As Americans’ thirst for bourbon continues to boom, so too do production levels. Kentucky distilleries produced nearly 2.5 million barrels of the spirit in 2020 alone. setting record numbers with no sign of slowing down.
According to a press release from the Kentucky Distillers Association, the Kentucky Department of Revenue reported a total 10.3 million barrels of bourbon are currently aging in the Commonwealth — nearly 2 barrels for every person in the state. That’s an impressive 436-percent production increase since 1999.
On the local front, Kentucky’s thriving industry generates over 20,000 jobs, with a total annual payroll of more than $1 billion. And the contributions to the local economy don’t end there.
“The bourbon industry is investing more than $5 billion in this state,” Kentucky Distillers’ Association president Eric Gregory said in the release, referencing planned and ongoing projects to increase production and build upon the growing tourism sector.
But tariffs and taxation threaten further success, according to Gregory. In 2018 the European Union imposed a 25 percent tariff on products including American whiskey (and this number could double by Dec. 1). Meanwhile Kentucky distillers will pay a total $33 million in barrel taxes in 2021 — a drastic 140 percent increase compared to a decade prior.
Still, these issues shouldn’t take the gloss off of last year’s record production stats.
“Kentucky’s signature bourbon industry continues to invest in our Commonwealth at unprecedented levels, despite global pandemic disruptions, exorbitant taxes, and ongoing trade wars,” Gregory said. “This is truly a historic and landmark record.”