Here's How Many Bourbon Distilleries Are In Kentucky

If you're tuned into the bourbon world even a little bit, you're probably familiar with the bourbon boom that has swept the country in recent years. The massive growth the industry has enjoyed can be difficult to wrap your head around if you're a layman. Maybe you've noticed a few new bottles popping up at your local liquor store? But to really appreciate just how successful bourbon is right now, there's no better indicator than the meteoric rise in the number of bourbon distilleries operating out of Kentucky.

Back in 2008, Kentucky was home to a humble 19 distilleries, all owned and operated by 10 companies. In 2023, 15 years later, there were 100 bourbon distilleries in Kentucky owned by 84 companies with several more facilities set to fire up their stills in the coming months. That's an increase of more than 500% in about as much time as it takes for a top-shelf whiskey to finish barrel aging. Bourbon doesn't always have to be made in Kentucky but there's a long history of bourbon production in the state that looks set to continue.

We're not going to list all 100 distilleries here but the range is about as varied as you can imagine. There's everything from small craft bourbon producers focused on niche projects, all the way up to massive global enterprises providing the bulk of the material that keeps this billion dollar industry running smoothly.

Kentucky remains the king of bourbon

Kentucky's total share of bourbon production has been shrinking over the years, though the state remains the undisputed leader of the bourbon world. Some of the most popular whiskeys come from Kentucky, after all, including big hitters Jim Beam and Wild Turkey. The new popularity of bourbon is exactly the reason Kentucky accounts for a smaller percentage of distilleries as more crop up across the country.

There's an often quoted statistic claiming that 95% of the world's bourbon is produced in Kentucky, which is even more astounding when you consider how much bourbon has grown around the country. The Kentucky Distillers' Association estimated that Kentucky distilleries only accounted for 6% of the nation's distilleries as of 2022. But while the majority of these are small distilleries with a minor output, the volume of bourbon produced in the state is high partly because global best-sellers are produced here and also because some bourbons distilled in other parts of the U.S. are bottled and processed in Kentucky.

The growth in distillery numbers has solidified bourbon's importance in Kentucky's economy. Although making and selling bourbon is the primary focus of distilleries, tourism isn't far behind. Post-pandemic bourbon tourism in Kentucky has skyrocketed, despite how long it takes to do the entire Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Bourbon distilleries' ability to pull in out-of-state tourists has secondary benefits for the hospitality and service industries as well. All this is to say just how important the bourbon boom has been for the Midwestern state whose manufacturing industry has experienced a steady decline.