A Conversation with Visitor Center Manager Vincent Clark

Bourbon is booming. And according to Visitor Center Manager Vincent Clark, the interest in distillery tours and experiences is growing in popularity right along with the spirit. The past four years have seen epic swings in guest engagement due to the pandemic. Clark shares his insights on how his team has responded to past events and how they are preparing to meet guest demand now and into the future.

The past few years have seen a variety of changes for Lux Row Distillers™ and the Limestone Branch Distillery™ – from pre-Covid demand, through the pandemic and back again. During this time, what learnings surfaced and what subsequent actions occurred? Covid was a hard time to be in hospitality. But what we found is that no matter the circumstances, people have an innate desire to travel. Covid did not stop this desire, but really amplified it. People travel more frequently now, and further distances. This has attracted new audiences to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail who may not have visited before. Last year the Bourbon Trail as a whole exceeded its 2019 numbers, with over 2 million total visits. At our distilleries, we had a combined 70,000 visitors.

How does the interest and excitement in the brands and distilleries compare to what you saw in 2019 (pre-Covid)? At Lux Row especially, we were just getting started in 2019. At Limestone, Yellowstone® had not reached the name recognition it has now. They were honestly different distilleries back then. Now, we’re often booked (especially on weekends) weeks in advance because people know our distilleries and brands and make it a point to include us as part of their Bourbon Trail experience. This didn’t happen in 2019.

How has your team pivoted to meet these recent demands? Five years ago, it was all about the standard tour experience. This has changed quite a bit. Now, it’s about cocktails and destination-style experiences. It’s really going the way of Napa. At each distillery we’ve added a Cocktail Ambassador who owns our cocktail space, allowing us to enhance our cocktail programming to meet these new demands and expectations.

What is the philosophy of the visitor centers and the teams who work there? The one thing we always talk about as a team is “don’t take people out of the fantasy.” Guests are here, most of the time, on vacation. They want to enjoy the experience and get away from the demands of the world. Our job is to be that source of joy for them. If we are successful in our roles, our guests will associate the Lux Row and Limestone brands with the great experience they had at our distilleries for years to come.

How do you and your team remain motivated? Sometimes it’s hard to stay motivated when you’re seeing 300-400 guests a day (and climbing). We try to stay motivated by mixing up our experiences and cocktails, keeping things fresh and leaning into our potential. We also do a “Bottle of the Month Club” internally with Visitor Center employees, so they get a chance to really interact with the product they’re selling. This has been a huge hit!

What do you want every visitor to know before and after they visit a Luxco distillery? Before they visit, guests need to book ahead of time! People think you can just stroll in and get a tour, but we are very frequently sold out at both distilleries. After their visit, I want guests to know all the names of our brands and think there is no way their experience at another distillery will be better than what they just had at Lux Row or Limestone. On a different note, I want to make sure everyone knows our visitor experiences are free for employees. You can email me at v.clark@luxrowdistillers.com if you ever want to come for a tour!

For more information, visit luxrowdistillers.com and limestonebranch.com.