The Legacy and Economic Impact of Distillation, Wine and Brewing in Kentucky
Distillation, wine and brewing (DWB) have deep historical roots in Kentucky. The first vineyards in the United States were established in Kentucky because of a unique combination of soil, water and climatic conditions. Bourbon was invented in in Kentucky in the 1700’s, and today 95% of the world’s bourbon is still produced in the state. More recently, craft breweries and cideries have rapidly expanded in Kentucky. Together, distillation, winemaking and brewing have a significant economic impact in the Kentucky:
- Bourbon is a $3 billion industry in Kentucky
- The wine industry is growing rapidly in regional sales, jobs and economic impact, with 76 wineries currently located in Kentucky
- Craft breweries and cideries have expanded into Kentucky of the past decade feeding the fastest growing element of the international beer market
- Distillation jobs employ 16,000 Kentuckians with average annual salaries of $91,000
- Bourbon and wine tourism are rapidly growing and bringing thousands of visitors annually to central Kentucky
There is tremendous potential to grow these industries. Specific grapevine cultivars and unique cultural terroir make Kentucky a unique region for wine production. Expansion of boutique craft distilleries and the growth and premiumization of Bourbon brands has enhanced innovation and the regional economic footprint. Regions of Eastern Kentucky have outstanding potential to support long term development of wine and nature (outdoors) based tourism. Opportunities exist for local wheat production, new barley varieties and local apple orchards to support the growth of Kentucky signature products.