GETHSEMANE, Ky. — As Kentucky’s bourbon industry continues to grow, advocates for its success are calling on state lawmakers to grant distilleries more ways to get their products to market.
Currently, distilleries must partner with distributors to get their products on store shelves, but some places may not be at the production level to do that. Advocates are now asking the state to grant micro-distilleries the ability to self-distribute small volumes of its spirits.
As Jack Mazurak with the Kentucky Distillers’ Association explains, it’s a change that gets more eyes on emerging brands.
“If we can successfully grow some of these, that means more jobs locally, more tax revenue locally, more tourism locally,” Mazurak said. “That’s great for Kentucky’s economy, especially in the rural and the rural counties and in the rural parts of the state.”
Lynne Dant, chief operating officer of Log Still Distillery in Nelson County, agrees.
“(Self-distribution) not just helps build our brand, but kind of helps seed the market so that we can just partner and grow with our distributors more,” Dant said.
Dant comes from a family of distillers. Her grandfather had his own distillery where the current one sits. Dant founded Log Still with two of her cousins to keep the legacy of bourbon making in her family alive and began making spirits last year.
“We actively started construction of this facility, probably in 2020,” Dant said. “And we went live with production last summer, so in July 2022.”
Dant says Log Still distills around 22,000 barrels per year — which is far less than well-known names just a short way up the road in Bardstown but is still considered large for a micro-distillery.
Log Still currently works with a beverage distributor but Dant says they would benefit from self-distribution, as would many others who have not made one of those partnerships.
“This is really an opportunity for especially the small ones, but even the larger craft distilleries, like Log Still, to really be able to get our brand out and help our wholesalers to develop that brand to the point that it becomes enough critical mass to warrant their ambition,” Dant said.
Earlier this year the Kentucky Legislature passed Senate Bill 28, allowing small wineries to sell small volumes of wine. Microbreweries were granted the same opportunity in 2021. Now small business owners like Dant are asking for the same ability. “We’re just looking for parity with the wine and beer industries,” she said.
Dant and Mazurak say they’re hopeful to see legislation making this change passed in 2024.
During an October interim committee meeting in Frankfort, state lawmakers expressed their support for the rule change, citing it as another way to support the state’s bourbon industry.