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Kentucky Bourbon Trail tourism up double digits to nearly 900,000

The 2016 shirt for those who complete the Kentucky Bourbon Trail’s Passport program by visiting all the distilleries and attractions on the trail.
The 2016 shirt for those who complete the Kentucky Bourbon Trail’s Passport program by visiting all the distilleries and attractions on the trail. Photo provided

Last year there were a record 900,000 visits to the distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour, according to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, which said that visits have doubled in five years.

The Bourbon Trail includes distillers Town Branch, Woodford Reserve, Four Roses, Wild Turkey, Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Bulleit and Heaven Hill/Evan Williams, several of which have visitor experiences in more than one city and more under construction.

Including visits to all of the attractions, there were 762,009 visits, a 22 percent increase over 2014, the KDA said in a news release.

The craft tour now has 10 participating distilleries throughout the state, which saw 133,864 visits, a 39 percent increase over 2014.

More than 14,000 visitors went to all the distilleries on the trail, according to the KDA’s Passport program. Those who get a stamp at all the distilleries can get a T-shirt; this will be the 10th year of the Passport program.

KDA president Eric Gregory estimated that overall visitors to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail distilleries will top 1 million in 2016.

The KDA is lobbying the General Assembly for measures they say will allow them to boost tourism even more, including the ability to serve more samples, sell liquor by the drink, and sell additional souvenir bottles at distilleries. The state Senate has passed a bill, which awaits action in the state House.

Earlier this month, Buffalo Trace, which is not part of the KDA or its Bourbon Trail, reported almost 146,000 visits to its distilleries in 2015, so collectively, visits to Kentucky distilleries have already topped the 1 million mark.

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