Craft Distillers Breaking Into Kentucky’s Billion-Dollar Bourbon Industry

Kentucky bourbon is a billion-dollar business. The spirit generated $4.5 billion in retail sales last year, and business is booming.


  • Ninety-five percent of the world’s spirit is distilled in the state;
  • production is up more than 50 percent in the last 10 years;†
  • distillery visits broke the half-million mark last year;
  • there are more barrels of bourbon aging than there are people and horses combined living in Kentucky.

While the 16 distilleries currently operating in Kentucky are a fraction of those in operation pre-Prohibition,†the number is growing, as is interest among tourists who want to see how and where the bourbon is made.

Craft distilleries are “popping up everywhere,” said Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association.