I have said for some time now, the biggest threat to the Kentucky distilling industry is complacency. There are many distilleries in other states making good whiskey. Some states, like Indiana, Tennessee and Pennsylvania are working to grow their whiskey tourism as well. Indiana is working on a rye whiskey trail. Tennessee has a Tennessee Whiskey Trail and Pennsylvania is working on a Whiskey Rebellion Trail. Other States will be following as their distilleries get more organized and the States realize the benefits of distillery tourism. That is why I am very happy to see the Kentucky Distillers Association step up their game with the new passport.
There is an additional cost with the new Kentucky Bourbon Trail passport system. The passport comes with a $6 dollar charge, but all distilleries will have them so this is only a one-time fee. The new passport is larger – 148 pages. It is still small enough to fit into a pocket so that is not a problem. It combines the two trails into one document.
The Craft Distillery Trail is no longer a separate book. The passport is titled “Field Guide” and has more than just pages for the distillery stamps. It includes sections on how Bourbon is made, ways to drink Bourbon (there is no wrong way), a glossary of distilling terms, and flavor notes. There are sections about seasonal attractions and other interesting attractions in Kentucky such as Mammoth Cave and the Kentucky Horse Park.
The real upgrade in this passport is that now, getting your passport stamped at the distillery unlocks a reward. This will allow the visitor who took the trail access to such things as purchasing a special bottle from the distillery or a unique experience offered by the distillery. These experiences can range from special glassware, a cocktail lesson, a behind the scenes tour or some other perk that the distillery wants to offer.
This is a new program and the few distilleries I have contacted have not decided what they will offer yet, but it does give a visitor from out of state a chance to get a bottle that they can’t get anywhere else or some other unique experience or item.
The passport is very complete. There are hints on how to plan a tour. The distilleries are broken down into regions and completing a region will earn a reward. There are charts that show the distance between the distilleries in the region so that travel time can be planned.
Each distillery has two pages in the passport with a brief history of the distillery and a claim to fame. At each craft distillery, the visitor will receive a special coin so they can try to collect a coin from each distillery and with a complete set, they will receive a special barrel stave designed to display the coins. If the person visits every distillery from both trails, then the KDA has a special gift for that person that they say “impresses even the most discerning Bourbon enthusiast”.
This new passport is sure to inspire people to visit every distillery on the trail. The distillery perks and the collection of coins will give tourists an incentive to visit the distilleries, even if they have been there before. It will keep people coming to Kentucky when other States create their own trails. The Kentucky Distillers Association is not getting complacent and working to keep Kentucky in the forefront of distillery tourism. The future of Bourbon tourism is heading the right direction.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller