February 6, 2024

Commonwealth’s Bourbon Economy Thriving In Latest Report

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Spurred by a decade of legislative changes to Kentucky’s archaic alcohol laws, the Commonwealth’s signature Bourbon industry now provides more jobs, generates more payroll, pays more taxes, attracts more tourists and features more distilleries than ever before, according to the newly published Bourbon Economic Impact Report.

The record-breaking statistics were released today by Gov. Andy Beshear, Senate President Robert Stivers, House Speaker David Osborne, Agriculture Commissioner Jonathan Shell and leaders of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association trade group.

“Kentucky’s economy is booming, and the Bourbon industry is helping us build a strong economy for generations to come,” said Gov. Andy Beshear. “Today, this signature industry is generating $9 billion in total economic impact, with more on the way. We thank our distilleries for working hard to create more good jobs and boosting our tourism industry across the Commonwealth.”

“Kentucky’s Bourbon economy is stronger than ever thanks to the dedication of our elected officials to update archaic alcohol laws that were forcing distillers to look elsewhere and the men and women who work in the industry every day,” said Eric Gregory, President of KDA. “With modern alcohol laws now in place, the signature industry continues to help build a stronger Kentucky.”

The report used data from 100 distilleries in 42 counties and found that the industry continues to grow local communities with jobs, tax revenue, agriculture, tourism and out-of-state spending.

“Traditionally, Bourbon is known as a manufacturing powerhouse, but its influence really extends beyond production, as we continue to foster and grow partnerships with our local communities,” said Jessica Pendergrass, 2024 KDA Chair and General Counsel/Chief Compliance Officer at Heaven Hill.

“While the Bourbon report includes a deep analysis of industry metrics, forecasts, and of course, accolades from enthusiasts, our KDA members, deeply rooted in the Commonwealth, are proud to share the compelling story of how “Bourbon Builds Kentucky.”

The newest report found that distillers are making significant impacts in agriculture and tourism industries since the original 2009 report was published.

When it comes to the Bourbon economy taxes, the report found that Kentuckians are receiving $358 million in state and local taxes every year from distillers.

And, even though it remains the highest taxed large manufacturing industry in KY at $.17 per dollar, no other industry in the state has higher shares of national employment (27%), labor compensation (26%) and output than distilling. Kentucky distillers shipped more than $500 million in exports in 2022, almost all of which was Bourbon.

“Not only is Bourbon building Kentucky communities, but it’s also elevating Kentucky’s stature internationally as exports grow and distillers across the globe look to Kentucky for how to do it right,” added Pendergrass.

The full study completed by Dr. Paul Coomes can be found here and a topline summary can be found here. The industry’s recap of recent legislative changes can be found here.


For more information or to schedule a Zoom interview, contact Kaylee Price, [email protected].

The KDA is a non-profit trade association founded in 1880 to promote, protect and elevate Kentucky’s signature Bourbon and distilled spirits industry. Visit www.kybourbon.com and www.kybourbontrail.com to learn more.

KENTUCKY BOURBON TRAIL®, BOURBON TRAIL™, KENTUCKY BOURBON TRAIL CRAFT TOUR®, KENTUCKY BOURBON AFFAIR™, KBT™, ORDER OF THE WRIT®, KENTUCKY DISTILLERS’ ASSOCIATION®, and KENTUCKY BOURBON TRAIL OFFICIAL SPONSOR® and associated designs and logos are trademarks/service marks of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. Please enjoy responsibly.

2023 Bourbon Economy Report Quotes

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear:

“Kentucky’s economy is booming, and the Bourbon industry is helping us build a strong economy for generations to come,” said Gov. Andy Beshear. “Today, this signature industry is generating $9 billion in total economic impact, with more on the way. We thank our distilleries for working hard to create more good jobs and boosting our tourism industry across the Commonwealth.”

Senate President Robert Stivers:

“The Bourbon industry combines Kentucky’s rich farming history with the allure of unique distillery experiences, which fosters growth in both agriculture and tourism. Every bottle sold, every glass poured truly represents the passion of so many Kentuckians who work to preserve traditions while shaping our economic future.”

Speaker of the House David Osborne:

“Kentucky’s Bourbon industry has grown exponentially as a result of the industry’s commitment to investing in the commonwealth and its people. I appreciate the working relationship we have with the industry and look forward to identify future trends and ensure Kentucky Bourbon remains the iconic drink of choice. It’s also important to note that the news we celebrate today – the growth in jobs, revenue, and pride in our commonwealth – can be and is being replicated in other industries and other areas of the commonwealth through good public policy.”

Commissioner of Agriculture Jonathan Shell:

“Kentucky agriculture and farmers have seen the impact of the Bourbon industry boom firsthand,” said Commissioner Shell. “Kentucky farmers sold nearly 19 million bushels of corn and 2.6 million bushels of other grains to Kentucky distillers last year. The economic effects on our industry are building a stronger agricultural community for years to come.”

Kentucky Economic Development Secretary Jeff Noel:

“Kentucky continues to experience incredible economic growth. Industries like Bourbon and spirits are creating a ripple effect with direct jobs and prosperity throughout the commonwealth. This industry alone is responsible for more than $9 billion in economic impact, and communities across Kentucky reap the benefits. At Team Kentucky, we are focused on creating quality job opportunities for all Kentuckians, not just a few, and that is exactly what this incredible Bourbon growth is helping us achieve.”

Secretary of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet Lindy Casebier:

“Last year alone, Kentucky Bourbon delivered a record setting 2.5 million experiences on the world famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail®. Over the next five years, they plan to invest nearly $200 million more into high-end Bourbon tourism facilities. It’s amazing news for all the communities and jobs that Bourbon is helping build. Whether you live in Kentucky, across the country, or across the ocean, we encourage you to come see what Kentucky Bourbon is made of.”

Republican Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer:

“Kentucky Bourbon is a signature industry that drives our state’s economy year after year. Every state would love to have what we have, and that’s why the General Assembly’s ongoing work to update the state’s archaic alcohol laws has been so important. During my time in office, I’ve prioritized smart government – primarily focusing on removing artificial barriers to free enterprise. There’s no better picture of what that means than the Bourbon industry – with government out of the way, the industry is investing and growing, right here in the Commonwealth.”

Shelby County Judge-Executive Dan Ison:

“Bourbon is the epitome of the Shelby County balance that we’ve been pushing. My approach has always been to attract businesses that benefit agriculture and the entire community.  With Bourbon, it’s a triple- win: tourism, business, and agriculture. Shelby County is quickly becoming known as a Bourbon destination. Bourbon and Shelby County – we’ve got a good thing going.”

Attorney General Russell Coleman:

“The Spirit of Kentucky and the heritage of our people can be found in every glass of Bourbon. Our signature spirit’s economic impact goes beyond the distillery doors. It pours into communities, creating good jobs, supporting farm families and lifting up so many Kentucky small businesses. It’s a privilege to celebrate with all the men and women of Kentucky Bourbon who carry on this proud tradition.”

Auditor Allison Ball:

“These numbers are a testament to the collective effort of so many Kentuckians.  The history of the Commonwealth is a story of resilience and progress, and the Bourbon industry continues to help write that story.”

Treasurer Mark Metcalf:
“I appreciate the Kentucky Distillers Association highlighting the prosperity and jobs this signature industry brings to our Commonwealth. Bourbon may be a drink savored around the world, but to Kentuckians it is an economic legacy.”

Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Ashli Watts:

“Kentucky’s signature industries define our state and will move us forward in this competitive global economy. With a $9 billion economic impact, Bourbon is building a stronger Kentucky one community at a time. That’s why the Kentucky Chamber is thankful to work with the General Assembly and other key groups on new laws to keep Kentucky competitive and ensure our Bourbon industry continues to grow right here in the Commonwealth.”

Kentucky Manufacturers Association President & CEO Frank Jemley:

“Kentucky’s Bourbon industry has been a key part of Kentucky’s manufacturing excellence for seemingly as long as there’s been a Kentucky. Now, with outdated government laws out of the way, this signature industry that’s so much a part of how the world sees Kentucky is making capital investments to the tune of billions of dollars. I can’t wait to see how they deliver for decades to come.”

Kentucky Tourism Industry Association President & CEO Hank Phillips:

“The Kentucky Bourbon Trail has made massive contributions to the two essential features of tourism – providing visitors with experiences resulting in long lasting memories and generating important economic benefits for the communities they visit. Bourbon has become more than an attraction in its own right. It is a Kentucky calling card, attracting many visitors to Kentucky’s broader array of exciting tourism opportunities. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail deserves enormous credit for that.”

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