Bourbon barrels waiting to be dumped at Jim Beam Distillery | Photo by Steve Coomes

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Kentucky’s iconic Bourbon distilleries filled a whopping 1,886,821 barrels of amber nectar last year, breaking production records all the way back to 1967, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association announced today.

The previous all-time high was 1,922,009 barrels filled in 1967, the KDA reported. Since 1999, when just 455,078 barrels were filled, Kentucky Bourbon production has skyrocketed more than 315 percent.

That gives the Commonwealth a total inventory of 6,657,063 barrels of Bourbon, the most since 1974 when 6,683,654 were resting in Bluegrass warehouses.

“We’re running out of adjectives to describe the growth and success of Kentucky Bourbon,” said KDA President Eric Gregory. “Plus, filling nearly 2 million barrels in one year should remove any doubts about the future of our signature industry.”

Distillers also are paying $17,814,134 in ad valorem barrel taxes this year, another all-time high. Revenue from this tax funds education, public safety, public health and other needs in local communities where barrels are stored.

Amounts include all distilleries in Kentucky compiled from state Department of Revenue data. The KDA represents 28 of the state’s distilleries, from legendary, global brands to emerging micro distillers that are building upon centuries of craftsmanship and tradition.

Other key facts released today:

  • Bourbon isn’t the only spirit aging in barrels. When you include brandy and other whiskies, the state’s total barrel inventory was 7.2 million in 2015, the highest total since 1973.
  • Production in 2014 was 1,306,375 barrels. That means distilleries filled more than 580,000 barrels in 2015 over the previous year (44 percent increase). That’s the biggest difference in year-to-year production since 1967 and triples the previous record.
  • The tax-assessed value of aging barrels this year is $2.4 billion, an increase of $299 million from 2015 and a 135 percent increase over the last 10 years.
  • Kentucky Bourbon is one of the Commonwealth’s most historic and treasured industries, a thriving $3 billion economic engine that generates more than 15,400 jobs with an annual payroll topping $700 million and pours $166 million into state and local coffers each year.
  • The KDA’s world-famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail® and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour® adventures also set an attendance record last year with nearly 900,000 guests touring an all-time high of 19 participating distilleries.
  • KDA member distilleries are in the midst of a $1.3 billion building boom that includes new production facilities, aging warehouses, expanded bottling lines, state-of-the-art tourism centers and more.

“That figure is sure to rise with the passage of Senate Bill 11, our landmark Kentucky Bourbon Tourism Reform measure, and the ongoing phase-in of our Barrel Tax Reinvestment Credit,” Gregory said. “Our distilleries are building for the future, and that future is brighter than ever.”

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Steve Coomes is a restaurant veteran turned award-winning food, spirits and travel writer. In his 25-year career, he has edited and written for multiple national trade and consumer publications including Nation's Restaurant News and Southern Living. He is a feature writer for Edible Louisville & The Bluegrass, Whisky Magazine, WhiskeyWash.com and The Bourbon Review. The author of two books, "Country Ham: A Southern Tradition of Hogs, Salt & Smoke," and the "Home Distiller's Guide to Spirits," he also serves as a ghostwriter for multiple clients.

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