The Kentucky Bourbon Trail Saw More Than 2 Million Visitors in 2022

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail Saw More Than 2 Million Visitors in 2022

February 6, 2023 –––––– Ted Simmons, , , ,

There’s no denying the power of whisky tourism and travel. Perhaps you’ve visited a distillery while on vacation or even planned a trip around distillery visits. Bourbon specifically brought flocks of fans out in 2022, with the Kentucky Distillers Association (KDA) reporting this week that the Kentucky Bourbon Trail had a total of 2,135,555 visitors, setting a new record for the organization. That is a 38% increase from the 1.7 million visitors in 2019, and a 370% increase over the past 10 years.

Brands have responded to this influx over the years by investing in elevated visitor experiences. Angel’s Envy, which sits on downtown Louisville’s Whiskey Row, completed an $8.2 million expansion in 2022, adding five tasting rooms and doubling its annual guest capacity. General Manager Gigi DaDan says they saw 163,827 guests in 2022, a 16% increase from last year.

“Because we are located right in the heart of downtown Louisville, we often get the opportunity to welcome not only the bourbon tourists, but those who are visiting the city and looking for activities, but may not even know they love bourbon yet,” DaDan said in a statement.Peerless-tour.jpgA guide leads a tour at Kentucky Peerless in Louisville.

Heaven Hill has two stops on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail: the Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience in Bardstown and the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in downtown Louisville. Both destinations offer interactive educational experiences that Jeff Crowe, director of Kentucky visitor experiences says leave visitors with a higher appreciation for the entire whiskey-making process. The Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience, which opened in 2004, saw 127,000 visitors last year, a 37% increase, while the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, which opened in 2013, saw 101,000 visitors, a 33% increase.

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail was created in 1999, and currently has 18 participating distilleries which drew a combined 1,397,268 visitors in 2022. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour launched in 2012, with the 24 distilleries included there totaling 738,287 visitors last year. New Riff Distilling in Newport, Kentucky is among those reporting, with 30,000 visitors in 2022, up 50% from the previous year.

According to research released by the KDA, bourbon tourists are trending younger and visiting in larger groups. They spend between $400 and $1,200 during their stay, with more than 70% of visitors coming from outside of state and nearly half with a household income over $100,000. Bourbon tourism has brought $9 billion and more than 22,500 jobs to the Bluegrass State.

“The huge number of visitors to Kentucky due to bourbon experiences has a major impact on communities in the form of overall spending by those visitors, particularly with hotels, restaurants, and other non-bourbon related attractions,” Hank Phillips, president and CEO of the Kentucky Travel Industry Association said in a statement.

In October 2022, the KDA launched its “Book Now, Bourbon Later” social media campaign encouraging visitors to plan their trip in advance, and as a result of this influx of guests, most distilleries now require reservations. For more information on planning a trip, including a variety of pre-built itineraries, visit the Kentucky Bourbon Trail website.