Bourbon Industry

Bourbon pours more than 15,000 jobs, $8.5 billion into Kentucky economy

Matt Bevin discusses bourbon industry

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin discussed the booming bourbon industry at a Tuesday press conference.
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Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin discussed the booming bourbon industry at a Tuesday press conference.

Kentucky’s bourbon industry is responsible for $8.5 billion in total economic output and between 15,000 and 17,500 jobs, according to a biennial study released Tuesday.

The dollar figure is up $3 billion since 2008 and a $1 billion increase in two years, according to the study conducted by the University of Louisville’s Urban Studies Institute and the Kentucky Distillers’ Association.

About 2,000 distillery-related jobs have been added to the Kentucky workforce in the past two years, the study stated. Total payroll now tops $800 million, compared to $707 million in 2014. The average salary for distillery workers is $95,089.

About 95 percent of the world’s bourbon supply comes from Kentucky, including such brands as Jim Beam, Evan Williams, Wild Turkey, Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve and Four Roses.

As of August, there were 52 distilleries in 27 Kentucky counties. Some 6.7 million barrels of bourbon are maturing in Kentucky, the highest inventory since 1974, the report said, and the industry is in the midst of a $1.2 billion building boom.

“This is not ending anytime soon,” Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin said Tuesday at a press conference about the report. “There were people who didn’t even know what bourbon was five years ago that are making it now in this state.”

Legislation involving bourbon has made its way into the Kentucky legislature recently. Last year, the governor signed into law Senate Bill 11, which allows for distilleries to sell their own product by the drink on site.

However, Bevin said he was upset about the taxation of the bourbon industry and he mentioned that tax reform was coming, but didn’t offer specifics of when or in what form.

“We tax it already like we tax nothing else in this state,” he said.

The distilling industry pays 34.4 cents in taxes per dollar of output, the highest of all 536 manufacturing industries in Kentucky, according to the study.

The industry’s influence is drawing those from outside the state, too. State Senate President Robert Stivers said the bourbon industry is “iconic” in tourism.

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail was created in 1999 to teach visitors about the art and science of bourbon creation. More than 1 million visitors stopped at distilleries along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour last year.

If the bourbon industry continues its projected growth, more than 20,000 people will be employed by the industry by 2020, the study reported. The full study can be found at kybourbon.com

Kentucky bourbon industry facts

▪ Responsible for a $8.5 billion total economic output in Kentucky.

▪ Created between 15,000 and 17,500 jobs.

▪ About 2,000 jobs have been added to the Kentucky workforce in the past two years.

▪ As of August, 52 distilleries are in 27 counties.

▪ The distilling industry pays 34.4 cents in taxes per dollar of output, the highest out of all 536 manufacturing industries in Kentucky.

▪ More than 20,000 people will be employed by the industry by 2020.

Source: The Economic and Fiscal Impacts of the Distilling Industry in Kentucky

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