Bourbon, Events, Things to Do

September Marks the Beginning of National Bourbon Heritage Month

national bourbon heritage month

It should come to no surprise that I talk about bourbon a lot here on my blog and on my instagram. Here, in Kentucky, bourbon is a huge deal. After all, we are responsible for 95% of the world’s bourbon. Yes, I said IN THE WORLD. Kentucky is the only state that has the perfect natural mix of climate, conditions and pure limestone water necessary for producing the world’s greatest bourbon.

Well, the first of September marks an exciting time! September is Bourbon Heritage Month. And no, it’s NOT one of those social media driven, fake holidays, it’s real. It even had the governor’s signature to be declared Bourbon Heritage Month in the Commonwealth. National Bourbon Heritage Month is a celebration of America’s Native Spirit. On August 2, 2007, the U.S. Senate declared September 2007 as National Bourbon Heritage Month. The bill was sponsored by Republican Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky and was passed by unanimous consent. The resolution calls for people who enjoy bourbon to do so, but responsibly and in moderation. The bill also reinforces the 1964 Act of Congress that declared bourbon as “America’s Native Spirit” (and that means that bourbon can be made anywhere in the United States, but everyone knows that really means Kentucky. It’s just like that saying, ‘If it ain’t Kentucky, it ain’t bourbon’) by celebrating family heritage, tradition, and deep-rooted legacy that the bourbon industry contributes to the United States.


Here are some important facts about bourbon and the financial impact it has on the economy, as well as what it has done for creating jobs and increasing tourism:

  • Bourbon is a thriving $3 billion economic engine that generates more than 15,400 jobs with an annual payroll topping $700 million and $166 million in tax revenue every year.
  • The distilled spirits industry is in the middle of a $1.3 billion building boom, creating new good-paying jobs and spurring economic growth with the Commonwealth’s second-highest job multiplier carrying an average salary of more than $91,000.
  • Bourbon production has skyrocketed more than 315 percent in the last 16 years, with 1.8 million barrels filled in 2015, the largest production year since 1974.
  • There are 6.7 million barrels of Bourbon currently aging in Kentucky warehouses, the highest inventory in 40 years with a tax-assessed value of $2.4 billion, up 135 percent in the last 10 years.
  • A record 762,009 visitors from all around the world poured into the Bluegrass last year to visit the nine distilleries that comprise the famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail tour.
  • The nine Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour members recorded 134,000 visits in their second full year of existence, foretelling a bright and spirited future for this next generation of craftsmanship (this is different from the actual Kentucky Bourbon Trail).
  • Bourbon has also opened up many doors for women. Bourbon distilleries hired women back in the late 1800s to bottle their products. Not many industries back in that day and age even hired women. Today, women run most of the bourbon parent companies.
  • You’re also supporting American farmers. Bourbon is required to be made of at least 51% fermented corn mash.
  • Bourbon also helps put roofs on schools.


Every year in September, the city of Bardstown, Kentucky, which is the Bourbon Capital of the World, hosts the Kentucky Bourbon Festival and has done so ever since 1991. This festival is dedicated to celebrating the history and the art of distilling bourbon (Bardstown is about an hour away from Lexington). This is also the first year that tourists on the famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail experiences can celebrate Bourbon Heritage Month with a cocktail at distilleries, thanks to the passage of alcohol tourism reforms in Senate Bill 11.

“The people of Bardstown have been making Bourbon since 1776,” says Jerry Summers, Festival Chairperson and Director of Community Relations of Beam. “And today, sixty-nine percent of the world’s Bourbon is made in and around the Nelson County area, including the adjacent counties of Bulleitt and Marion, that’s why Bardstown is indeed the Bourbon Capital of the World.”

Crazy, right? 69 percent of the world’s bourbon is made just right in and around the Nelson County area. And the other 26 percent is still made right in Kentucky, which brings the whopping total to 95% of the world’s bourbon being made here in the Bluegrass State.

The Kentucky Bourbon Festival is a six-day festival that has bourbon, delicious food, great entertainment, and that Kentucky hospitality. There’s something for everyone, including a black tie gala to historical tours. It’s also something that any ages and even families can enjoy. Last year’s attendance was around 53,000 and that represented 44 states, 14 countries, as well as the District of Columbia.

“Kentucky is the only place in the world where visitors can walk in the footsteps of Bourbon legends and learn the proud history of our distinct and time-honored craft.”


You want to know something zany? Buffalo Trace (who also makes Blanton’s, Eagle Rare, and Van Winkle, and others), say that if they stopped making bourbon right now, they’d have enough bourbon for the next 20 years!

If you live here in Kentucky and do a lot of tours or talk to other fellow bourbon drinkers, you may here people mention “a barrel and a half.” They are referring to the fact that there are more barrels aging in rickhouses than there are people in the entire state. In 2014, there were 5.6 million barrels aging in rickhouses, and there were only 4.4 million people living in the Commonwealth, so theoretically every single person in Kentucky could have 1.5 barrels of their own!!



Planning a trip, but you are going to miss the festival?

Visit the distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail:

  • Four Roses Bourbon (Lawrenceburg)
  • Heaven Hill (Bardstown)
  • Jim Beam (Clermont)
  • Maker’s Mark (Loretto)
  • Town Branch Bourbon (Lexington)
  • Bulleit Frontier (Louisville)
  • Wild Turkey (Lawrenceburg)
  • Woodford Reserve (Versailles)
  • Evan Williams (Louisville)

Visit the distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour:

  • Barrel House Distilling Co (Lexington)
  • Corsair Artisan Distillery (Bowling Green)
  • Hartfield & Co. (Paris)
  • Kentucky Artisan Distilery (Crestwood)
  • Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co. (Louisville)
  • Limestone Branch Distillery (Lebanon)
  • MB Roland Distillery (Pembroke)
  • New Riff Distillery (Newport)
  • Old Pogue Distillery (Maysville)
  • Wilderness Trail Distillery (Danville)
  • Willett Distillery (Bardstown)


You can also check out the distilleries that I have previously blogged about (Woodford Reserve, Wild Turkey, and Town Branch are ones I’ve visited, but haven’t blogged about).

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  • It’s interesting to see that Bourbon production has increased over the years. I guess that means the taste has also been improving.

    • The taste kind of stays the same. I mean, it can be slightly different and whatnot. But they have their different mash builds they use to keep their product consistent. Production has increased, but the way they made it way back in the day is still the same 🙂

  • Amanda

    Wow, I never knew any of these facts. I never even knew that Kentucky was responsible for the entire worlds bourbon! That is super crazy that there is enough bourbon already in existence to last 20 years!

    • Yep! There’s a good chance that if you are drinking bourbon that it was made right here in the Bluegrass State! And that’s only one brand that has enough for the next 20 years. That’s not even counting all the others. I only could imagine, if they were total all of them together how many years that would equal. It would be so many haha!

  • I can’t say that I have ever had bourbon. This is really interesting! I love to hear about states and their claim to fame.

    • This is just one of them! We also are known for horse racing (I live in the Horse Capital of the World), basketball, fried chicken, beer cheese, and more 🙂

  • Karen Yannacio Morse

    Wow – I feel so educated now about bourbon! And love how they were one of the first to hire women! So cool!

  • Sona Sethi

    Wow! Had bourbon so many times but never knew where it comes from. Indeed very interesting. 🙂

  • jillconyers

    Kentucky is proud of their bourbon. I’ve never tried bourbon but the people that I know who drink it, love it.

  • My husband is a huge fan of bourbon and loves to try all kinds. I know he would love to visit Kentucky and try some bourbon in its birthplace.

  • Rebecca Bryant

    Wow i had no clue bourbon had it’s own holiday. I know a few who would celebrate.

  • I had no idea that it was bourbon heritage month but its great that they have a six day festival. It would be perfect for bourbon lovers.

  • Amanda Love

    I didn’t even know that there’s a National Bourdbon Heritage month, that’s really interesting. I’m sure a lot of people will enjoy this. Who knew that bourbon has contributed a lot to society, that’s amazing!

  • Cynthia @craftoflaughter

    Yikes, I didn’t even know there was a NationalBourbon Month! I dont drink but I do enjoy visiting wineries and distilleries

    • We have lots of wineries here too. I hate wine, so I’ve never been on a tour (but I’ve ate a winery before), but I still think it would be fun to go to one!

  • Taylor Smith

    Who knew bourbon has its own holiday!? My husband and I don’t drink at all but it’s still very cool!

  • Karina Romero Pacheco

    Interesting and fun facts, its always fun to learn new things. i’m not a drinker and I didn’t know there was a national bourbon day, but there are so many holidays who can keep up!

  • I love bourbon and scotch! It’s so much fun to visit the distilleries – I loved going when we were in Scotland.

  • Rebecca Wilson

    I have never been much of a drinker but I loved learning all of this. So interesting!

  • Yep!! Bourbon is a huge thing, especially here! There’s so much that goes into bourbon that people don’t even realize!

  • It’s just a big deal especially here, since this is where it’s made and because of the large festival!

  • I haven’t cooked with our bourbon yet, but I have lots of recipes I plan on trying this month!

  • He would love it!

  • Debra Hawkins

    I didn’t know any of this! It was so fascinating to learn! Thanks for sharing.

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  • Shirley Eliza Martinez

    Great post. I didn’t know any of it and am not a drinker but I know others who would enjoy it.

  • Nadia

    I had no idea bourbon was so big in Kentucky! It’s kind of like Guinness beer in Ireland (my hubby is Irish). Not a drinker here but it was an interesting read, Whitney.
    xox Nadia

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