Visiting the Distilleries In Kentucky…And You Will!
In 2012 we broke the 500,000 mark of folks that visited the Bourbon Trail here in Kentucky! That number is just going to go up, and up, and up in the years to come. There’s always confusion and frustration on some people’s parts when they get here of just how to tackle visiting all the different stops since the trail is as spread out as it actually is. Folks think it’s all right here within a 10 mile radius, but it’s not. So I thought I’d give some suggestions on where to go and when.
First of all, the time of year is important. I know Summer is the logical time people think to come, but it’s hot as hell here in the summer, and many of the distilleries aren’t making bourbon during the hot time of the year, so they’re disappointed they didn’t get to see whiskey spilling out of the tail boxes when they come. Spring and the Fall are always the best times to visit. Not only is the countryside gorgeous those times of year, but Keeneland and Churchill Downs Race tracks are open then, and it doesn’t get too much more Kentucky than bourbon and thoroughbred horse racing! Keeneland is open every April and October, and Churchill Downs in May and November (and sometimes September now too).
Sure you can google distilleries to visit here in KY, and find out where to get a drink after…But for a complete list here and information on routing, and off the beaten path kinda stuff I thought I’d put them all down for y’all. You’ll also want some folks to drive you around and host you, espeically if you have a group coming in. In that case contact my friends at Mint Julep Tours, www.mintjuleptours.com and call them at 502-583-1433. They’re the best, and I’ve known them since I was a kid, so you’re in good hands here.
And now know that Heaven Hill just opened the ground breaking visitors experience in the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience at 6th and Main Street right on Whiskey Row. It’s the first working distillery and visitors center on Whiskey Row in downtown Louisville in decades, if not longer!
Keep in mind that distilleries are working plants, and therefore everyone needs to wear close toed shoes, and practical walking shoes and stairs are usually involved…although most all are handicapped accessible of course.
Here’s a list of places you’ll hit coming from Louisville. So starting or ending at The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in downtown Louisville as your home base you’ll hit the rest on the list as you go.
Evan Williams Bourbon Experience 528 W. Main Street – Louisville, KY
This $10.5 visitors center just opened up November 15, 2013 and so far it’s nothing but rave reviews. It’s the first and right now the only visitors center and distillery in downtown Louisville that’s been open for decades if not longer. You’ll be treated to a transporting back in time 200 years when Evan Williams was a member of the town council in the city named after King Louie XVI of France and how he made whiskey back then, and how Heaven Hill makes it today in their Bernhiem facility, and also at their new artisanal distillery on premise there on Main Street. Then of course a sampling of two bourbons in one of two state of the art, and history tasting rooms.
Jim Beam Distillery
Hwy 225 off Exit 112 off I-65, Clermont, KY.
Home to Jim Beam, Knob Creek, Basil Hayden’s, Baker’s, Booker’s, Old Grand Dad, Old Crow, and Old Overholt. Master Distiller: Fred Noe.
Jim Beam built this new visitors center and tour experience that opened in the Fall of 2012. Heaven Hill raised the bar in 2004 when they built their ground breaking visitors experience in Bardstown, and Jim Beam is upping the bar again for the industry with this center which features an elevator that is a “stillavator” made to look like a whiskey still!
Four Roses Aging Facility at Cox’s Creek
Their bourbon is produced in Lawrenceburg, KY but their aging warehouses are here at the Cox’s Creek facility. There is only a small gift shop there, but I like going by and showing folks their unique single story warehouses that they use to age their bourbon. Four Roses is State Road 1604. And you’ll see a sign right before it on the left that says, HOBBS BAPTIST CHURCH.
T.W. Samuels Distillery – Deatsville Loop –
This distillery has been long closed, but it’s still standing, and the old stair step rack houses are there, and they’re still being used today owned by Heaven Hill aging some of their finer whiskies here in historic Deatsville. -Deatsville Loop is off Hwy 245, just as you pass the Nelson County Line and Vaughn Road, then it’s the next LEFT…it’s a loop, so it’ll dump you right back out on Hwy 245.
HEADS UP ***You can’t really get out of the car and explore here, but it’s pretty awesome just to drive by and see the unique stair step rack houses, and the old
distillery. Cool pictures to be had.
Thomas Moore Distillery
– 300 Barton Rd, Bardstown, KY 40004. Home of 1792 small batch bourbon, Kentucky Tavern, and VOB (Very Old Barton).
Master Distiller: Ken Pierce.
This facility is right in the heart of Bardstown, KY. They conduct tours on the hour from 9am to 3pm during the week, and Saturday 10am to 2pm.
Heaven Hill Distillery – Bourbon Heritage Center – 1311 Gilkey Run Rd. Bardstown, KY 40004. Home to Evan Williams, Elijah Craig, Bernheim Original Wheat Whiskey, Mellow Corn, Parker’s Heritage Collection, Fighting Cock, J.W. Dant, J.T.S. Brown, Old Fitzgerald, Larceny, and Henry McKenna. (and about 30 more labels).
Master Distillers: Parker Beam/Craig Beam
Everything the building is made from is related to the ingredients in bourbon. The copper roof is for the copper still. The limestone façade is from the limestone filtered water. The floors are white oak for the barrels we use in aging. You can take a regular tour, or sign up for a Behind the Scenes Tour, or take the trolley around the grounds and historic Bardstown, and then go inside Warehouse Y and see first hand how bourbon is aged.
Willett Distillery– Parkview Rd. KY 49S (Loretto Road) Home of Willett, Rowans Creek, Noah’s Mill, Old Bardstown, and Johnny Drum.
Master Distiller: Drew Kulsveen, along with Paul Culver, Jr., Bobby, and Terry.
Even Kulvsveen and his family restored and built a new distillery on the site of their family’s distillery. They are building a Bed & Breakfast on this site so it’ll be a very handy place to be home base on the Western Shelf, and what could be better than staying at a distillery?
The Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History – www.whiskeymuseum.com/
The Bardstown Historical Museum contains items relating to 200 years of area history. You will find indian relics, Lincoln documents, pioneer papers, John Fitch land grant, a replica of his first steamboat, Stephen Foster memorabilla, a new Trappist monks’ exhibit, gifts of Louis Phillippe and Charles X of France, Civil War artifacts and guerrilla Jesse James hat and wine bottle, St. Joe Preparatory School momentos and much more.
Maker’s Mark Distillery – 3350 Burk Spring Road Loretto, KY 40037. Home to Maker’s Mark, Maker’s 46, and Maker’s White Dog. Master Distiller: Greg Davis
They say seeing is believing. If you’re ever out in their neck of the woods, stop by the distillery to see your whisky being made in person. There’s nothing like it. The distillery is open on holidays except for Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Monday through Saturday: 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sundays: 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., (March through December) All times are Eastern Time. (We’re closed on Sundays in January and February.) The tour and bourbon tasting is $7 per adult. There is no charge for active duty military with an ID.
Independent Stave Cooperage – 712 E Main St Lebanon, KY 40033. This family owned cooperage is home of some of the highest quality
barrels used by most all distilleries in Kentucky, and wineries around the world.
Mon-Fri – 9:30 am and 1pm Closed weekends and holidays. 30-45 minutes. Closed toed shoes required, no cameras please.
Limestone Branch Distillery– 1280 Veterans Memorial Hwy. Lebanon, KY 270-699-9004. Home of T. J. Pottinger Moon Shine and Sugar Shine
Master Distillers: Steve and Paul Beam
Steve and Paul Beam, Joseph Washington Dant is their great-great grandfather who started the JW Dant Distillery in 1836, and who’s bourbon is still made today over at the Heaven Hill Distillery. But they’re following in their great great grandfather’s footsteps and making whiskey in Marion County. Their other great grandfather was Minor Case Beam, who was a descendant of Jacob Beam who started distilling in 1795, and their cousin Fred Noe (Jim Beam’s great grandson) runs a little distillery over there today called Jim Beam. Is it just me, or is bourbon a little incestuous? Well with the name like Beam, you’d almost HAVE to get yourself in to the distilling business today, and they’ve done just that. Go by and see them, and get some great stories from them, and drink some of their sugar shine whiskey.
SO IN SUMMARY>>>>>>>>>>>>>>You could do all the above in 2 days…and I’d sure do it like this:
Maker’s Mark – Independent Stave – Limestone Branch – Willett – Oscar Getz Museum
Heaven Hill – Thomas Moore – Four Roses Aging Facility at Cox’s Creek – T.W. Samuels Distillery and warehouses – Jim Beam.
SHOPPING TIP !!!!!! LADIES (and Guys) Zappo’s plant and discount retail store is right off exit 116 on I-65 on the way to and from the distilleries on the Western Shelf. Zappo’s makes shoes for Sperry Topsider, Ugg, and many others, and their shoes, and hand bags, and sunglasses, etc are always at least 50% off. Open every day, just exit EAST off I-65 (That’s to the Left if you’re going SOUTH, and RIGHT if you’re headed North) and it’s down not a mile on the left…it’s a HUUUUUGE building and you’ll see the retail store right on the corner of that big building…and Wednesdays are like Wacky Wednesday and there are CRAZY cheap additional deals to the 50% off! Enjoy!
GO to “WHERE TO BUY BOURBON WHEN YOU VISIT KENTUCKY AND THE BOURBON DISTILLERIES” on here on WHISKEY 101 too for great places to buy bourbon while you’re doing your tours. Some of the visitors centers carry wihskies you can ONLY buy there…BUY them all! ha But don’t buy what you can buy in stores at the visitors centers because we charge more than the stores do (so we don’t compete with our liquor store partners).
Frankfort/Versailles, KY Buffalo Trace Distillery – Home to Bulffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, George T. Stagg, Rock Hill Farms, The Antique Collection, Sazerac, E.H. Taylor, and Pappy Van Winkle.
Master Distiller: Harlen Wheatley
This is the old O.F.C. Distillery that was started by Edmund H. Taylor in 1870 which stood for Old Fire Copper, signifying that every drop touched copper along the process. And it’s the old Ancient Age Distillery, and now Buffalo Trace. You can call ahead and get a Hard Hat Tour which I’ve done and I’d recommend.
Woodford Reserve – Labrot & Graham Distillery – Home to Woodford Reserve, Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, and the Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection. Master Distiller: Chris Morris
This is the Old Labrott & Graham Distillery, and another distillery that the legendary Edmund H. Taylor was a part of. This is one of the first distilleries to really up their game on the visitors experience, and it’s a gorgeous facility and they also have a bourbon university there, and an awesome chef and dinners that go on there too.
INSIDER TIP: make a LEFT out of Labrott & Graham instead of a right, and go all the way down to the river, and you’ll get to see and take pictures of (but don’t go walking around or exploring) the old OLD TAYLOR DISTILLERY that Col. Edmund H. Taylor built…it looks like an old castle!
Four Roses Distillery – 1224 Bonds Mill Road, Lawernceburg, KY Home of Four Roses, Four Roses Small Batch, and Four Roses Single Barrel. Master Distiller: Jimmy Rutledge
This distillery was built in the style of Spanish Mission, and doesn’t look like a distillery or like it belongs in Kentucky at all, but it’s damn cool, and you’ll love seeing the old Cyprus wood fermenters, and just how they make 2 recipes and utilize 5 yeast strains to make 10 different bourbons there, and mingle them together for their Four Roses bourbons.
Wild Turkey Distillery – Home of Wild Turkey, Rare Breed, American Spirit, American Honey.
Master Distillers: Eddie Russell/Jimmy Russell.
You just never know when you’re gonna meet Master Distiller Emeritus, Jimmy Russell when you visit His son Eddie is there every day making the Kickin’ Chicken, and they have a brand new distillery to show off, and are building an awesome new visitors experience. Come check it out! Tell Jimmy that Bernie sent ya. He’s the equivelent to Bruce Springstein or Mick Jagger in our bourbon world.
Town Branch Distillery -401 Cross Street, Lexington, KY. Home of Town Branch Bourbon.
Master Distiller: Dr. Pearse Lyons.
Located in downtown Lexington, Town Branch Distillery opens up right across from its brewing facility that makes Kentucky Ale at the Corner of Cross and Maxwell
Streets. The first new distillery in downtown Lexington in over 100 years, Town Branch will be open for tours 7 days a week, Monday thru Saturday 10am to 5 pm, and Sunday Noon to 5pm for $7 a person. This exciting new distillery is one of the few that is produced by a company that makes award winning beer and ale, right across the street!
Barrel House Distilling Company – 1200 Manchester Street Building #9 – Lexington, KY 40504 Home of Devil John Moonshine.
Currently aging that product for some bourbon that will reveal itself sometime in 2014. They also are making some vodka and rum in the meantime, I mean ya gotta pay the bills somehow while the bourbon is aging right? Come by and see what they’re doing here sometime.
Bowling Green/Fort Campbell, KY
MB Roland Distillery – Christian County – 137 Barkers Mill Rd Pembroke, KY 42266.
Master Distiller: Paul Tomazewski.
Making white whiskey made with white corn from the region, and moonshine
with apple pie, strawberry, pink lemonade, blueberry, and mint julep, with just a little bourbon whiskey aging and becoming mature. They have a bluegrass music series called Pickin’ On The Porch each year…pretty cool, come check it out.
Corsair Distillery – Home of Corsair spirits.
Master Distillers: Darek Bell/Andrew Webber.
This is one of the most award winning craft distilleries in the country with Darek and Andrew manning the stills after a home brewing background. And they have quite a creative array of spirits from a straight forward Artisan Gin and Spiced Rum, to a Triple Smoke Malt Whiskey, to a rye whiskey made with malted rye and chocolate rye called Rye-Mageddon, and a Vanilla Bean Whiskey!
Directions to the distillery are Park at the Town Square, the walk down the College Street side of their building across from the Daily News at College Street and Spring Alley.
Nashville, TN /Kelso, TN
Prichard’s Distillery– Kelso, TN – 11 Kelso-Smithland Road. Home of Prichard’s Rum, Prichard’s Tennessee Whiskey, Prichard’s Double Barreled Bourbon, Double Chocolate Bourbon, Sweet Lucy Bourbon Cream Liqueur, and Sweet Lucy Rum.
Corsair Distillery – Same folks as Corsair in Bowling Green, but they also have a location just 50 minutes down the road in Nashville, TN. You need to check this facility out too, and when you do, you also have to visit Mr. Prichard’s Distillery in Kelso, TN where he makes his favorite Sweet Lucy Rum, and other fine rums, and whiskey.
Silver Trail Distillery – Hardin, Kentucky – Home of Apple Cin Moonshine. Master Distiller: Spencer Ballentine. Way down in Western Kentucky before you get
to Paducah, and around Land Between the Lakes and Clarksville and Nashville, TN sits this little distillery making white whiskey.
Old Pague Distillery– 716
W 2nd Street – Maysville, KY 41056 – Home of Old Pogue Bourbon and Limestone Landing Single Malt Rye. Master Distiller Paul Pogue/John Pogue.
Tours of the distillery and historic Pogue house last one hour and are scheduled in advance for a more personal experience. Our tours are offered by appointment Wednesday through Sunday at 10:00am and 2:00pm, with a maximum of 15 people per session. Alcohol sales and tastings are restricted until after 1:00pm on Sunday.
The Old Pogue Distillery is located at 716 W 2nd Street, Maysville, KY on the same grounds where the historic H.E. Pogue Distillery was located. They proudly produce small batch rye and bourbon whisky using the same ingredient combinations and methods found in the recipes of our forefathers. Their distillers, Paul Pogue and John Pogue, are fifth and sixth generation Pogues, respectively. The Old Pogue property includes the historic home of the Pogue family and an artisan distillery, complete with tasting room, grain holding, and barrel storage. The venue sits on the southern bluff of the Ohio River Valley with eastwardly views of the Simon Kenton Bridge and Ohio River.
I’ve put a list of package liquor stores on this site, so take a look at that to buy some whiskies you see at the distilleries, or for whiskies you can only get here.