Bourbon in the Bluegrass State: Take a Tour of the Best Distilleries in Kentucky
Learn the history of this Kentucky legend
Over the rolling bluegrass hills and past the racing thoroughbreds, you can find another Kentucky export loved by millions. The Bluegrass State is the home of bourbon whiskey. In fact, over 95 percent of the bourbon produced comes from Kentucky. This state is serious about their liquor. Kentucky has more aging barrels of bourbon than people in their population.
Bourbon is so beloved in the state that there is an annual Bourbon Festival held in Bardstown every September. If you miss out on that, you’ll have plenty of chances to sample bourbon. Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail takes visitors throughout 27 different distilleries. Louisville’s Whiskey Row is the unofficial headquarters of the Kentuckian bourbon industry. So are you ready to try some of the best bourbons in the country? Raise your glass to Kentucky’s heritage as you explore the best distilleries of the Bluegrass State.
Evan Williams Bourbon Experience
When you are visiting downtown Louisville, make your first stop at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience. This label was one of the first commercial distillers in the state. The original location may be gone, but you can learn about its storied history. On their guided tour, check out the artisanal distillery that continues to produce bourbon for the brand. Along with the tour, guests can interact with the exhibits focusing on Kentucky’s heritage of bourbon production. Your tour ends with a tasting of Evan Williams’ portfolio of bourbons. Commemorate the experience with a stop at the gift shop. Tickets for the tour are available on a first-come, first-served basis. However, you can reserve your spot ahead of time.
Another distillery is worth a visit in Louisville. The Old Forester Distillery is also nestled in the historic Whiskey Row. In 1870, Old Forester bottled their bourbon in sealed bottles and changed the bottling process in the industry. The glass bottles ensured customers received a fresh and high-quality product. According to their legend, George Gavin Brown named his bourbon after his friend, Dr. William Forrester. Today, you can grab a spot on one of their guided tours. Your bourbon expert will paint a detailed history of the brand. You can also check out the distilling and bottling processes on site. The Old Forester Tasting Room gives each guest a chance to sip some of their samples.
The family-owned business has been passed down for generations. Their Louisville distillery is one of the newest buildings on the block. If you want to see the workings of a modern distillery, this is the place for you. In fact, it is the downtown area’s first fully operational whiskey production facility. Each distillery tour lasts for about an hour. You start in the reception area and proceed into their distilling operations room. Guests get a first-hand look at the distilling process from beginning to end. If you are wondering how their bourbon tastes, the tour concludes in The Finishing Room for a sample of their products.
Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience
The Bulliet brand is one of the most in-demand bourbons in the world. The Stitzel-Weller Distillery dubs itself “one of the true cathedrals of the American whiskey industry.” Located only five miles from Louisville, you can tour the distillery on a one hour guided tour. Guests can visit the cooper shop, mill house, and micro still-house on the property. The tour concludes with a bourbon tasting lead by their in-house bourbon expert.
Jim Beam American Stillhouse
Jim Bean is one of the world’s most recognizable bourbons. It has been produced by over seven different generations dating back to 1795. This tour is one of the most popular spots on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. If you want to join their tours, it is best to reserve your ticket early. Located in Clermont, the tour is available seven days a week. These tours tend to last around 90 minutes. You can see their entire distilling process from the natural limestone well to the bottling of the final product. There is an on-site bar and restaurant, so you don’t have to worry about touring on an empty stomach.
Want to visit a distillery on the designated National Historic Landmark list? Make your way to Loretto and the Maker’s Mark distillery. Even if you are not familiar with their bourbon, you will instantly recognize the trademark red wax seal. Guests can learn about the history and production process of their bourbon. You have two tour options for you to explore. The General Tour will cover the basics of the bourbon operations process. If you really want to get an in-depth experience, the Maker’s Immersion Tour will grant you access to areas that not available to the general public. You will even take home two wax dipped bourbon glasses as souvenirs.
Frankfort is the home of the Buffalo Trace distillery. Even though it is not listed on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, this distillery has been producing high-quality bourbon for over 200 years. Sitting on over 400 acres of land by the Kentucky River, the tour gives guests a behind-the-scenes look at Kentucky’s favorite drink. There are over six different tour options at the site, including a ghost tour. Each tour last over an hour and conclude with a sample of Buffalo Trace’s finest offerings.
The Woodford Reserve is one of the smallest and oldest distilleries in the state. Located in Versailles, thoroughbred farms and bluegrass hills surround the distillery. Since 1812, Woodford Reserve has been producing bourbon for several generations. Guests learn about the history of bourbon and how the distillery played a major role in the state’s history. You can learn about the five sources of flavor and their specialized bottling process. The tour ends with a traditional sampling of their bourbons. This little spot also has a gift shop and café for those visitors wanting to take advantage of true Kentucky hospitality.
Located in Lawrenceburg, Wild Turkey continues to be a family-owned business. Wild Turkey offers its tours seven days a week. You can reserve your spot on the Barrel to Bottle tour. This guided tour lasts for about an hour. Visitors walk past the distillery and the barrel aging house. Of course, like all the tours, it finishes with a tasting of Wild Turkey’s bourbons