Franklin County may be in the heart of Bourbon Country, but none of its distilleries are officially part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
A reader asked the State Journal whether any local distilleries are on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and, if they aren't, why. A reader asked a similar question last year. Since that article was published in February 2018, six more Kentucky distilleries have joined the trail — but still none in Frankfort.
To be on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, a distillery must be a member of the Kentucky Distillers' Association, which recently acquired the Gooch House on West Second Street and Capital Avenue. The group's website says it maintains an open membership policy and it has three tiers of membership. Craft Distillery members have fewer than 10,000 barrels of bourbon in inventory each year, Proof Distilleries have between 10,000 and 24,999 barrels and Heritage Distilleries have over 25,000 barrels.
The KDA created the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in 1999 to establish a "road-style experience for bourbon lovers." The association also established the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour in 2012, also without Franklin County stops, to accompany the Bourbon Trail with distilleries around the state.
Franklin County's distilleries — Buffalo Trace, Glenns Creek Distillery, Castle and Key, and Three Boys Farm Distillery — are not official stops on the Bourbon Trail. Jim Beam is an official member of the trail but directs visitors to its Louisville Urban Stillhouse and the American Stillhouse in Clermont.
According to a 2018 press release from Buffalo Trace, the distillery had over 201,000 guests in 2017. A 2018 press release from the Kentucky Bourbon trail said that all distilleries had over 1,194,000 visitors combined, making the average across 10 distilleries over 94,000.
Buffalo Trace spokeswoman Amy Preske said that the distillery's status of being on the Bourbon Trail has not changed since last year.
"We are, however, happy to be located along the bourbon trail," Preske said in an email.
David Meier, owner of Glenns Creek Distillery, said that reasons to be or not to be on the Bourbon Trail vary from distillery to distillery. He said that for big distilleries, the Trail does not provide additional visibility, and with visitors planning trips with the help of a Google search, distilleries show up whether or not they are a member of the Trail.
"For us it is a cost issue and also some of the criteria to be listed," Meier said. "We get enough traffic without the visibility of being on the official Trail."