Report: Bourbon now an $8.5 billion industry in Kentucky

Barrel dump 2

Photo courtesy of KDA

Bourbon continues to pour money into Kentucky’s economy.

The industry increased its economic output by $1 billion just over the past two years, according to a new study released today. That means that Kentucky bourbon now adds $8.5 billion each year to the state’s economy. Bourbon also generates as many as 17,500 good-paying jobs (including 2,000 new ones since 2014), provides $825 million in tax revenue, and is in the middle of a $1.2 billion building boom.

These new findings of a biennial study conducted by the University of Louisville’s Urban Studies Institute in conjunction with the Kentucky Distillers’ Association were unveiled by the governor at a news conference in Frankfort today. The KDA provided me with the full report as well. (You can read it here.)

Among the highlights:

  • Distilling contributes $8.5 billion to Kentucky’s economy, up $3 billion since 2008 and $1 billion in the last two years alone. This includes direct, indirect (spin-off) and induced impacts.
  • As many as 17,500 people owe their paychecks to the spirits industry; either directly, or because their employers are part of the industry supply chain, or due to the household spending of those people. This is up 2,000 jobs from 2014.
  • Payroll for those workers increased to more than $800 million, from $707 million in 2014, with an average salary for distillery workers of $95,089.
  • The number of distilleries in Kentucky has grown to 52 – the most distilleries in Kentucky since the repeal of Prohibition. Most of that growth has occurred in the craft distilling category.
  • New craft distilleries in Kentucky employ 200 people with salaries totaling more than $5.5 million.
  • Distilleries are in the middle of a $1.2 billion building boom.
  • Use of locally grown corn has increased by 65 percent in the last two years, aiding Kentucky’s farm families.
  • More than $190 million in tax revenue for local and state governments is generated by spirits production and consumption, and distillers pay another $625 million in federal excise taxes.

If the industry continues to grow at this rate, the report says, economic output should exceed $10 billion by 2020, with employment at more than 20,000, payroll over $1 billion and state tax revenue of $200 million.

But will the industry continue to grow? I tackle that very topic in my new book, “Barrel Strength Bourbon: The Explosive Growth of America’s Whiskey,” which will be published this spring by Clerisy Press. You can order an advance copy at Amazon.



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The Bourbon Babe