The facilities are outgrowths of the success of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, which attracted 2 million visitors in the last five years and a half-million in 2011. Eighty-five percent of trail visitors are from outside Kentucky, according to Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, reflecting the growing popularity of the Bluegrass state’s staple spirit, made in the rolling hills of central Kentucky.
Beam’s new center, an eye-catching replica of a 1930s stillhouse, is three times the size of the old tourist center, which has been converted into a tasting room. Called the Jim Beam American Stillhouse, it traces the origins of the world’s largest bourbon-maker to Jacob Beam, who set up his first still in Kentucky in 1795. It features an original staircase from a historic Beam distillery, and the elevator resembles a giant still.
I’m not a big fan of bourbon, personally. My taste runs more to scotch when I drink hard liquor. Which isn’t often. But my wife and I love touring places like this. We both love the history and seeing how things are made. (Engineers have that bug.) We might have to visit one of these if we ever travel through that area.
And my wife does like bourbon.