KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -- Missouri and Kansas City are hoping to cash in on a growing type of tourism centered around distilleries.
KCTV5 News met up with more than a dozen makers who launched a liquor tour mimicking the route that Lewis and Clark took, in an effort to give Missouri the credit it’s due.
The point of this expedition is to discover new spirits rather than new lands. 13 area distillers offered tastings at North Kansas City’s Restless Spirits on the same day that Lewis and Clark’s crew stopped in Kansas City, Kansas for a break to dry their clothes 215 years ago.
“I did not skip work. I took a mental health day,” Gerard Coday, Liberty tour taker, said.
The tour involves 33 distilleries in the state, an effort to raise Missouri’s reputation for homegrown, handcrafted hooch.
An example of the Farm to Table movement: a guy who grows different varieties of corn for his whiskey and carves the namesake Wood Hats.
“We put the seed in the ground and we put the label on the bottle and we do everything in between,” Gary Hinegardner, Wood Hat Spirits in New Florence, Missouri, said.
Distillery tourism is a booming business.
“The first craft distiller I went to was maybe five or six years ago in Seattle,” John Talbot, North Kansas City tour taker, said.
Consider Kentucky, the birthplace of bourbon, with names known worldwide, and its Bourbon Trail that began in 1999 and drew one million visitors last year. Both that tour and this one involves collecting stamps.
“We hit six of them between Friday and Sunday,” Angela Hannah, Parkville tour taker, said.
This tour is more diverse.
“We’re more than bourbon,” Benay Shannon, Restless Spirits Distilling Company in North Kansas City, said.
There was brandy, gin, moonshine even rum. But whiskey has the most history.
In fact, long before Small Batch Spirits started filling the stills, the state was known for its white oak barrels, supplying nearly all bourbon makers in the US, not to mention Scotch makers in, well, Scotland.
Our own Friday Night Flights series has profiled Tom’s Town, Mean Mule and Lifted Spirits among more than a dozen craft distilleries on our side of the state.
“Like in the last two years, the number of distilleries in Missouri has tripled,” Shannon said.
VisitKC even made a video about it. They’re the local tourism bureau. They say 6% of visitors to the metro include breweries or distilleries in their itineraries.
“I think 94% are doing it wrong,” David Weglarz, Still 630 Distillery in St Louis, Missouri said.
After all, lots of the folks are medal winners, and they’ll gladly let out-of-towners drink it in.