Curated From My Own Experiences on the Bourbon Trail
Love bourbon? Or are you just curious about this bourbon craze like I was? Maybe it's time to travel to the home of 95% of the world's bourbon supply, the blue grass state of Kentucky.
This content is not intended for minors. By continuing to read this content, you agree that you are of legal drinking age in your local jurisdiction.
The following guide is intended to make your planning a whole lot easier than mine was. When I started planning, I read articles and blog posts, looked at bottles in the liquor store, reviewed some of the bourbon tours available, and asked around. Information was scattered at best, especially when it came to subjects like how does a solo traveler get between all of these distilleries. Which offers the best experience? How redundant will the tours be? And so on.
How to Use This Guide
Below, I have listed all of the distilleries I visited. You don't have to read this guide from beginning to end. Feel free to skip around first to the distilleries you're interested in.
However, to get the most out of this material, I would highly encourage you to stretch yourself like I did. I found some excellent tours at distilleries I had never heard of. The big guys may be more polished and refined, but the little guys can show you the entrepreneurial spirit and cutting-edge creativity.
Each distillery page contains a distillery map link, cost, freebies, perks, swag, and what I was able to sample. I also gave you my takeaways in both video and bullet point form so you can understand the experience you could expect there.
And if you want to get a little more educated on bourbon before your trip, I also included some side content that will help you learn some of the things that I discovered along the way. Terms like mash bills and allocation, or to how to see around marketing and get to the real bourbon experience. I'll even dispell a couple of myths about bourbon, including that limestone water question and if bourbon can be made outside of Kentucky.
Note: You can start with Marker's Mark and use the links at the end of each page to take the entire journey with me. These are in the order that I visited. Or you can jump back to this page at any time to navigate around to any other distilleries you're interested in. Also note that these opinions are all my own. I did not contact any of these distilleries before or during my visit and received no compensation from any of them - in the interest of having an unbiased experience. Enjoy!
Kentucky Distillery Tour Reviews
- Maker's Mark Distillery (Loretto, KY)
- Wilderness Trail Distillery (Danville, KY)
- Town Branch Distillery (Lexington, KY)
- Glenn's Creek Distillery (Frankfort, KY)
- Four Roses Distillery (Lawrenceville, KY)
- Wild Turkey Distillery (Lawrenceville, KY)
- Woodford Reserve (Versailles, KY)
- Buffalo Trace Distillery (Frankfort, KY)
- Kentucky Artisan Distillery (Crestwood, KY)
- Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse (Louisville, KY)
- Stitzel-Weller Distillery (Louisville, KY)
- Old Forester Distillery (Louisville, KY)
- Evan Williams Sweet and Neat Tasting Experience (Louisville, KY)
- Jim Beam American Stillhouse (Clermont, KY)
- Barton's 1792 Distillery (Bardstown, KY)
- Willett Distillery (Bardstown, KY)
- Heaven Hill Whiskey Connoisseurs Tour (Bardstown, KY)
Tennessee Distillery Tour Reviews
Watch for a podcast soon where I will disclose my top 10 favorite distilleries.
More About My Journey to Bourbon
In the interest of full disclosure, when I started this tour, I was a casual scotch drinker and didn't have a very high opinion of bourbon. But travel is all about expanding yourself and jumping past preconceived notions or prejudices into a world of educated stances and conclusions.
To my great delight, I found each distillery had it's own unique personality and while the discussion of the process was a bit redundant from distillery to distillery, you could find the subtle nuances that pointed to what that distillery really prided itself on. It was truly an eye opener (and not just because I was drinking some stout spirits)!
The payoff? I now look at those bottles in the store and in my liquor cabinet in a completely new way. Each bottle tells a story. It's not about who markets to me the best or who has the prettiest bottle. It's about my own palate and experience I had interacting with the product and the company itself. If you like whiskey, you'll approach it in a completely new way.
Here is my introductory video for the tour:
Share Your Experience
If you take the plunge, even if you only go to a distillery or two, tell me about your experiences in the comment boxes at the end of these articles. I'd love to hear how you enjoyed the distillery and what your own experience was. Cheers!
Two Important Considerations:
1) This blog is in no way an endorsement of being irresponsible when doing a bourbon tour. Please use your best judgment in how you consume alcohol. This is a "tasting" tour not a get drunk tour. If getting intoxicated is your plan, then have a designated driver or get the Lyft app on your phone as drivers are available all across the bourbon trail. As you will soon find out, the distilleries must keep you limited in what you receive at a tasting, but you must also be personally responsible for your actions along the way.
2) There are plenty of variables that can affect the details I have provided on each specific distillery and it's tours and tastings. You may find different experiences with different tour guides, weather issues, changes in offers, etc. So make sure to confirm costs and get reservations through the distillery websites whenever possilble and plan to have a unique experience.
Now, let's have some fun on the bourbon trail, starting at Makers Mark Distillery in Loretto, KY.