Who We Are
- Kentucky is the birthplace of Bourbon, crafting 95 percent of the world’s supply. Only the Bluegrass State has the perfect natural mix of climate, conditions and pure limestone water necessary for producing the world’s greatest Bourbon.
- Bourbon is America’s only native spirit, as declared by Congress in 1964. It must be made with a minimum of 51 percent corn, aged in charred new oak barrels, stored at no more than 125 proof and bottled no less than 80 proof.
- The KDA, a non-profit trade group founded in 1880, represents 40 member companies for the first time since Prohibition as its ranks have swelled with new distilleries, strengthening Kentucky’s rightful place as the one, true, authentic home for Bourbon and spirits.
Industry & Jobs
- Bourbon is an $8.6 billion signature industry in Kentucky, generating 20,100 jobs with an annual payroll of $1 billion.
- Kentucky holds more than a third of all distilling jobs in the U.S., boasting an average salary of $95,000 – up 23% since 2009.
- For every distilling job, three more are created down the line – only light trucks and utility vehicles have more jobs and a higher multiplier.
- Distilling ranks higher than all but one of the 532 Kentucky industries in the state’s share of national employment and manufacturing output.
- More than $2.3 billion in capital projects has been completed or is planned and underway by 2022, including new distilleries and aging warehouses to bottling facilities and tourism centers.
- The next amber waive of investments will create 1,800 new jobs, $70 million in payroll, and $8.4 million in tax revenue.
- Kentucky’s iconic Bourbon distilleries filled a whopping 2.1 million barrels of Bourbon last year, the highest production year ever and the second straight year with 2 million barrels filled.
- Bourbon production has increased more than 350 percent since the turn of the century with premium small batch and single barrel brands driving the Bourbon renaissance.
- That gives the Commonwealth a total inventory of nearly 10 million barrels of Bourbon and other spirits (9.3 million barrels of Bourbon). That’s a modern era record, and the first time the number of just Bourbon barrels has topped 9 million since the KDA started tracking inventories in 1967.
- With 4.3 million people, there are now almost two barrels for every person living in Kentucky.
- Spirits production and consumption pours more than $235 million in state and local tax coffers every year.
- The 2019 tax-assessed value of all barrels aging in Kentucky is $3.8 billion – an increase of $400 million over the previous year and double the rate since 2010.
- Distillers paid nearly $30 million in state and local barrel taxes alone in 2020 – a new record. Revenue funds local schools, libraries, and public safety.
- Bourbon is revolutionizing Kentucky tourism and pouring much-needed revenue into local communities. Kentucky Bourbon Trail® visitors spend between $400 and $1,200 on average during their trip. More than 70% of visitors are from outside Kentucky.
- Kentucky taxes Bourbon and spirits highest among all 532 manufacturing industries in the state. Nearly 60% of every bottle goes to taxes or fees, with seven different taxes on Bourbon – including an ad valorem tax each and every year on aging barrels. Kentucky’s spirits’ excise and wholesale tax rate is fifth highest in the country. 28% of every dollar goes to taxes – beer pays 13%, wine pays 3%.
- Tennessee – second to Kentucky in whiskey production nationally – taxes spirits at half the rate as Kentucky.
- Kentucky exported over $570 million in Bourbon and other spirits in 2019 – but retaliatory tariffs and never-ending trade wars pose serious threats to global exports going forward. Japan, Spain, Canada and Australia are top export markets for Kentucky Bourbon, while the United Kingdom has slipped due to tariffs.
- Bourbon tourists made a record 1.7 millions stops to Kentucky distilleries in 2019.
- In 2019 the Kentucky Bourbon Trail attracted 1.3 million visits and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour distilleries hosted over 440,000 visits – another personal record.
- Kentucky sourced grains aid family farmers – KDA distillers bought more than 9 million bushels of corn and other grains in 2017 from Kentucky farmers. That’s over half of all distillery corn purchases. (9 bushels of corn + 3 bushels of other grains = 1 barrel of Bourbon)
- Our distillers are committed to growing responsibly. Over the last two years, they have delivered over 9,200 free rides to reduce impaired driving with Lyft and prevented underage access to alcohol by catching more than 1,000 fake IDs at their distilleries with Intellicheck software.
To view our full library of past Economic Impact Studies, see below.