Evan Williams Bourbon Experience marks six-months since opening
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- There are now 175,000 jobs in Kentucky's hospitality industry according to the stat -- and that number continues to grow.
One sign of an expanding tourism industry is the newest attraction in downtown Louisville, part of the bourbon industry.
It's been six months since the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience opened near the corner of Sixth and Main Streets in a historic building across from the Kentucky Center. To mark the first six months, Heaven Hill Chief Operating Officer Allan Latt sealed a barrel of bourbon inside the small still where visitors can see how the beverage is made.
"It is a working still here at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience," said Latt.
Heaven Hill spent $11 million renovating the building to turn it into the only official stop of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in Louisville. Twenty-five thousand visitors have come through the attraction since it opened in November.
The family-owned Heaven Hill is pleased with that number, considering the harsh winter.
"It seemed like just about every weekend we had snow and freezing temperatures," said Latt. "Now that spring is here, the people are coming in big numbers, the Derby was an amazing weekend for us."
On Derby Eve and Sunday, all of the tours were sold out.
Sometimes the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience attracts those with a very special interest in bourbon.
"We have a lot of great bartenders come to see us to learn about our methods, our distilling process, and understand what it takes to make good bourbon," said Heaven Hill spokesman Josh Hafer.
The six-month anniversary comes at a time when Kentucky tourism is on the rise.
"Last year in 2013, tourism contributed more than $12.5 billion to the state's economy," said the secretary of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet, Bob Stewart.
That is up more than two percent from the previous year.
And with the opening of Kentucky Kingdom in less than a month, and the PGA Championship in August, the cabinet believes those numbers will continue to grow.