There’s more to Kentucky’s bourbon culture than the “amber triangle,” the central Kentucky area where the commonwealth’s heritage distilleries are located.

Northern Kentucky’s Convention & Visitors Bureau has launched the B-Line, a marketing and branding effort featuring three distilleries, four bourbon-centric restaurants and five bourbon bars in Northern Kentucky to take a bigger swig of the growing bourbon tourism trend.

Bourbon tourism is growing. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour surpassed more than a million visitors annually two years ago, the Kentucky Distillers Association says. The Northern Kentucky Convention & Visitors Bureau says bourbon tourism is one of the factors fueling a 16 percent increase in Northern Kentucky tourist spending last year.

“The thing we’re trying to bring home is that the real bourbon line is the Ohio River,” says Julie Kirkpatrick, vice president of sales and marketing for MeetNKY. “Once you cross it into Kentucky you’re in the state where 95 percent of the world’s bourbon is made and we like to say 100 percent of the best bourbon is made.”

The B-Line was formally launched in April with a full-scale marketing effort in markets such as Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit.

“Kentucky is known for bourbon, but the funny thing is not a lot of people know about the amazing history we have in Northern Kentucky, just across the river from Cincinnati,” says Kirkpatrick. For example, she mentions, the pre-Prohibition distilleries here, the shipment of whiskey from here down the Mississippi River to New Orleans and bootleggers such as George Remus.

“Now we’re seeing the reinvention of bourbon culture in Northern Kentucky with what New Riff Distilling [in Newport] and Boone County Distilling [in Independence] are doing.”

Those two along with Old Pogue Distillery in Maysville are the first distilleries on the B-Line but not necessarily the last.

To participate in the B-Line visitors, who must be 21, download the B-Line passport at findyoursippingpoint.com. Once they get their passports stamped by visiting at least two each of the distilleries, bars and restaurants on the B-Line they can receive their choice “of killer B-Line swag” such as hats, bourbon glasses or coasters, says Kirkpatrick.

The B-Line is designed to complement not compete with the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour of the Kentucky Distillers Association.

“When we talked to the Kentucky Distillers Association they were thrilled,” she says.

“They know we already have 26.1 million visitors that come to the Cincinnati region each year and more than seven million passengers through the Cincinnati/ Northern Kentucky International Airport so to be able to access those and drive them deeper into bourbon country was a natural fit.”

And craft distillers offer a different experience than the older and larger distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

“I love the heritage distilleries such as Evan Williams and Maker’s Mark but when you go there you see a very structured environment. You may not actually see the craft of distilling. When you’re at New Riff or one of the other stops on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour you’re literally right in the middle of distilling because they’re not very big and are built to be a very immersive experience.”

Hannah Lowen, vice president and general manager of New Riff Distilling, says tourism is a central part of New Riff’s business.

“The distillery was designed from the get-go with tourism in mind,” she says. “One of the things we offer here is an opportunity to see a fairly large working bourbon distillery. We let you in every nook and cranny of the place. Tourism was planned from the beginning in the way the building was designed and in our event center we have two spaces to bring people in.”

New Riff draws about 30,000 visitors annually for its tours and events. Lowen says it expects that to grow with the development of the B-Line.

The B-Line formalizes what’s been going on organically in the local bourbon scene for a while, she says.

“When folks come visit us and want to know what to do next we say, ‘Oh you should go to Boone County or see Old Pogue, or here’s a great place to get a drink.’

“Leveraging these assets is a no-brainer. We are thrilled.”

Stephen Williams, owner/chef at Bouquet in Covington, one of the B-Line restaurants, says it already has had an impact on his business.

“We’ve had people drive up from Lexington and Louisville already saying they heard about us down there. Bourbon is a statewide thing,” he says. “If it gets people in on it here and then on to the rest of the state, it’s win-win for everybody.”

A farm-to-table restaurant, Bouquet has shifted its focus from wine to bourbon over the last couple years.

“We pared our wine list down from about 200 bottles to 70 and increased our bourbons from 5-10 bottles to 140 now,” he says.

A Louisville native, Williams says, “I’ve always been interested in bourbon and with its growing popularity more customers are asking for bourbon and cocktails.”

To be a part of the B-Line a restaurant must shelf at least 50 bourbon varieties and a bar must shelf at least 100 bourbons, Kirkpatrick says

In addition, they’re required to complete Stave & Thief Society certification, a program approved by the KDA on the art and science of bourbon.

It’s an expensive training program but Williams says it allowed him to certify 10 members of his staff as well.

“It gives them more knowledge so when people come in and ask questions, they can give them proper answers. Then they’re more likely to be repeat customers.”

Two other up-and-coming Northern Kentucky craft distilleries, Second Sight Spirits in Ludlow and Neeley Family Distillery in Sparta, are expected to eventually join the B-Line. It will also be looking for more bars and restaurants, which qualify, to participate.

“Expansion is going to be key for us,” Kirkpatrick says.


THE B-LINE

Distilleries

New Riff Distillery, Newport
newriffdistilling.com

Boone County Distilling Co., Independence
boonedistilling.com

The Old Pogue Distillery, Maysville
oldpogue.com

Bars

Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar, Covington
wellmannsbrands.com

Prohibition Bourbon Bar at Newberry Bros. Coffee, Newport
newberrybroscoffee.com

The Globe, Covington
theglobecov.com

Bourbon Haus 1841, Covington
facebook.com/BourbonHaus1841

Wiseguy Lounge, Covington
goodfellaspizzeria.com

Restaurants

Bouquet Restaurant, Covington
bouquetrestaurant.com

Tousey House Tavern, Fort Mitchell.
touseyhouse.com

Chandler’s on Market, Maysville
chandlersrestaurantandbar.com

Purple Poulet, Dayton
purplepoulet.com



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