Kentucky has a lot more than just horses and fried chicken to offer, but one thing any native is proud of is the bourbon! (Not to be mistaken with whiskey!)
While I have tried an array of Kentucky’s bourbons, I have only been on one of the distillery tours: Maker’s Mark. The distillery tours weren’t really something my friends did in our early to mid-20s. (We were still more interested in drinking the bourbon than knowing anything about where it came from…) By the time it was of true interest I’d gotten on the baby-train. (Dot came along to the Maker’s tour actually. She was six weeks old and we were celebrating my brother’s 30th birthday! Hubs dipped a bottle for Lou, though, and we’ll bust it out in 2034 when she turns 21!) Fitting bourbon tours in over the past three years when I’ve been breastfeeding or pregnant just haven’t been on the list.
But hitting more of these distilleries over time is something I’d love to do and a great activity right here in our back yard.
The Bluegrass has over 20 working distilleries with more than 200 brands. Only some of the distilleries offer public tours, but even those that don’t typically offer guests tastings and gift shops. Most of the more famous bourbon brands can be found on the Bourbon Trail.
In 1999, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association formed the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® tour to give visitors a firsthand look at the art and science of crafting Bourbon, and to educate them about the rich history and proud tradition of our signature spirit.
For full history on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, visit the website.
The trail is a great adventure to take on as a group–whether it be friends or family. Even better: most of these tours and tastings are free! Visit Maker’s Mark, Four Roses, Jim Beam, Buffalo Trace, Woodford Reserve, and more all within less than a 100 miles of each other between Louisville and Lexington and beautiful horse and farm country.
Having said that, it is a drive between distilleries and often a lot of twists and turns on two lane roads. (Basically I’m saying, don’t get too carried away on those tastings–you might not make it to the next distillery!) For more tips on covering the trail, read here.
But you definitely do not need to commit yourself to completing the Bourbon Trail to make any one of the distillery experiences worth while. Just last weekend Holly Jo and her husband treated their out of town guests to a visit to Maker’s Mark, as well as a stop at Woodford Reserve and the Taylor Made Horse Farm before attending the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.
Kentucky may not be the travel hotspot on most people’s list, but it’s a gamble worth taking and experiencing it’s horse and bourbon country showcase our beauty and uniqueness well. Even if you are simply traveling through Kentucky on I-75, I-65 or I-64 (Virginia Beach anyone?), make your road trip an experience and plan a detour in Kentucky for one of the distilleries.
Looking for a distillery in a particular area to visit in the near future. Here is a quick list with links to each distillery’s website.
Barton’s 1792 Distillery
*Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center
Corsair Artisan Distillery
Jefferson’s Reserve at Kentucky Artisan Distillery
*Alltech Lexington Brewing & Distilling Company
Barrel House Distilling Company
Limestone Branch Distillery
*Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience
Derby City Spirits
*Evan Williams Bourbon Experience
Grease Monkey Distillery
*Jim Beam Urban Distillery
Northern Kentucky Region
New Riff Distillery
Old Pogue Distillery
MB Roland Distillery
*Four Roses Wharehouses & Bottling Tours
*Jim Beam American Stillhouse
*: Kentucky Bourbon Trail