Louisville’s liquid assets help bring tourists to the bourbon trail

Tourism is booming in Kentucky. The Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet has reported that tourism had a $14.5 billon impact in 2016, up more than 5 percent from the previous year, which is the strongest overall growth rate for more than a decade.

When people think about major players in bringing tourists to an area, they usually don’t think about the local water utility, but Louisville Water Company has taken significant steps to boost Kentucky’s tourism industry.

One of the company’s recent efforts has been to form a formal partnership with an important distiller on Kentucky’s bourbon trail. Boosting bourbonism is a natural fit for Louisville Water because of the company’s long history with the production side of the distilling industry. Louisville Water began in 1860 and by the 1880s, more than 10 distillers were using the company’s water. Today, Louisville Water has more than a dozen distillers as customers.

Spencer Bruce, President and CEO of the company, has noted that “the bourbon industry is an important part of our daily production of 115 million gallons of drinking water. Our water’s great taste supports the flavor whether it’s a drop of water or a rock in the drink. And water is the only ingredient that can be added to the bourbon once it leaves the barrel and goes into the bottle, so in that way Louisville Water is enjoyed by millions worldwide.”

And now Louisville Water has formed a partnership with the Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience at Stitzel-Weller in Shively for tourists from around the world. Bruce and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer unveiled a Stitzel-Weller visitor experience that includes an exhibit on how the bourbon industry benefits from water -- from the crops, the fermenting process and bottling to how bourbon is served.

“This new partnership is another part of the growth and evolution of Bourbonism in our city,” the Mayor said. In other forums, he has noted that “bourbonism is the reason why our tourism sector is really thriving right now.”

Louisville Water plans to expand its participation in many of the community’s bourbon-related events and attractions where water is served. The company also will add a special tour at its WaterWorks Museum that highlights the bourbon and water connection.

The museum is part of the company’s own tourist attraction, Louisville Water Tower Park, which is home of the historic Classical Revival-style priming tower and was featured in a USA Today article titled “25 Must-See Buildings in Kentucky.”

The park hosts major concerts and festivals, and Louisville Water promotes the facilities to local residents as an ideal spot for weddings and community events. Park representatives participate in Louisville’s annual Hometown Tourist celebration by hosting a booth and giving away water bottles as well as details on renting the facilities.

Boosting tourism is part of of Louisville Water’s Liquid Assets initiative, which focuses on the quality of the company’s water, its customer service and its community involvement as an economic development tool.

Mayor Fischer has noted that "we've had great tasting water and a progressive water utility for so long, we almost take it for granted. Many cities however are extremely envious so to say the least of both the quality and quantity of our water supply. It's a huge part of what makes Louisville a great place to live as well as grow a business, because companies know that they can count on a constant, affordable supply of water."