Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort set a record for tourists last year. Owned by Sazerac, the distillery had 123,331 visitors in 2014, a 26 percent increase over the previous year, according to the company, which is privately held.
Since 2009, visits to Buffalo Trace are up 145 percent, distillery officials announced. The distillery was named 2014 distiller of the year at the International Wine & Spirit Competition.
To cope with increased tourism demand, the distillery is expanding its visitors center by renovating 5,500 square feet above its gift shop, visitors center and tasting room to include an additional tasting area, and meeting and event space. That expansion is expected to be completed in time for the Kentucky Derby.
In April, the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority approved tax incentives for the expansion, projected to be a $2.2 million total investment, according to the state.
Sazerac's Barton 1792 Distillery in Bardstown also saw an increase in visits: Last year, the fourth year the distillery has offered tours, there were 19,836 visitors, up 27 percent from 2013.
Buffalo Trace and Barton aren't part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. In 2013, the latest year for which figures are available, the distilleries on the Bourbon Trail and its affiliated Craft Tour had more than 633,000 visits.
The Bourbon Trail, which is trademarked by the Kentucky Distillers' Association, is expected to report 2014 tourism figures soon.