One of the questions we get asked more than any other is, “How do I become a master distiller?” And that’s a tricky question. Some are born into it, some just put it on their business cards (even though they don’t know where the steam valve is on their still), and some earn it through dedicating themselves to the craft.
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Kentucky’s iconic Bourbon distilleries filled a whopping 1,886,821 barrels of amber nectar last year, breaking production records all the way back to 1967, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association announced today.
The previous all-time high was 1,922,009 barrels filled in 1967, the KDA reported. Since the turn of the century, Kentucky Bourbon production has skyrocketed more than 315 percent (455,078 barrels were filled in 1999).
That gives the Commonwealth a total inventory of 6,657,063 barrels of Bourbon, the most since 1974 when 6,683,654 new charred oak casks were gently aging in Bluegrass warehouses. There are now 1.5 barrels for every person living in Kentucky (census population 4,425,092).
“This is astounding, phenomenal, mammoth,” said KDA President Eric Gregory. “We’re running out of adjectives to describe the growth and success of Kentucky Bourbon. Plus, filling nearly 2 million barrels in one year should remove any doubts about the future of our signature industry.”
Distillers also are paying $17,814,134 in ad valorem barrel taxes this year, another all-time high. Revenue from this tax funds education, public safety, public health and other needs in local communities where barrels are stored.
Amounts include all distilleries in Kentucky compiled from state Department of Revenue data. The KDA represents 28 of the state’s distilleries, from legendary, global brands to emerging micro distillers that are building upon centuries of craftsmanship and tradition.
Other key facts released today:
Bourbon isn’t the only spirit aging in barrels. When you include brandy and other whiskies, the state’s total barrel inventory was 7.2 million in 2015, the highest total since 1973.
Production in 2014 was 1,306,375 barrels. That means distilleries filled more than 580,000 barrels in 2015 over the previous year (44 percent increase). That’s the biggest difference in year-to-year production since 1967 and triples the previous record.
The tax-assessed value of aging barrels this year is $2.4 billion, an increase of $299 million from 2015 and a 135 percent increase over the last 10 years.
Kentucky Bourbon is one of the Commonwealth’s most historic and treasured industries, a thriving $3 billion economic engine that generates more than 15,400 jobs with an annual payroll topping $700 million and pours $166 million into state and local coffers each year.
The KDA’s world-famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail® and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour® adventures also set an attendance record last year with nearly 900,000 guests touring an all-time high of 19 participating distilleries.
Gregory said these record-breaking statistics are further proof of the impressive economic momentum being created around Kentucky Bourbon. “This truly is the Golden Age of Kentucky Bourbon,” he said.
“We’re fillings more barrels, creating more good-paying jobs, generating more tax revenue and attracting more tourists than ever before. The entire Commonwealth, and especially our local distilling communities, is realizing the benefits of the growing global thirst for Bourbon.”
KDA member distilleries are in the midst of a $1.3 billion building boom, from new production facilities to aging warehouses, expanded bottling lines, state-of-the-art tourism centers and more, he said.
“That figure is sure to rise with the passage of Senate Bill 11, our landmark Kentucky Bourbon Tourism Reform measure, and the ongoing phase-in of our Barrel Tax Reinvestment Credit,” Gregory said. “Our distilleries are building for the future, and that future is brighter than ever.”
However, Gregory said there’s still much work to be done.
“Now more than ever, we need to protect Kentucky Bourbon. Each year we face threats to Bourbon’s growth in the Commonwealth, and we are grateful that our key policymakers recognize the vital role this homegrown industry plays in jobs, state revenue and tourism.
“As more challenges arise each day, these numbers demonstrate the importance of Kentucky Bourbon to the fabric and future of this state. The KDA is honored to be part of Bourbon’s historic resurgence, and we look forward to working with state leaders and tourism officials to ensure Kentucky’s rightful place as the one, true authentic home for America’s native spirit.”
For more information, contact Eric Gregory, KDA President, (502) 875-9351
The KDA is a non-profit trade association founded in 1880 to promote, protect and elevate Kentucky’s signature Bourbon and distilled spirits industry. Heritage members include Beam Suntory (Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark), Brown-Forman Corp. (Old Forester and Woodford Reserve), Diageo North America, Four Roses Distillery, Heaven Hill Brands, Michter’s Distillery and Wild Turkey Distillery. Proof members include Willett Distillery.
Craft members include Alltech’s Town Branch Distillery, Barrel House Distilling Co., Bluegrass Distillers, Boone County Distilling Company, Boundary Oak Distillery, Casey Jones Distillery, Copper & Kings American Brandy Distillery, Corsair Artisan Distillery, Dueling Grounds Distillery, Hartfield & Co. Distillery, Kentucky Artisan Distillery, Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co., Limestone Branch Distillery, MB Roland Distillery, New Riff Distillery, The Old Pogue Distillery, Second Sight Spirits and Wilderness Trail Distillery. The Distilled Spirits Epicenter is the KDA’s official educational distillery.
KENTUCKY BOURBON TRAIL®, KENTUCKY BOURBON TRAIL CRAFT TOUR®, KENTUCKY BOURBON AFFAIR™ and BOURBON TRAIL™ are trademarks/service marks of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. Please drink responsibly.
Call Family Distillers is a legal moonshine distillery in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. The Call family has a rich family history in making liquor, from Reverend Dan Call who taught Jack Daniels how to make whiskey, up to Willie Clay Call, a famous moonshine hauler called “The Uncatchable”. Owner Brian Call and co-founder Brad Call share their story, time spent at Moonshine University, and the future of their legacy.
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