Brown-Forman's downtown distillery part of plan to propel Old Forester

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The number of Kentucky distilleries has more than tripled in the last decade as demand for bourbon, the state’s signature spirit, has surged, according to a new study commissioned by the Kentucky Distillers Association.

The study, set to be released Wednesday morning, documents substantial growth in jobs, capital investment, taxes and economic impact from the bourbon industry since 2009.

Among its findings:

  • Bourbon producers filled more than 1.7 million barrels in 2018, up from 794,091 a decade ago.
  • There are now 7.5 million barrels of aging bourbon in the state, up 62 percent in a decade and approaching the industry’s 1970s peak of about 8.5 million.
  • Kentucky has 68 distilleries, up from 19 in 2009, “with most of the growth due to the emergence of craft distilleries.”
  • Distillers reported capital spending – such new and expanded plants and barrel warehouses -- of $1.1 billion during last five years. They have another $1.2 billion planned over the next five years.
  • About 5,000 people work in Kentucky’s distilling industry, up 55 percent over the decade. With economic multiplier effects – such as the farmers who grow the grain for the whiskey mash and the restaurants where bourbon employees take their families -- the industry accounts for a little more than 20,000 jobs, or double since 2009.

Retired University of Louisville economist Paul Coomes led the study.

He notes that the data included in the study does not capture the negative impact of whiskey tariffs imposed last summer by the European Union, China and Mexico, which are key export markets for Kentucky bourbon producers. 

Reach reporter Chris Otts at 502-585-0822,, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2019 WDRB News. All rights reserved.

Digital Reporter

Chris Otts reports for about business and economic topics, higher education and local / state government. He joined WDRB News in 2013 after seven years with The Courier-Journal. Got a tip? Chris is at 502-585-0822 and