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Kentucky Pandemic Shake Off Bourbon Sightseeing – NBC Chicago

Concerns about the pandemic hangover of Kentucky’s world-famous bourbon industry are rapidly disappearing as tourists flock to distilleries.

The $ 19 million tourist center opened by the Heaven Hill Distillery in the state center of Bourbon just a few days ago is already flooded. Learn about whiskey making and quickly fill up your reservations for tasting its spirits, including the flagship Evan Williams whiskey.

This is also true for many other distilleries in the region, where visitors were temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic last spring. More than a year later, companies are facing overwhelming demand for tours, so one industry insider should call in advance or check the availability of tours online before getting off the freeway. I started to recommend it to people.

Since last summer, some distilleries have begun to allow a limited number of visitors due to virus restrictions. The capacity limit is now lifted and the attraction is preparing for a full revival of many guests from outside Kentucky.

“We saw it coming, but I don’t think we saw it coming so soon,” said Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillery Association.

“We were hot destinations before COVID cooled us a lot, but now we’re back where people want to go out. They want to have fun. “

Gregory predicted that tourism in Bourbon would rapidly return to pre-pandemic levels.

“I think next year will be close to normal, and if this trend continues, I think this year will be a record year,” he said.

According to the association, bourbon is Kentucky’s $ 8.6 billion industry, producing 95% of the world’s supply. Approximately 9.3 million barrels of bourbon are aging in the state last year, with more than two barrels aging for everyone in Kentucky. Bourbon tourism has become a big business, partly due to the growing enthusiasm overseas.

The Spirits company has invested heavily in new or expanded visitor centers to regenerate the heritage of the industry and allow guests to immerse themselves in the sights and smells of bourbon making. Visitors to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail spend an average of $ 400 to $ 1,200 on a single trip, Gregory said. Over 70% of visitors come from outside Kentucky.

To help visitors plan their trip, the organization is promoting a new Bourbon Trail Passport and Field Guide, which is a 150-page guide to the distilleries participating in the cocktail recipes and proposed itineraries.

According to former mayor Dixie Hibbs, in Bardstown, where Heaven Hill opened a tourist center, the return of tourists will significantly increase spending on restaurants, stores and motels.

About 40 miles (64 km) southeast of Louisville, the picturesque town is so intertwined with industry that the scent of locally crafted bourbon drifts downtown.

“Most people will tell you that it smells of money,” Hibbs said.

After years of constant growth, tourism in Bourbon plummeted during a pandemic. According to KDA, visitors took about 587,000 tours at the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour Distillery last year, down 66% from 2019, when stops exceeded 1.7 million. Craft tours have spawned small distilleries throughout Bluegrass, and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail introduces the sector’s largest producers.

Most distilleries have been reopened for tours, according to Gregory, but some do not allow visitors to the “frontline” areas where bourbon is produced. Of the tour, he said.

Some distilleries are not available for tours. This includes industry giant Jim Beam, who is reviewing visitor experiences with plans to reopen in the fall of his flagship distillation business in Clermont, said Emily Bryson York, a spokeswoman for the company. ..

At Maker’s Mark, both the size and number of tours will increase at Loretto’s distillery from mid-July, said Rob Samuels, managing director of the brand.

Maker’s Mark and other distilleries offer product tastings for visitors who are unable to take the tour. If the distillery has a restaurant, you can order cocktails and meals. Then they can walk around the distillery grounds and shop at the gift shop.

According to Gregory, if a large distillery is booked, visitors can often check out a small distillery nearby. Kentucky currently boasts distilleries in 32 of 120 counties, with more than 12 recently announced or under construction distilleries, he said.

Like his predecessor, Governor Andy Beshear has become an event fixture to toast the growth of the bourbon industry. At the opening of the Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience on Monday, Bescher said the visitor center would give people “another great reason to visit Kentucky and experience the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.”

The new tourist center is three times the size of Heaven Hill’s previous Bardstown visitor center and is part of Heaven Hill’s $ 125 million investment, including new barrel warehouses, bottling lines, and equipment upgrades.

Max L, President of Heaven Hill Brands. Shapira summarized that the industry was relieved to see tourists return.

“We are very pleased to welcome fans and visitors back to the country of Bourbon to see, taste and learn the Native Spirit of America in new ways,” he said. It was.

Kentucky Pandemic Shake Off Bourbon Sightseeing – NBC Chicago

Source link Kentucky Pandemic Shake Off Bourbon Sightseeing – NBC Chicago

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