Editor's note: There are dozens of newspapers across the state of Kentucky. Each Tuesday, this space will be dedicated to what one of those papers thinks about the issues facing their communities and this state.

Cheers to the state's distilled spirits industry, which had a banner year in 2018 by shattering two modern-era filling records.

The Kentucky Distillers' Association announced Wednesday that 9.1 million barrels of spirits are aging and 2.1 million barrels of bourbon were filled last year, giving the commonwealth the highest inventory since records began being kept 52 years ago. The previous record was 8.7 million total barrels in 1968 and 1.9 million barrels of bourbon in 1967.

It is also the first and only time since the late '60s that distillers have filled more than 2 million barrels of America's only native spirit, said the KDA, a nonprofit trade group that represents 39 of the state's distilleries.

The state's bourbon industry accounts for $8.6 billion and generates more than 20,000 jobs with an annual payroll topping $1 billion. In fact, there are now two barrels of bourbon for every person living in Kentucky, according to the latest U.S. Census numbers that estimate there are 4.5 million residents in the state.

"This is a historic day that cements Kentucky's rightful title as the one, true and authentic home for bourbon and distilled spirits," KDA President Eric Gregory said. "It's also further proof of Kentucky bourbon's monumental economic impact and ever-increasing demand."

The bourbon tourism business is also booming. Accounting for 1.4 million distillery stops in 2018, bourbon tourism saw a 370% increase in the number of stops from 10 years ago.

Buffalo Trace, which welcomed more than 230,000 visitors last year -- whopping 345% growth from 2010 -- is one local distillery that is capitalizing on the boon. Coupled with the distillery's $1.2 billion expansion investment -- including the addition of new warehouses that will hold 58,800 barrels each -- the future looks bright for the local distillery as it increases its distilling and aging capabilities.

So raise a glass (or two barrels) to the spirits industry. To quote a popular toast from Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher, "Drink today and drown all sorrow, you shall perhaps not do it tomorrow. Best while you have it, use your breath, there is no drinking after death."

-- State Journal, Frankfort

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