Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Part I

Our baby turned 21!! To celebrate, we wanted to show him the finer things in life, so we took him on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is a self-guided driving tour of bourbon distilleries in the area in and around Louisville, Kentucky.  This is the first leg of the tour.  In a separate post, I’ll talk about the final leg with all my tips and tricks and things I wish I knew beforehand.

Night One

Chris Martin, Coldplay, Louisville, Kentucky

Coldplay at the KFC YUM! Center! We stayed at the Galt House Hotel which has a walkway that connects the hotel to the venue so it was very convenient for the concert. Downtown Louisville is very walkable so, if you decide to book a concert while you are there, any hotel within walking distance will work.

Instagraming concert

The Instagrams of the 6 foot 3’s are so much better than shorties of the world.

Chris Martin, Coldplay, Louisville, Kentucky

The KFC YUM! Center is a good venue for a concert.  We had floor seats and security could have been better. They did a poor job managing people rushing the stage that didn’t have floor tickets so the people that actually paid to sit there had their views blocked and were pushed around.  I expect that in a GA ticket situation but not when there are actual seats. Coldplay put on a fantastic show, though.

Day 1

The first place to visit before you get started is the Louisville Visitors Center to pick up your Bourbon Trail Passport and to say “Hi” to the Colonel!

KFC Colonel Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Louisville sign Kentucky Bourbon Trail

You have the passport stamped at each distillery you visit. When your book is full, you take it back to the Visitors Center and get your official Bourbon Trail T-shirt.  It will be the most expensive T-shirt you will own!

There is an app that has the guide and passport but it needs some work. I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s better to go analog.

Our first tour was the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in downtown Louisville.

Evan Williams Bourbon Experience Kentucky Bourbon Trail

After visiting all the distilleries on the Trail and then some, I will say this is the best first stop.

Evan Williams Bourbon Experience Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Our guide gave us a great overview of Evan Williams but also of Louisville and how the city and state became the number one bourbon producer.

Evan Williams Bourbon Experience Tasting Kentucky Bourbon Trail

The tasting will remind you of college, but it was a great place to get familiar with the process and get some history.

Evan Williams Bourbon Experience Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Evan Williams Bourbon Experience Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Evan Williams Bourbon Experience Kentucky Bourbon Trail

The second stop, Makers Mark.

Maker's Mark Bourbon Distillery Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Maker's Mark Bourbon Distillery Kentucky Bourbon Trail

This was a beautiful tour and the first one where we saw the actual distilling and bottling process.

Maker's Mark Bourbon Distillery Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Maker's Mark Bourbon Distillery Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Maker's Mark Bourbon Distillery Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Maker's Mark Bourbon Distillery Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Our guide was cute as he could be, the grounds were beautiful, and even the rickhouse had a Chihuly ceiling.

Maker's Mark Bourbon Distillery Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Maker's Mark Bourbon Distillery Chihuly Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Maker's Mark Bourbon Distillery Kentucky Bourbon Trail

We love Maker’s anyway, so we loved the tasting and actually bought some Private Select in the gift shop.

The third stop, Jim Bean Urban Stillhouse:

Jim Bean Urban Stillhouse Kentucky Bourbon Trail

The Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse is downtown and stays open late, so it’s a good stop for the end of the day when everything else is closed.

Jim Bean Urban Stillhouse Kentucky Bourbon Trail

It’s an interesting space.

Jim Bean Urban Stillhouse Kentucky Bourbon Trail

But the tasting wasn’t so great.  I will admit I’m not a big Jim Beam fan, but anything for the stamp and the T-shirt!

Jim Bean Urban Stillhouse Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Jim Bean Urban Stillhouse Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Jim Bean Urban Stillhouse Kentucky Bourbon Trail

We got a nice shot glass, though!

Jim Bean Urban Stillhouse Kentucky Bourbon Trail

All smiles after day one and the first day being 21!

I got asked a few times about drinking and driving.  Kentucky regulates how much the distilleries can pour for a sample.  I never felt over-served. The distilleries are pretty far apart so you aren’t going to be able to drink enough at once to actually get drunk.  If you are worried about it, there are tour companies that will drive you around in a van. We decided not to do that because we wanted to go at our own pace and not be with a big group.

Day 2

Bulleit Bourbon Distillery Kentucky Bourbon Trail

After a night of birthday celebrating, day two started with strong coffee and Bulleit.

Bulleit Bourbon Distillery Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Bulleit Bourbon Distillery Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Bulleit Bourbon Distillery Kentucky Bourbon Trail

The smell coming out of the rickhouses was amazing!

Bulleit Bourbon Distillery Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Bulleit Bourbon Distillery Kentucky Bourbon Trail

We even got to see how the barrels are made and how leaks are fixed.

Bulleit Bourbon Distillery Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Bulleit Bourbon Distillery Kentucky Bourbon Trail

From this tasting, we discovered we loved I.W. Harper.  It’s hard to find in Tennessee but well worth the search.

Bulleit Bourbon Distillery Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Next was probably the best tasting on the whole tour, Woodford Reserve.

Woodford Reserve Distillery Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Woodford Reserve Distillery Kentucky Bourbon Trail

You can stick your finger in the mash and taste it.  I thought it tasted like a sweet/sour cornbread batter.

Woodford Reserve Distillery Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Woodford Reserve Distillery Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Woodford Reserve Distillery Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Woodford Reserve Distillery Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Woodford Reserve Distillery Kentucky Bourbon Trail

There are candles that try and mimic the smell of a rickhouse (where they age the bourbon barrels) but they really don’t come close.

Woodford Reserve Distillery Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Woodford Reserve Distillery Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Woodford Reserve Distillery Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Woodford Reserve Distillery Kentucky Bourbon Trail

With this tasting, they gave us a piece of chocolate and we tasted the difference in the bourbon with and without food. It was very much like a wine tasting.

Woodford Reserve Distillery Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Since this tasting, many of our nights have ended with bourbon and chocolate!

Woodford Reserve Distillery Kentucky Bourbon Trail

This is where we ended the first leg of our tour. If you weren’t interested in visiting all the distilleries and getting your T-shirt (and glory), you could stop here and make it a weekend.

Kentucky Bourbon Trail Part II!

 

 

 

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