Bourbon Industry

Seven small distilleries join Kentucky Distillers' Association

Barrels at Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort.
Barrels at Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort. Herald-Leader

If it seems that more small distilleries are popping up nearly every day, the Kentucky Distillers' Association has proof.

The spirits industry lobbying group announced Monday that seven new members will join the ranks of the 134-year-old organization.

The new members are Bluegrass Distillers, Lexington; Boundary Oak Distillery, Elizabethtown; Casey Jones Distillery, Hopkinsville; Dueling Grounds Distillery, Franklin; Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co., Louisville; The Gentleman Distillery, Paris; and Three Boys Farm Distillery, Frankfort.

In August, the KDA conducted its first-ever membership drive, inviting existing and potential Kentucky distillers to join.

Joe Fraser, chairman of the KDA's board of directors and vice president of operations for Heaven Hill Distilleries, planned to present the new members with commemorative barrel heads at a ceremony Monday.

"The most important thing to realize is that all our members are committed to a common goal: to secure the integrity of our industry and to strengthen Kentucky's rightful place as the one, true and authentic home for bourbon," Fraser said in a statement.

The group's 27 members are the most since the 1930s, when distilleries re-emerged after the repeal of Prohibition, KDA president Eric Gregory said. And with more than a dozen distilleries announced or under construction, Gregory said, that number could easily swell to 40 next year.

The KDA represents many, but not all, of the state's distillers. Sazerac, which owns Buffalo Trace and Barton 1792, used to belong to the KDA but left the group in 2010. Some small distilleries also are not members.

The KDA operates the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and its auxiliary craft tour.

"We are entering the golden age of bourbon," Gregory said in the news release. "The growth is staggering, and it's providing a tremendous benefit to Kentucky in terms of jobs, tax revenue and millions in investment."

According to an economic impact study by the University of Louisville released in October, the industry has nearly doubled its work force since 2012 and has tripled the number of distilleries.

Kentucky bourbon is now a $3 billion industry, generating 15,400 jobs with an annual payroll of $707 million, the U of L economists found. Distillers have invested more than $400 million in the past five years, and they expect to spend an additional $630 million in the next five years as the bourbon boom continues.