KDA Bourbon Economic Impact Study Shows There’s Plenty of Good Whiskey to Look Forward To


January 20, 2022

The key complaint right among many bourbon and whiskey enthusiasts is how to get those elusive bottles that no longer can be regularly found on liquor store shelves. Where’s the Blanton’s? The Weller 12-Year? Where’s my Henry McKenna 10-Year?

The new study, titled “The Economic and Fiscal Impacts of the Distilling Industry in Kentucky 2021” and commissioned by the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, shows that even if we can’t always find the specific whiskey we crave right now, there’s at the very least a lot to look forward to in the coming years.

As distilleries like Buffalo Trace, Lux Row and others have recently expanded production or have expansions in the works, the number of barrels aging in rickhouses is rapidly increasing. Currently, per the report, there are more than 10.3 million barrels aging in warehouses across Kentucky, double the amount from just 10 years ago, and roughly triple the amount that was being aged in the middle 1990s. Not since the early 1970s had that number climbed past 8 million, just before bourbon fell out of favor, with other spirits like vodka and gin coming to the fore.

And yes, as is often pointed out, given the population of Kentucky is about 4.5 million, that means there are two barrels of aging bourbon for every Kentuckian.

Of those more than 10 million barrels of bourbon currently aging in the Commonwealth, about 2.4 million were produced in 2020 alone. That number is double what it was only 10 years ago, as demand has surged among bourbon lovers, with new enthusiasts coming into the market all the time.

Thanks to records of production and storage for KDA members, which make up about 85% of Kentucky’s total bourbon production, the report gives us a look at what awaits – going back four years, there are nearly 1.3 million barrels currently aging in member warehouses.

There are more than 800,000 53-gallon barrels of five-year-old bourbon waiting in the wings, nearly 420,000 barrels of six-year and more than 200,000 barrels of seven-year bourbon. Bump those numbers by about 15% and you’ve got an estimated total for the entire state. Bourbon already aged eight years or more in KDA member rickhouses numbers 225,018 barrels, giving us plenty to look forward to in the coming years.

And with the rising number of barrels that have been distilled and stockpiled in just the past few years, plus the ramped-up production going forward, that means there’s a lot of good juice up ahead. It’s all about patience.