Bourbon is a unique corn market in Kentucky. Each year, Kentucky's bourbon and alcohol distillers utilize about 15 million bushels of corn. Kentucky is the birthplace of Bourbon, with a rich tradition and history that dates back more than 200 years. It’s also one of Kentucky’s signature industries, pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the Bluegrass economy.

Bourbon must be made with a minimum of 51 percent corn and aged in new oak barrels that have been charred. Only Kentucky has the perfect natural mix of climate, conditions and pure limestone water necessary for producing the world’s best Bourbon.

For more information about Kentucky's bourbon industry, visit

Bourbon Facts

Kentucky is the birthplace of Bourbon, crafting 95 percent of the world’s supply. Only the Bluegrass State has the perfect natural mix of climate, conditions and pure limestone water necessary for producing the world’s greatest Bourbon.

Bourbon is America’s only native spirit, as declared by Congress in 1964. It must be made with a minimum of 51 percent corn, aged in charred new oak barrels, stored at no more than 125 proof and bottled no less than 80 proof.

Bourbon is an $8.5 billion signature industry in Kentucky, generating 17,500 jobs with an annual payroll of $800 million. Spirits production and consumption pours more than $825 million in federal, state and local tax coffers every year.

More than $1.1 billion in capital projects has been completed or is planned and underway in the past five years and the next five years, including new distilleries and aging warehouses to bottling facilities and tourism centers.

Kentucky’s iconic Bourbon distilleries filled a whopping 1,886,821 barrels of amber nectar last year, breaking production records all the way back to 1967. The previous all-time high was 1,922,009 barrels filled in 1967.

Since the turn of the century, Kentucky Bourbon production has skyrocketed more than 315 percent (455,078 barrels were filled in 1999).
That gives the Commonwealth a total inventory of 6,657,063 barrels of Bourbon, the most since 1974 when 6,683,654 new charred oak casks were gently aging in Bluegrass warehouses.

There are now 1.5 barrels for every person living in Kentucky (census population 4,425,092).

The 2016 tax-assessed value of all barrels aging in Kentucky is $2.4 billion – an increase of $299 million from 2015 and a 135 percent increase over the last 10 years.

U.S. distilled spirits exports topped $1.5 billion in 2013. Kentucky Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey made up more than $1 billion of that amount, making it the largest export category among all U.S. distilled spirits.

Growing opportunities for Kentucky's corn farmers in a changing industry. 

Barrel House Distilling Company’s Rock Castle Straight Bourbon Wins Kentucky’s Top Craft Whiskey At 2017 Heartland Whiskey Competition

Dueling Grounds and Jeptha Creed also medal in 10-state competition sponsored by KyCorn 

(MAY 22, 2017) In a blind judging supervised by the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) last week in Chicago, Barrel House Distilling’s Rock Castle Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey was judged Kentucky’s top craft whiskey. The competition, sponsored in part by KyCorn, drew more than 75 whiskey entries from ten states. The day-long competition required that judges evaluate each spirit within its appropriate category (bourbon, corn whiskey, etc.). Top state medals were awarded to those achieving the highest scores in their respective states, regardless of category.

“Competition entries exceeded our expectations by quite a bit so medalists persevered from a large pool,”
stated Margie A.S. Lehrman, executive director of ACSA. “Today, each of these states has a group of craft spirits distillers that produce high-quality whiskey, so claiming best of state is a significant achievement.”

The competition was limited to spirits that use some corn in the distillation process. The competition was underwritten by several state corn marketing associations.

“Our goal was to send a message that corn is used in a diverse range of products and our industry supports those who support us,” said Laura Knoth, executive director of KyCorn.

Barrel House is located in Lexington, and the winning bourbon is distilled with both local corn and wheat. 
Two other Kentucky distilleries earned three additional medals in the craft competition for their respective categories. Jeptha Creed in Shelbyville earned two bronze medals and Dueling Grounds in Franklin earned one.

Heartland Spirits Fest Competition judges taste corn-based spirits at the competition held in Chicago in May.