Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks with reporters following his tour of the UPS Worldport facility in Louisville, Ky., Tuesday, Apr. 27, 2021. UPS is tone of the primary shippers of the COVID-19 vaccine. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, Pool)

Gov. Andy Beshear on Tuesday touted Kentucky's progress toward reaching a post-pandemic normal while celebrating a startup bourbon distillery — the kind of event his predecessors savored.

The governor participated in a ribbon cutting for a tasting room where visitors will sample spirits crafted at Log Still Distillery in Nelson County.

The central Kentucky distillery — developed by a family with deep roots in the state's bourbon history — is the centerpiece of a destination experience called Dant Crossing. It includes a bed and breakfast with plans to open an amphitheater, restaurant, train depot, event center and museum. It also will feature wooded walking trails and a 12-acre lake for fishing, the distillery's website says.

After more than a year of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor joked that he’s been waiting for a family-friendly destination where he could also enjoy a fine bourbon.

“As more people get that ‘shot of hope’ — that safe and effective vaccine — we are safely, steadily and sustainably removing the measures that were needed to keep us safe," Beshear said. "And we are getting back to normal faster and faster. And as we sit here today, our economy is poised to take off in a way the likes of which I have never seen.”

More than 1.8 million people have received at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in Kentucky, the governor said later Tuesday. He reported 758 new coronavirus cases statewide and 23 more deaths, raising the state's virus-related death toll past 6,600.

The Democratic governor has announced steps in recent days to relax virus-related restrictions. Starting May 28, Kentucky businesses and events with fewer than 1,000 people will be allowed to operate at 75% capacity, while events drawing more than 1,000 people will be able to operate at 60% capacity. The virus-related curfew on bars and restaurants will be lifted the same day.

Some prominent Kentucky Republicans have tried to ramp up pressure on Beshear to accelerate the lifting of remaining virus restrictions.

Bourbon tourism has become big business in Kentucky. The tasting room at Log Still Distillery will open to the public on May 18 and will feature the distillery's initial spirits lineup bearing the Monk’s Road brand.

“The Dants are back in the bourbon business again,” said Log Still President Wally Dant.

The family traces its bourbon heritage to Joseph Washington Dant, who fashioned a still out of a hollowed-out log in 1836.

"We’re so excited about bringing this part of history and our legacy back to life,” Wally Dant said.

Attending bourbon distillery openings and expansions became a perk of the job for Kentucky governors, including Andy Beshear's father, Steve, who served two terms as governor.

Bourbon has grown into an $8.6 billion industry in Kentucky, where distilleries craft 95% of the world’s bourbon supplies, according to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association.

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