Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, U.S. Representative John Yarmuth and others on Thursday officially opened the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center – the new starting point for bourbon tourism in Kentucky.
The welcome center is on the first floor of The Frazier History Museum in downtown Louisville. It features a map of bourbon distilleries in Kentucky and a concierge to help plan trips. On the third floor are history guides about bourbon and how it’s created, with a digital library and “Bottle Hall” containing every brand of bourbon currently made in the state.
Combined, the exhibit and welcome center cost around $4.5 million, said Frazier History Museum Marketing Director Andy Treinen.
Fischer said although the industry has experienced substantial growth over the years, he believes there’s more room to grow.
“For people that think we’re saturated with investment, I think we’re just getting started,” he said. “The world really doesn’t understand what bourbonism is and where we’re going to be going with this.”
Kentucky’s bourbon industry has flourished, making sales nationwide and becoming a lucrative tourist attraction.
According to a news release from The Frazier History Museum, visitors made more than a million stops at the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour distilleries in 2017.
According to 2017 data from the Frazier, bourbon is a $8.5 million industry creating up to 17,500 jobs. But Kentucky bourbon is in the crosshairs of retaliatory tariffs from the European Union, Mexico and Canada after President Donald Trump imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum from those countries.
The Kentucky Distillers’ Association said EU countries accounted for nearly $200 million of the more than $450 million in total exports of Kentucky bourbon and other distilled spirits in 2017, the Associated Press reported.
At Thursday’s opening, Kentucky Distillers’ Association President Eric Gregory said camaraderie in the bourbon industry has made it successful.
“Those early pioneering legends set our iconic industry on a path that we celebrate here today, a path that values camaraderie, collaboration and friendship over competition,” Gregory said. “Make no mistake, [that unity] is one of the driving forces behind our current success.”
Industry professionals will preview the welcome center and exhibit Friday between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Frazier History Museum officials said the center is now open to the public.
This story has been updated.