LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — They may not be household names like Jim Beam or Wild Turkey, but Kentucky's craft bourbon distilleries now have their own tourist trail.
Seven artisan distilleries stretching from Marshall County in the far west to Mason County in the north will join to form the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour.
The new tour spanning a large swath of the Bluegrass state was announced Friday. It's an outgrowth of the popular Kentucky Bourbon Trail, which attracted 2 million visitors in the last five years and a half-million in 2011 as the world's best-known bourbon makers offer inside looks at how their products are distilled, aged and bottled.
Volumes at the microdistilleries amount to drops in the bucket compared to their famous bourbon-making brethren. But state officials hope the craft tour will spread the allure of bourbon making beyond central Kentucky, where the famous distilleries are clustered.
"The more people that learn about it, the more people that taste it, the more economic growth is going to happen," Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said during the announcement at Barrel House Distillery, part of the new craft tour.
Beshear joined in a toast to celebrate the new tourism venture. Participants downed a small sample of a "white dog" whiskey made for the event. Each craft distillery contributed water and grains from their secret recipes to create the clear concoction.
The craft tour launches next Thursday. The seven distilleries on the tour are Barrel House Distillery in Lexington, Corsair Artisan Distillery in Bowling Green, Limestone Branch Distillery in Lebanon, MB Roland Distillery in Pembroke, Old Pogue Distillery in Maysville, Silver Trail Distillery in Hardin and Willett Distillery in Bardstown.
They are modest operations with big aspirations to find niches in the spirits segment.
MB Roland Distillery is on track to produce two barrels of bourbon per month, amounting to some 100 gallons, said head distiller Paul Tomaszewski. The distillery is on a former Amish dairy farm in southwestern Kentucky near the Fort Campbell Army post.
Maybe within a decade or so, production might ramp up to a couple of barrels a week, he said.
"We're never going to be a huge powerhouse," he said. "But we hope to just continue to build respect for our brand as we grow."
Tomaszewski is a former Army officer who was drawn to the traditions of whiskey making. Asked how he learned his new trade, he said, "The Internet's a wonderful thing."