It’s no secret that Kentucky is a state full of bourbon lovers — and bourbon distillers, too.

In 2021, the state recorded its highest-ever inventory of bourbon barrels: 11.4 million. In total, Kentucky held a historic 12 million barrels of aged spirits in 2021.

The tax-assessed value of these barrels amounts to a whopping $5.2 billion, according to a Sept. 27 press release from nonprofit Kentucky Distillers’ Association. The report’s numbers, released Tuesday, reflect inventory totals recorded on Jan. 1, 2022.

While the state is clearly pumping out plenty of juice, it appears that Kentucky is falling behind others when it comes to variety. The Bluegrass State contained 24 percent of United States distilleries in 2020, a number that has since dropped to a mere six percent.

California now leads with the most distilleries nationwide, as agave-based spirits rapidly grow in popularity among drinkers.

“We have proven, time and time again, that bourbon is a great investment for Kentucky,” says Kentucky Distillers’ Association president Eric Gregory. “But we cannot ignore the fact that more than 2,200 distilleries have made the business decision not to locate here, despite our rich traditions and ready-made infrastructure.”

Since 1999, production has soared by 475 percent in the state. It’s an industry that boasts 22,500 jobs in Kentucky and $9 billion back into the Commonwealth’s economy.

Despite its setbacks in the overall spirits space, Kentucky-made bourbon is still going strong.

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