Kentucky Bourbon Trail® Attendance Sees Rapid Rally in 2021

January 27, 2022

For Immediate Release – January 27, 2022

FRANKFORT, Ky. – The world-famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail® and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour® experiences continue their rapid rally from COVID and closures, with total visits up 160% from 2020 and just below the pre-pandemic record set in 2019.

Visitors accounted for more than 1.5 million tours at KBT® and KBT Craft Tour® distilleries last year, compared to a total of only 587,000 stops during the pandemic in 2020, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association announced today. 

That’s off only 13% from the attendance record of 1.7 million set in 2019. 

KDA President Eric Gregory hailed the news as testament to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail’s bucket list destination status and said 2021 would have been another record-setting year if not for reduced tour sizes, limited hours and closures due to COVID and staffing issues. 

Plus, he noted several KBT® destinations were closed or at limited capacity because of major expansion projects. Most notably, James B. Beam Distilling Co. was closed for 10 months while constructing its new $60 million tourism experience in Clermont, which is now open.

“The numbers tell the story: the global demand for the authentic Kentucky Bourbon experience is as high as it’s ever been,” he said. “Our distilleries have moved mountains to provide safe, engaging tourism experiences during a pandemic for guests from all over the world.

“With more Kentucky Bourbon Trail distilleries than ever before, we are looking forward to welcoming a record number of visitors in 2022.”

Meanwhile, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour® charted its best year ever in 2021 with more than 615,000 in total attendance, an increase of 170% from 2020 and 40% higher than its previous record in 2019.

The KBT Craft Tour® also added four new stops for an all-time high of 23 distilleries in the nation’s first-ever adventure to showcase the micro distilling movement: The Bard Distillery in Muhlenberg County; Castle & Key in Woodford County; Copper & Kings in Louisville and Log Still in Nelson County.

In addition, Gregory said the KDA and its 50 members are advocating legislation in the General Assembly to further modernize Bourbon tourism laws, help distillers continue to rebound from COVID and attract repeat visitors to the Commonwealth. 

This includes giving distilleries the opportunity to offer satellite tasting experiences, sell bottles at fairs, festivals and farmer’s markets, and offer bottles that are only available at distillery gift shops – privileges already enjoyed by Kentucky wineries and breweries. 

“The industry’s partnership with the General Assembly is paying huge dividends across the state as the legislature modernizes our archaic alcohol laws and paves the way for distilleries to achieve their Napa Valley potential,” Gregory said, noting that there are now distilleries in 40 of Kentucky’s 120 counties.

The KDA’s Kentucky Bourbon Trail® and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour® experiences are an integral part of local and state tourism efforts with 41 participating distilleries across the Commonwealth. The KDA, a non-profit trade group, founded the world-famous attractions in 1999 and 2012, respectively. 

KBT® attendance grew a phenomenal 315% from 2009 through 2019, with more than 70% of visitors coming from outside Kentucky. Research shows Bourbon tourists trend younger, spend between $400 and $1,200 on their trip, travel in large groups and stay longer than the average visitor to Kentucky. 

Nearly half have household incomes over $100,000, compared to approximately $60,000 for the average Kentucky tourist. 

Founded in 1880, the KDA is the voice for Bourbon and spirits issues. Its diverse membership produces the overwhelming majority of the world’s Bourbon, from legendary, global brands to emerging micro distilleries that are building the next generation of America’s only native spirit.

Bourbon is one of Kentucky’s most treasured industries, a thriving $9 billion economic and tourism engine that generates more than 22,500 jobs with an annual payroll topping $1.2 billion each year, over $285 million in local and state taxes and $1.8 billion in federal alcohol taxes.

A key export, the iconic industry is currently in the middle of a $5.2 billion building boom, from innovative new tourism experiences to expanded production facilities, bottling centers and aging warehouses, all to meet the growing global thirst for Kentucky Bourbon. 

Bourbon production has skyrocketed more than 435% since the turn of the century. 

Kentucky now boasts more than 10.3 million barrels of Bourbon aging in warehouses across the Bluegrass, the most in its revered distilling history. Distillers filled more than 2.4 million barrels in 2020 alone, the third year in a row that production topped the two million mark.

Visit and to learn more.

Gregory encouraged visitors to plan ahead when booking a Kentucky Bourbon Trail® trip this year. Most distilleries require reservations and the KDA strongly encourages masks regardless of vaccination status. Some distillers also have closed a couple days each week to handle COVID-related staffing issues. 

“Kentucky Bourbon Trail distilleries set the bar for world-class experiences and work hard to raise that distinguished status every day,” he said. “We’re proud to welcome everyone to the one, true home for Bourbon so you can see for yourself. The proof is here.”


For more information, contact: KDA President Eric Gregory at [email protected].  

The Kentucky Distillers’ Association is a 501(c)(6) non-profit trade association that passionately unites, promotes, protects and elevates the Commonwealth’s signature Bourbon and distilled spirits industry. The KDA maintains an open membership policy, champions a strong commitment to the responsible and moderate consumption of spirits, and fights to curb underage drinking and drunk driving. 


Please enjoy Bourbon like a true Kentuckian – Responsibly.

Enjoy Like a True Kentuckian: Responsibly