FRANKFORT, Ky. (Sept. 5, 2023) – Today, Gov. Andy Beshear highlighted Kentucky’s signature bourbon industry as the commonwealth celebrates National Bourbon Heritage Month in September.
As a $9 billion industry, bourbon helps fuel Kentucky’s economy. Generating more than 22,500 jobs with an annual payroll topping $1.23 billion, the production and consumption of Kentucky bourbon provides over $268 million in annual tax revenue for state and local governments. In 2022, Kentucky recorded its best year for growth in the bourbon and spirits industry and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail saw record-breaking attendance.
“Kentucky continues to set itself apart with our signature bourbon and spirits industry,” said Gov. Beshear. “The momentum we’ve experienced over the last two years has been incredible, and the demand around the world for Kentucky bourbon keeps growing. With milestones like Heaven Hill filling its 10 millionth barrel and announcements from globally recognized brands and growth-minded startups, our bourbon industry is continuing to grow and thrive. I want to thank everyone, from the companies themselves to the communities they’re calling home, who have made this growth possible. Let’s build on the celebration that is National Bourbon Heritage Month and continue to build our signature industry.”
Kentucky is the birthplace of bourbon, crafting 95% of the world’s supply and housing nearly 12 million barrels, which represents two-and-a-half barrels of bourbon for every person living in the commonwealth, the most ever in the modern era of American whiskey. Currently, the state has distilleries in one-third of Kentucky counties, with that footprint expected to increase in the years ahead.
The Kentucky Distillers’ Association reported the Kentucky Bourbon Trail (KBT) and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour experiences are busier than ever, with total attendance exceeding 2.1 million in 2022 – a new record. There are now 42 Kentucky Bourbon Trail distillery destinations across the state and over 70% of KBT visitors travel from out of state.
Using over 13.5 million bushels of locally grown corn per year, the commonwealth's bourbon industry also depends on Kentucky farmers to plant the seeds for our continued success, as 75% of corn used by KDA distillers in 2020 came from Kentucky farmers.
“From legendary industry icons to newer entrepreneurial establishments, Kentucky bourbon distillers are driving jobs, economic development, tourism and local agriculture to new levels in every part of the commonwealth,” said Eric Gregory, president of Kentucky Distillers’ Association. “This Bourbon Heritage Month, we raise a glass to the thousands of bourbon employees who keep our signature industry going, the communities and leaders that partner with us to make their hometowns stronger, and the only place in the world that is the true authentic home of bourbon: Kentucky.”
Last year alone saw over $2.1 billion in new investments and approximately 700 new jobs created for Kentucky residents, solidifying 2022 as the best year for growth in state history for our bourbon and spirits industry. Last year also saw the sector’s largest investment in state history, welcoming Sazerac’s expansion in Laurel County with a $600 million commitment creating 50 full-time jobs.
Of last year’s announcements, a large portion resides in rural Kentucky, where projects total $1.98 billion in announced investments and 550 new jobs. The commonwealth also saw five new foreign-owned projects contributing to over $730 million in investments and 125 new jobs.
Since the start of the Beshear administration, more than 90 spirits-related announcements have generated roughly $3.5 billion in new investment, creating over 1,600 full-time jobs for Kentuckians. Gov. Beshear also worked with U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to remove harmful bourbon tariffs on trade with the United Kingdom and European Union, ensuring continuing strength in the export market, with $430.9 million in all spirits and $339.3 million in whiskey exports in 2021 alone. And Kentucky isn’t slowing down in 2023.
So far this year, the state’s signature industry has seen approximately $545 million in new investments, with exciting projects happening all over the state.
In June 2022, Heaven Hill broke ground on a $135 million distillery project that will return the company’s distilling operations to Nelson County for the first time since the 1996 fire that resulted in a total loss of the previous distillery, creating 38 full-time jobs for Bardstown residents. And just last month, Gov. Beshear joined local officials and leaders at Heaven Hill to celebrate the filling of the company’s 10 millionth barrel.
Campari Group is another top investor in the Kentucky bourbon industry this year, with an investment of $161 million at the distillery’s Wild Turkey campus in Lawrenceburg, creating more than 30 new full-time positions.
Just last week, Bespoken Spirits relocated its headquarters and manufacturing operations to Greyline Station in Lexington. The $3.2 million relocation will create 16 new high-wage jobs paying an average hourly wage of $70.77 including benefits.
The commonwealth has seen investments in communities looking to grow their footprint in the industry as well.
In July of this year, Pennyroyal Barrel Co. announced an investment of $8.52 million, creating 10 full-time jobs to establish the first bourbon-related project in Adair County.
Henderson Distilling Co. is also among the bourbon industry’s investors this year and is locating in Henderson County with a commitment of $5 million toward a startup distillery project that will create 12 new full-time jobs for Kentuckians.
But Kentucky’s bourbon and spirits industry extends beyond distilling and warehousing. The state sees significant and diverse investment in the ecosystem around bourbon production in the commonwealth, which includes cooperages, bottle makers, packaging and distribution, as well as agriculture and tourism.
Bluegrass Bottling, a Kentucky-based, woman-owned business, in August 2022 announced a $6.25 million investment, creating 27 full-time jobs in the Lancaster area. The company is constructing a new bottling facility and will operate under the name Poor Ridge Distillery. Bluegrass Bottling’s services include blending, proofing, brand development, labeling, private labeling, specialized packaging and designing of spirits brands.
Another company building on the ecosystem surrounding bourbon production is Pegasus Industries in Shelbyville. In March 2022, the company announced the expansion of its headquarters, investing $738,000 and creating 26 new full-time jobs. The project is including new technology, machinery, shipping docks, equipment and systems to help process more orders and assist with specialized packaging and promotional items.
Kentucky Cooperage, a subsidiary of Independent Stave Co., announced an expansion in February 2022 with a $4.1 million investment at its used barrel operation in Marion County. The project will create up to 20 full-time positions and contribute to the wide range of barrel and oak products available to distilleries in Kentucky.
Kentucky’s investment and planned job creation in the bourbon and spirits industry furthers recent economic momentum in the commonwealth.
Last month, Gov. Beshear reported that General Fund receipts for July 2023 totaled $1.1 billion, marking the 11th straight month with revenues over $1 billion. The Governor also recently announced that his administration secured the largest General Fund budget surplus and Rainy Day Fund, as well as the most jobs filled in state history.
The General Fund budget surplus at the end of fiscal year 2023 was more than $1.55 billion. Nearly all of the $1.55 billion surplus will go into the commonwealth’s Rainy Day Fund, bringing the fund to a record balance of $3.7 billion – a 2,700% increase since Gov. Beshear took office in 2019.
Since the beginning of his administration, Gov. Beshear has announced more than 880 private-sector new-location and expansion projects totaling approximately $27 billion in announced investments. This is the highest investment figure for any governor in state history.
This year, the Governor announced that Kentucky set the record for the longest period with the lowest unemployment rates in state history.
The robust job creation has been accompanied by rising wages across the commonwealth. The average incentivized hourly wage in 2022 was $26.78 before benefits, the second-highest mark since 2010 and an 11.5% increase over the previous year.
The Governor also secured the best two-year period in state history for economic growth and announced the two largest economic development projects in state history. In September 2021, Gov. Beshear and leaders from Ford Motor Co. and SK On celebrated a transformative $5.8 billion investment that will create 5,000 jobs in Hardin County. In April 2022, the Governor was joined by leadership at AESC to announce a $2 billion investment that will create 2,000 jobs in Warren County. These announcements solidify Kentucky as the EV battery production capital of the United States.
That position was strengthened even further in May 2023, when the Governor and leaders at Toyota announced a $591 million investment across multiple projects as the company’s largest manufacturing operation in Georgetown introduces its first battery electric vehicle. Growth within the EV sector continued into June as Gov. Beshear joined INFAC North America to break ground on the company’s $53 million investment to support EV-related production in Campbellsville.
Over a two-month period this year, Kentucky secured two credit rating increases from major agencies. On May 12, Gov. Beshear announced that his administration obtained the first state-level credit rating upgrade in 13 years and the first-ever upgrade from Fitch Ratings. On June 29, Gov. Beshear announced the commonwealth received its first-ever rating increase from S&P Global Ratings.
Site Selection magazine recently placed Kentucky first in the South Central region and top-5 nationally in its 2023 Prosperity Cup ranking, which recognizes state-level economic development agencies for their success in landing capital investment projects. The publication also placed Kentucky second nationwide and first in the South Central region for its annual Governor’s Cup ranking for 2022, which recognizes state-level economic success based on capital investments.
Gov. Beshear recently announced a new “Supply Kentucky” initiative with the goal of boosting job growth, reducing costs and providing more security in the supply chains of our Kentucky companies.
Information on Kentucky’s economic development efforts and programs is available at CED.ky.gov. Fans of the Cabinet for Economic Development can also join the discussion at facebook.com/CEDkygov, on Twitter @CEDkygov, Instagram @CEDkygov and LinkedIn.