Wild Turkey Distillery hopes to boost state tourism


by Johnny Archer


Posted on August 28, 2012 at 4:45 PM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 28 at 5:01 PM

(WHAS11) -- In the rolling hills of Kentucky, bourbon is being made. Its iconic flavor has been tasted worldwide. In Lawrenceburg, Kentucky the Wild Turkey Distillery is expanding in hopes that the world will come to them.
"We have dedicated nearly $100 million in capital improvements to this site," said Gerard Ruvo, CEO of Gruppo Campari, the parent company of Wild Turkey Distillery.
A ground breaking ceremony was held Tuesday to start building a $4 million visitors' center.  Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear would like to see it help bring in more tourism to the state. The governor says in 2011, tourism brought in more than $11.7 billion to the state's economy.
"There's not going to be a better place in Kentucky for visitors from all over the world to come experience the taste of bourbon," said Governor Beshear. "And experience what Kentucky is all about and spend their money.”
Lawrenceburg Mayor Edwinna Baker shares the same optimism.
"It puts Lawrenceburg on the map," said Baker.  "I travel and I'm asked, ‘Is that where Wild Turkey is made?’ That's where Lawrenceburg is at."
Lawrenceburg has a population of about 10,000 people. The new visitors' center is expected to draw in about 70,000 people per year to the area, about seven times the population.
Officials with the company say the new center will be another way to connect to their customers. In 2009, Gruppo Campari bought the rights to Wild Turkey.
"The category was growing, but the brand was very static at the time," said Ruvo. "And now, the brand is actually growing faster than the category."
Not only has Wild Turkey grown, but so has the entire bourbon business. In 1999, there was 450,000 barrels of bourbon produced, which was the lowest number since prohibition, according to the Kentucky Distillers Association. But that number grew in 2011 to one million barrels.

The current visitors' center is 1,000 square feet. Officials with the company say the new center will be 8,500 square feet and is expected to open April 2013.