Money & Business

A Bourbon Affair: Association Celebrates America’s ‘Native Spirit’

By / May 14, 2014 (iStock/Thinkstock)

The Kentucky Distillers’ Association is hosting a five-day Kentucky Bourbon Affair this week in honor of the 50th anniversary of Congress declaring the drink America’s “native spirit.” KDA members will give visitors a behind-the-scenes view of the state’s famous distilleries.

American whiskey’s storied history dates back to the late 1700s, but 2014 marks an important milestone in bourbon’s biography.

I hope it’s something we can grow that can become a larger event and really celebrate the [local] food and culture and the world’s greatest bourbon.

Fifty years ago this month, Congress passed a resolution declaring the drink “America’s native spirit.” To celebrate the anniversary, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association is hosting a five-day Kentucky Bourbon Affair.

The inaugural event, running May 14-18, will feature behind-the-scenes access and tours of many of the state’s legendary distilleries to allow attendees a chance to learn more about the drink from master distillers themselves.

“We really want people to see this as a way of giving back and providing insiders’ access to educate [visitors] more about our signature spirit,” said KDA President Eric Gregory. “At the same time, I hope it’s something we can grow that can become a larger event and really celebrate the [local] food and culture and the world’s greatest bourbon.”

Gregory said the event is several years in the making, and it’s unique in that it’s taking advantage of the local distilleries, which have become popular tourist attractions. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail, a tour of some of the state’s most famous distilleries established by KDA in 1999, brings in about 650,000 people a year, Gregory said.

In planning the event, KDA challenged its members—20 distilleries ranging from established outfits such as Maker’s Mark and Wild Turkey to newer craft distilleries—to come up with creative tours of their establishments. At Wild Turkey, for example, visitors will get to re-create the original turkey hunt that gave the distillery its name and go skeet shooting with the master distiller, Gregory said.

KDA is subsidizing the cost of transportation between events, which vary in cost, as part of its commitment to end drinking and driving. “That was extremely important for us and our members,” Gregory said. “We wanted to put on a great event, but we also wanted to put on a very safe event.”

The five days of celebration will culminate with a “Golden Affair” party featuring the premiere of “Kentucky Bourbon Tales,” a documentary KDA created that showcases oral histories with several master distillers.

“It’s going to be the best week to be alive in Kentucky,” Gregory said.

Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. More »

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