LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 12, 2012) — With the pop of a bung into a commemorative barrel today, Gov. Steve Beshear, the Kentucky Distillers Association (KDA) and representatives from seven craft distilleries announced the launch of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour, a new tourism adventure that links the state’s micro-distilleries.
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The announcement was made at Barrel House Distillery in Lexington, one of the seven craft distillers on the tour and part of Lexington’s new Distillery District.
The tour is designed to complement the Kentucky Bourbon Trail experience, which has become of the state’s most popular attractions. With three busy months left in the year, more people already have completed the famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail adventure than ever before.A record 13,173 people have toured all six participating distilleries through Sept. 30 and collected stamps for their Passports. That far surpasses last year’s total of 11,757 completions.
“Bourbon tourism is one of the state’s biggest draws right now and our craft distillers are a growing part of this signature industry,” said Beshear, who added that no matter where he goes, everyone asks about Kentucky bourbon.
The tour connects artisan distilleries from across the state, from Marshall County in western Kentucky to Mason County in the northeast portion of Kentucky.
[pullquote_left]Signature industry: Kentucky produces and ages perhaps 95 percent of all the bourbon in the world. Nearly all of the products are shipped to customers outside of Kentucky. Distilling companies here ship about $2.5 billion in products annually, and account for around 35 percent of the value of all distilled spirits produced in the U.S. Kentucky bourbon is exported to 126 countries, with 28.7 million gallons shipped in 2010.[/pullquote_left]
In addition Barrel House, the craft distilleries on the tour include: Corsair Artisan Distillery in Bowling Green, Limestone Branch Distillery in Lebanon, MB Roland Distillery in Pembroke, Old Pogue Distillery in Maysville, Silver Trail Distillery in Hardin and Willett Distillery in Bardstown.
To celebrate the announcement, each of the distillers provided water and grains from their secret recipes to produce a “new make” whiskey — often called “white dog” — to be used to toast the tour. The special spirit was “married” Thursday at Barrel House with craft Master Distillers present, said Paul Tomaszewski, founder and Master Distiller at MB Roland.
“Being a member of Kentucky’s distilling brotherhood is such a rich and fulfilling vocation,” said Tomaszewski, chairman of the Kentucky Distillers Association’s Craft Advisory Group. “The KDA and its members have been welcoming and instrumental in growing tourism opportunities for distilleries both large and small.”
The KDA will coordinate the tour, which officially launches Oct. 18 with the “Bung Heard ’Round the World” event. Each distillery will have a press conference with local dignitaries and pound a bung into a barrel at 10 a.m. to signify that the tour is open for business.
Kentucky is the first and only state with an expedition specifically designed to showcase its flourishing craft distilling industry.
The camaraderie between historic and boutique distilleries played a key role in forging the new attraction, said KDA president Eric Gregory.
“For 200 years, one of the distinctive hallmarks of our industry has been the fellowship between distilleries, now matter how big or small,” he said. “We’re proud that tradition continues today and will ensure that Kentucky remains the one, true authentic home for Bourbon.”
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail began in 1999 to offer visitors a first-hand, educational experience into the art and science of crafting the world’s greatest Bourbon. It was garnered international media attention and poured millions of dollars into local economies. Participating distilleries – Four Roses and Wild Turkey in Lawrenceburg; Heaven Hill in Bardstown; Jim Beam in Clermont; Maker’s Mark in Loretto; Town Branch in Lexington; and Woodford Reserve in Versailles — have logged more than 2 million visits in the past five years with guests from all 50 states and more than 50 countries.
Adam Johnson, director of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail tour, predicted that the craft edition will enjoy the same kind of success.
“We’re already getting calls from people who finished the Kentucky Bourbon Trail experience and want more,” he said.
Like the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail experience, the craft tour also will have a Passport program to reward people who visit and collect stamps from all seven distilleries.
Tour information for each craft distillery will be available on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail website, www.kybourbontrail.com and on new versions of the brochure.