Football season ended with Sunday night’s exciting Super Bowl. So, now we turn to spring baseball, and, welll, just spring. I’ve talked about the Bourbon Trail before, but with spring upon us I wanted to talk about it more! There is no better time to visit Kentucky than spring, although fall is pretty spectacular as well.
The Bourbon Trail, which officially began in 1999, announced this past week that together the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and Craft Bourbon Trail saw over 1,000,000 visitors last year. That is an impressive number and shows the interest and growth in bourbon and whiskey. There are two unique trails, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and the Craft Bourbon Trail. There is also a third experience, the Urban Bourbon Trail, which is a tour through Louisville’s bourbon bars (but all bars in Kentucky serve bourbon).
The official Kentucky Bourbon Trail is made up of the following distilleries: Angels Envy, Bulleit, Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, Four Roses, Heaven Hill (Bourbon Heritage Center), Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Town Branch, Wild Turkey, and Woodford Reserve. By visiting these distilleries and having your passport stamped you earn a gift. In the past it has been a branded t0shirt though I understand that may be changing.
The Bourbon Trail is many of the larger distilleries and in a fairly concentrated section of the state. These are the big boys but that doesn’t mean you don’t get a very informative and personalized tour.
Because they have the bigger budgets their visitor centers are like visiting a museum and candy store with their gift shops. At Jim Beam Lynn got to fill a barrel before it was sent to the warehouse.
Then we got to bottle our own bottle of Knob Creek. We tasted right out of the cypress wood fermenting tanks at Four Roses. Woodford Reserve does 3 different tours. They have their general tour, a historic tour, and the one we took which is called “Corn to Cork.”
The Corn to Cork tour is an educational experience that takes you from where the corn is unloaded into the storage facility to the corking of the bottles. We learned a lot, had a great time, and even got to taste out of a barrel.
Maker’s Mark lets you dip a bottle in the red wax for you to take with you. At Maker’s Mark it’s an interesting story, I don’t want to spoil, about why they painted the buildings black.
The Craft Bourbon Trail includes: Barrel House, Corsair Artisan Distillery, Hartfield & Co., Limestone Branch, MB Roland, New Riff, Peerless Distilling Company, the Old Pogue Distillery, Wilderness Trail, and Willet Distillery. These are your smaller distilleries and give you a close up look at the guys making small batch, craft spirits. The craft distilleries are spread throughout the state. This tour is a real challenge to complete in one trip to Kentucky. We did not complete it but look forward to going back this year and completing it. We did make it to Old Pogue, Willet, and Barrel House. They are all so different, and so interesting. One of our favorites was Old Pogue where it was just the 2 of us. We also got a personal tour of the family’s Antebellum home overlooking the Ohio River. Willet is also one you do not want to miss. Their pot still is famous because their Pot Still Reserve Bourbon is in a bottle the shape of their still.
There are other outstanding distilleries not on the official bourbon trails but a must on your trip. Those include Old Barton and Buffalo Trace. Anyone who knows their bourbon knows Buffalo Trace has a lot of brands. Just a few of their brands are Buffalo Trace, Blanton’s, Eagle Rare, E.H. Taylor, Sazerac Rye, George T. Stagg, Stagg Jr., W.L. Weller, and one other brand might have heard of — Pappy Van Winkle.
As you can see there are a lot of stops you can make on the Bourbon trail and I haven’t even mentioned other things to do while you are there. There is always horse racing at Churchill Downs in Louisville, or Keeneland in Lexington.
Or for something different plan a picnic and go to Steeplechase Racing or Polo. These events are always fun, exciting, and feature the food and drink of the region. Churchill Downs makes a mean Mint Julep in the spring. There is always a tour of a horse farm around the Lexington area.
When in Louisville any sports fan is going to want to tour the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory. The Louisville and Lexington visitors websites have a ton of great information on them about the area and other things to do besides sip bourbon!
So where do you stay? The bourbon trail is very spread out, so you have to decide where you want to start and end if you’re trying to see a lot of distilleries. We stayed at the Seelbach Hilton in Louisville. A grand of Hotel with a great history. The Brown Hotel in Louisville is also a great place to stay. The Brown Hotel is home to the original Kentucky Hot Brown (another blog to come – I’m a big fan). In Harrodsburg, the Beaumont Inn has been highly recommended by friends. But Lexington, Frankfurt, Bardstown all have wonderful places to stay. In Bardstown you must stop in the Talbott Tavern for a bite to eat. It is the oldest western stagecoach stop in America having been built in 1779.
I could go on and on about bourbon, horses, and Kentucky. Leave a comment with some of your favorite stops along the bourbon trail if you’ve been before!