What maple syrup is to Vermont, wine is to California, orange juice is to Florida, and cheese is to Wisconsin, bourbon whiskey is to Kentucky. Which makes ‘Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey’ a valuable brand. 13 million in that brand. The details aren’t important, nevertheless, you can find a few of them here.
A few days ago, Fruit of the Loom announced that it’s shutting down its last manufacturing plant in Kentucky. Fruit of the Loom, which makes underwear, was once one of Kentucky’s largest employers. Using that news as a bridge to talk about why the whiskey business is different may have been ill-considered.
It’s devastating for families and neighborhoods when any company closes. The comparison was in no sense meant to suggest that whiskey careers are at all more valuable than any careers. You can’t make a jobs-to-jobs evaluation between textiles or any typical production and whiskey. Fruit of the Loom at its apogee utilized more people than the entire whiskey industry.
That was never the idea. Kentucky has no unique claim to its textiles vegetation, its auto plant life, its appliance plants, nor to the majority of its other manufacturers. Those industries can and do locate anywhere. Kentucky is glad Toyota is within Kentucky but Toyota could in the same way easily be in Ohio or Tennessee.
Once Kentucky has made its case (taxes, cost-of-living, quality-of-life, location, resources, quality of its labor force, etc.), it becomes a bidding war with other potential locations. The whiskey business differs. Because ‘Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey’ is a powerful brand to millions of consumers throughout the world. Could it be well established? Yes. Is it valuable?
Absolutely. Can its value be improved? Louisville Slugger is the world’s most widely known baseball bat brand. Not many years ago, the Louisville Slugger stock was over the river in Indiana. Today it is on Main Street in downtown Louisville. It is open up to the public and draws in thousands of visitors a calendar year. You can anywhere make football bats.
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Louisville Slugger demonstrated you can also make Louisville Slugger football bats anywhere, but having the Louisville Slugger museum and manufacturing plant in downtown Louisville has been best for Louisville, best for Kentucky, and good for Louisville Slugger. Upon a time Once, whiskey was manufactured in many states. In some full years, Illinois was the largest maker, not Kentucky. Pennsylvania made a lot of whiskey, so did Ohio and Indiana. Tennessee, of course, still does. When the American whiskey industry contracted sharply about 40 years ago, it essentially collapsed into Kentucky and Tennessee.
The reasons for this are numerous, and it had taken Kentucky about 30 years to determine how to take advantage of it. Now American whiskey is flourishing and American whiskey tourism is booming too. Whiskey is the gift that keeps on giving. Micro-distilleries are the latest thing. They have a tendency to be local in nature, but if a fresh whiskey producer has ambitions to be always an international or national contender, isn’t it smart to locate where you may make Kentucky bourbon or Tennessee whiskey?
And where hundreds of people are already coming to go to distilleries? New makers aren’t always micro either. Angel’s Envy and Michter’s are both building distilleries with capacity greater than one million evidence gallons per season. That’s maybe one-quarter of what the smallest big men produce, but it’s still a great deal of new creation. They’ve both positioned in Kentucky.