Bourbon County, Kentucky, is northeast of Lexington. It’s one of the leading producers of thoroughbred horses in the world. More than fifty horse farms are located in the county. But Bourbon County is probably better known for the type of whiskey that bears its name.
The state’s distillers laid down 1.88 million barrels of whiskey in 2015, the most since 1967, just short of the industry record of 1.92 million. Bourbon volume production increased 2.3% that year, while revenue increased 4.1%. Export volume growth was 3.4% according to the Kentucky Distillers Association, reports the Whiskey Wash.
One of the area’s more famous distillers, Beam Suntory (maker of Jim Beam), last year filled its 14 millionth barrel of bourbon since its founding two hundred years ago, a milestone no other company can match. The company’s two distilleries fill about 500,000 barrels per year.
The county’s topography is predominantly gently rolling hills, and it takes up a total of 292 square miles. Its county seat is Paris, which has a population of about 8,500 people.
In 1780, Kentucky County, Virginia, was divided into three counties Fayette, Jefferson, and Lincoln, and was called the District of Kentucky. Formed in 1786 from Fayette County, Bourbon County, Virginia, was comprised of 34 of the 120 current counties of Kentucky. The area became known as Old Bourbon due to its historical boundaries. The county is named after the French House of Bourbon, in thanks to Louis XVI of France’s help during the American Revolutionary War. Bourbon County became part of Kentucky when it was created in 1792.
Whiskey was an early product of the area. It was an efficient and profitable way to convert the area’s corn into a product that could be easily transported and sold. It has a distinctive flavor, and the name bourbon came to be used to distinguish it from other regional whiskey styles made in other parts of the country using different ingredients, such as rye.
Other than a few distilleries allowed to produce bourbon for “medicinal purposes,” the bourbon industry was wiped out in 1919 when Prohibition took effect. With Prohibition came the expansion of “bootleggers” who illegally distilled whiskey, which became more popular because of its high alcohol content and ease of transportation. Starting in the 1980’s bourbon’s popularity has risen, especially for higher priced brands.
The county was home to 20,030 people in 2016, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, up slightly from 2010. The area is predominantly White (91%) with African Americans about 6% and Latinos about 7% of the population. About 83% of those 25 and older have a high school diploma and 16% have a college degree. Roughly 62% of the population 16 and older are part of the workforce, a majority of which (58%) are women. The median household income for the area was $45,208 in 2015, compared to $56,516 nationwide.
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