to the Kentucky Distillers' Association's "passport" program, which rewards visitors with stamps from the Bourbon Trail distilleries, 18,360 people visited all seven destinations last year, a 56 percent increase from 2011.
A University of Louisville economic study estimated that each person who completes the tour spends $737 on average.
According to the news release, Ohio was the state with the most completed passports; more than 75 percent of the trail visitors stayed in a hotel or bed and breakfast; and 70 percent came to Kentucky just for the trail tour.
"Kentucky is the only place in the world where visitors can enjoy the one, true authentic bourbon experience," Johnson said. "We look forward to welcoming new and returning visitors in 2013, breaking more records and sharing our Kentucky mash appeal."