MeetNKY is bringing bourbon tourism to Northern Kentucky with the “B Line,” and Maysville is set to play a key part.
“There are 1.2 million visitors to the Bourbon Trail annually,” said meetNKY Vice President of Sales and Marketing Julie Kirkpatrick. “They make Louisville or Lexington their base of visitation.”
Kirkpatrick and meetNKY hope to change that by creating the B Line, which launched on Tuesday, Jan. 30.
According to Kirkpatrick, who helped launch the initiative at Maysville Rotary, the B Line will serve as an official gateway to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
“There are two sides to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail,” Kirkpatrick said. “There’s the main heritage trail, which are the big brands – Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, etc. But I’m really intrigued by the rise of the craft bourbon distillery.”
Kirkpatrick said the craft distilleries, three of which are part of the B Line (New Riff Distillery, Boone County Distillery and Old Pogue Distillery in Maysville), offer something that younger demographics will latch on to.
“They want to see makers. They want to see bourbon being made,” Kirkpatrick said. “If you go on a Makers Mark, Woodford Reserve or Jim Beam tour, you are going to see what they want you to see. If you go on a tour with John (Pogue), John may be actually distilling while he’s actually giving the tour, and that very much shows the experience of how bourbon is made.”
Kirkpatrick also said that the younger generation wants a documentable experience that can be shared online. She hopes that the B Line will be the bourbon industry’s answer to that desire.
Kirkpatrick has been working locally with CJ Hunter, executive director of the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center and with Caroline Reece, Maysville Main Street director, on the local aspects of the B Line.
Hunter said nearly a year ago, he, along with Maysville's Doug Hendrickson and Kenton County External Affairs Director John Stanton, began discussion with the Pogue family on expanding local bourbon tourism efforts. Maysville and Mason County officials joined the conversation to help with the planning, he said.
"The discussions seem to always return to the concept that all of us in tourism are connected and our communities are connected," Hunter said. "From Northern Kentucky to Maysville, from Pogues Distillery to our new entertainment district to the Gateway Museum, these are all related to attracting visitors to Kentucky."
Maysville is often documented as the birthplace of bourbon in many historical books and documents. And Stanton said there is a legitimate claim to be made for that.
"There is no question in my mind that for the first century of bourbon's history in Kentucky that Maysville was right in the forefront of it," Stanton said.
Distillers are only part of the wider picture for the B Line, according to Kirkpatrick.
“We also took a look at the restaurants and bars we have in the region,” Kirkpatrick said.
Chandler’s on Market in downtown Maysville is one of those mentioned restaurants.
Kirkpatrick said that there are also several additional bourbon-related attributes to the region, including Baker-Bird Winery in Augusta.
“They are doing some wonderful aged wines in bourbon barrels,” Kirkpatrick said.
Kirkpatrick said that there is bourbon in Kentucky that can’t be attained anywhere else in the world.
“That is the hook that will keep people coming back,” she said.
Hunter said KYGMC is working on "exciting new plans" that will be revealed on March 20 at the museum's annual Charter Dinner.
Kirkpatrick said the point of the B Line wasn’t to take away from Lexington and Louisville but to offer things to connect to demographics that the cities aren’t reaching.
Kirkpatrick said a Facebook ad campaign for the B Line was very successful, reaching more people and being more cost-efficient than the industry average.
“We only targeted Cleveland, Chicago and Detroit,” Kirkpatrick said. “That’s where we’re going to be doing most of our campaigning since we are an hour closer to home for them here in Northern Kentucky.”
Kirkpatrick said 10,000 people signed up for the online newsletter.
According to Kirkpatrick, Maysville and Northern Kentucky are linked because they are the start of southern hospitality and the birthplace of bourbon. The hope is that when people come for the bourbon, they will stay and explore for the history and amenities offered in Maysville and throughout Northern Kentucky.
"The bourbon tourism effect and the visitors to Northern Kentucky will have a major impact on our areas," Hunter said.
Reece said it may be "the greatest thing to happen to Maysville since Rosemary..."