Bourbon = $$$, and here’s the proof

There’s been a lot of press about “the bourbon boom” over the past few years. Much of it has focused on how many barrels are aging in Kentucky and how many more people are drinking it.

But bourbon production also produces jobs, revenue and tax dollars. The Kentucky Distillers’ Association commissioned a study from the University of Louisville in 2012 that showed that distilling contributes nearly $2 billion in gross state product each year and has more than doubled its importance to Kentucky’s overall economic activity in the last 13 years.

Today, the KDA joined Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and members of the bourbon industry to unveil the results of a new study, conducted by U of L’s Urban Studies Institute, that focuses on bourbon’s impact in Jefferson County, Ky. That impact is considerable. Among the key findings:

  • Bourbon generates 4,200 jobs with $263 million payroll every year in Louisville. In fact, Jefferson County hosts about 37 percent of all the state’s distilling, warehouse, bottling and office jobs in the distilling industry.
  • Louisville distilling generates $31.6 million in tax revenue every year, including property, barrel, payroll, sales and corporate income taxes.
  • Louisville receives about $8.6 million in tax revenue from distilling, with local governments ($4.7 million) and school districts ($3.9 million) the biggest recipients.
  • More than $50 million in capital projects are under way or recently completed in Jefferson County, including many to revitalize the “Whiskey Row” district. Bourbon tourism could eventually bring $2.5 million in spending to Jefferson County.


(Ground-breaking for Angel’s Envy Distillery in downtown Louisville)

Surprised? Well, you may know that Kentucky produces about 95 percent of all the bourbon in the world. But what you might not realize is that much of that production occurs either in Jefferson County or within about 75 miles of downtown Louisville. The city is the headquarters of Brown-Forman Corp., one of the largest spirit producers in the country. In addition, six other companies have distilleries, headquarters or resources in Louisville: Beam Inc., Heaven Hill Distilleries Inc., Diageo Americas Supply, Maker’s Mark Distillery, Michter’s Distillery and Sazerac Co.

Jefferson County is also home to Vendome, the world’s largest maker of distilling equipment; the Brown-Forman and Kelvin cooperages; and the Distilled Spirits Epicenter, the only educational distilling company in the United States.


(Vendome equipment at Distilled Spirits Epicenter)

In addition, Jefferson County plays a big role in distilling operations in nearby Bullitt, Nelson and Franklin counties, which rely on businesses and services provided in Jefferson.

There is a lot more detail in the report and I will revist it more later. But for now, the big takeaway is that Louisville and Jefferson County are the epicenter of the Bourbon Boom, and the growth will only increase in the foreseeable future.

(Top photo: Louisville skyline by Rich Hoyer via Louisville CVB)

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The Bourbon Babe