R Street's Kevin Kosar's latest dispatch for The American Spectator from the American Whiskey Trail is about how distilleries are increasingly becoming tourist destinations:
Thirty years ago, most whiskey distilleries were lonely places — industrial factories in remote rural areas. For the most part, the proprietors of these places saw themselves as manufacturers, the first tier in the three-tier system. They made whiskey, which was then trucked away. Customers were far removed.
Some, but not many, folks might drop by for a look around. “If we had 100 people come in a year, we were lucky,” says Eddie Russell, master distiller at Wild Turkey. When folks showed up on the Lawrenceburg, Kentucky property, whoever was around the office would give them a tour of the property. Wild Turkey built a small visitor’s center in 1987. “Maybe 3,000 or 4,000 people a year would visited in those days,” says Russell.
Oh, how times have changed. Bourbon distilleries have become tourist destinations. Wild Turkey expects at least 85,000 bourbon tourists this year. Its gorgeous new visitor center — which looks like a cross between a tobacco barn and a glass box—is 5,000 square feet. It opened in 2013, and features a gift shop, a history center and a tasting room that overlooks a valley through which the Kentucky River runs...
Read the whole thing: http://www.rstreet.org/op-ed/american-whiskey-trail-tour-day-four/