ISSUE: Restriction removed on bourbon makers
OUR VIEW: Kentucky needs comprehensive reform
When the General Assembly passed House Bill 400, leaders of Kentucky’s bourbon industry were smiling.
The bourbon boon acknowledged long has been hampered by an archaic regulation preventing distilleries from shipping bottles to a visitors’ home. The legislation revised several laws allowing distilleries and wineries to ship packages — assuming alcohol sales are legal in the purchaser’s hometown.
Whiskey tourism is growing dramatically each year and this form of postal prohibition seemed foolish to visitors and was frustrating for the industry.
You could sniff the aroma of the mash and observe the distillation and bottling process. It even was OK to sample the product at Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark or Hardin County’s own Boundary Oak. But the distillery could not ship bottles to your home.
That silly state law finally was addressed.
Bourbon tourism has become big business, and the chance to ship whiskey bottles home after a distillery tour is expected to boost sales at distilleries large and small.
This act serves as a reminder of the complexities and legal restrictions that the state and federal government put upon distilleries, wineries and breweries.
Certainly, some of it is derived from legislative moralists trying to protect people from their own worst instincts. But most have roots in decades of bureaucratic rulemakers justifying their existence by drafting more complex and restrictive policies to address minor issues.
The bourbon industry has succeeded despite all manner of hindrances thanks to quality products based on the natural limestone-filtration system and the unique aging ensured by the charred white oak barrels. It would be hard to guess just how successful the business might be if it could enjoy some semblance of a true free-market system.
It’s time for Kentucky to conduct a comprehensive review of its liquor industry laws and regulation at the manufacturing, distribution and retail level. If this could be done apart from posturing and gamesmanship, one of this state’s truly unique industries could hope for another surge of success.
This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.