O.Z. Tyler: Visitor numbers growing

Owensboro Distillery joined Kentucky Bourbon Trail in June

On June 4, Owensboro’s O.Z. Tyler Distillery became the 11th distillery on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

Last year, nearly 1.2 million people visited the 10 distilleries on the trail and the 13 on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour.

Of that, 940,780 visited the 10 distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

Eric Gregory, executive director of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, said that of that number, between 18,000 to 20,000 visited every single distillery.

That got the attention of local officials who expect to see a lot more tourists — and their dollars — headed this way.

That was three months ago.

How have things gone so far?

Amy Grossman, who handles public relations for O.Z. Tyler, said the distillery “feels it’s a bit early to make any solid conclusions about the impact until about six months in.”

But, she said, the number of visitors to the distillery “has been growing steadily this year, with double-digit year-over-year percentage increases each month with the one exception of May, which saw slightly lower growth, but was still positive.”

Grossman said “the number of formal tours is up 68 percent from January through August last year. Over the last three months, June-August, there have been 44 percent more guests than the same period last year.”

She said, “July alone saw more than double the number of tour guests from July of 2017. And, by the end of July, there were more tours given than in all of 2017.”

The distillery said in June that it had more than 2,600 visitors in 2017 and had reached the 1,000 mark for 2018 by the time it officially joined the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

CVB seeing increase

Mark Calitri, president and CEO of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said he’s definitely seeing an increase in visitors interested in touring the distillery.

“People are coming to our visitor’s center asking about bourbon tourism,” he said. “We’re seeing increased website traffic to the O.Z. Tyler page and groups are asking to make O.Z Tyler a stop on their tour.”

Bourbon is an $8.5 billion industry in Kentucky, Gregory said in June, with 17,500 employees and a payroll of $800 million.

Seventy percent of those who drive the Trail are between 25 and 54 years old and make between $75,000 and $100,000 a year, he said.

Seventy-five percent say in hotels while on the trail and the average person spends between $400 and $1,200 while they traveling the Trail, Gregory said.

“This is the golden age of Kentucky bourbon,” he said.

Gregory said the KDA offers a “passport,” which visitors use to get stamps from each distillery they visit.

Those who get all 11 stamps this year will receive an official Kentucky Bourbon Trail tasting glass and be allowed to buy a Kentucky Bourbon Trail T-shirt that is only available to those who complete the entire trail.

Owensboro is the westernmost distillery on the Trail.

Most people will either start or end their journey in Owensboro.

Calitri doesn’t care which they do as long as they spend the night here.

Gregory called the O.Z. Tyler Distillery, which was originally built in 1885, burned in 1918 and was rebuilt in 1936 as the Medley Distillery, “a true cathedral of American whiskey.”

The distillery has a capacity of producing 72,000 barrels of bourbon a year and plans to increase that to 100,000.

The company ages its bourbon a year and a day.

Then, it uses its fast-filter patented TerrePURE technology to create in a matter of hours a bourbon that it says is comparable to one that has been aged four to five years.

For more information about the distillery and tours, which include a tasting of O.Z. Tyler bourbon, rye and honey bourbon, go to www.oztylerdistillery.com.

Messenger-Inquirer article written by Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, [email protected]