Are you are bourbon enthusiast? Whether you enjoy bourbon or not, this is a bucket list experience you don’t want to miss. After hitting the trail and the bourbon a few times, I have gathered a few of my thoughts and experiences to come up with a perfect Bourbon Trail Guide. We are based out of Cincinnati so our Bourbon Trail adventure starts there.
Tips Before You Tour and Taste
- You usually have to take the distillery tour to sample the bourbon. Few places offer samples without a tour or allow you to pay to sample.
- All bourbon tours are roughly 45 minutes to an hour-long. Plan your day accordingly and allow driving time between distilleries.
- Most distilleries close at 5 pm with the last tour starting an hour before close or earlier. Be sure to check on the distilleries’ website to see when they offer their last tour.
- Tours will cost you between $10-15 a person, very few distilleries offer free tours. There are options to have behind the scenes tours that can cost a little more and need to be set up in advance.
- Dress for the tours. You do spend time outside on each tour so dress accordingly.
- Don’t forget to make time for lunch or bring snacks with you.
- It can be cheaper to buy your bottles of bourbon elsewhere. Most distilleries have to sell to distributors and in order for the distillery to sell their bourbon in their own gift shop, they have to buy it back from their distributor. Every time the bourbon changes hands there is a tax, so expect to pay a little more in the gift shop.
- Even if you don’t enjoy bourbon, the trail has something for everyone!
Day One- Time To Hit the Bourbon Trail
You will need to start your day early. I’m talking at 10 am!! Keep in mind that you need to be at your last distillery by 4 pm at the latest! If you are hitting the bourbon trail from Cincinnati expect a 90-minute drive to get to your first distillery.
Stop Number One: Castle and Key Distillery
Before you can appreciate the bourbons of today, you must remember the bourbons of the past. Built-in 1887, the E.H. Taylor distillery (Old Taylor Distillery) closed in 1972. New owners have bought this historic treasure back to life as the Castle and Key Distillery which opened in 2016. You can find it at 4335 McCracken Pike, Frankfort, KY 40601.
Stop Number Two: Woodford Reserve –7855 McCracken Pike Versailles, KY 40383
Just up the road from the Old Taylor Distillery, you will find Woodford Reserve tucked away in the hills of Kentucky. Tours start here at 10:00 am, so get there to hop on that first tour. They do have a little restaurant here and word to the wise….pick something up to eat…whether now or later. It keeps you from having to run through a drive-thru.
Stop Number Three: Buffalo Trace-113 Great Buffalo Trace, Frankfort, KY 40601
One of my favorite distilleries to visit is Buffalo Trace. They offer free tours and tastings so this is a great stop for those on a budget. Be sure to get your picture with their famous buffalo mascot!
Stop Number Four: Daniel Boone’s Grave-Frankfort Cemetery 215 E. Main St., Frankfurt KY 40601
Right down the road from Buffalo Trace you can swing by the local cemetery and pay respect to this American legend. Pull up some facts on Daniel Boone while you are there, so you learn a little something during your visit.
Stop Number Five: Wild Turkey- 1417 Versailles Road, Lawrenceburg, KY 40342
The next stop will put you on the road for a half-hour as you enter further into the heart of bourbon county. The drive is beautiful and makes the time fly by. Once at Wild Turkey…if Bubba is still there, request him as your tour guide. He is absolutely amazing and can school you on some bourbon! He will teach you everything you ever wanted to know and beyond about bourbon and the industry.
Stop Number Six: Four Roses-1224 Bonds Mill Rd, Lawrenceburg, KY 40342
This is will likely be your last stop because by now you have spent three hours on tours and some time between to do a little sightseeing and driving. You might not even make it here depending on how you structured your day. Four Roses did have an option for you to not take the tour and just taste the bourbons, but you know how things change.
OVERNIGHT IN BARDSTOWN, KENTUCKY
There are tons of places to stay along the trail, but Bardstown is smack in the middle of the action. It is a quaint little town that offers some fun unique accommodations, restaurants, and shops. Check out the Jailer’s Inn and the Old Talbott Tavern for something out of the ordinary.
The next morning its time to rise and shine and drink more bourbon. Find yourself a good donut at Hadorn’s Bakery and then it is off to Heaven Hill.
Stop One: Heaven Hill-1311 Gilkey Run Rd., Bardstown, KY 40004
Home of the Bourbon Heritage Center, Heaven Hill is a must-see while in Bardstown. Don’t get this confused with the Heaven Hill Distillery in Louisville…there are two locations! Go through the museum before hitting the tour.
Stop Two: Willett Distillery– 1869 Loretto Rd, Bardstown, KY 40004
This distillery is one along the Craft Bourbon Trail and was a group favorite. They haven’t been open for long and are just now releasing their own aged bourbon. Their small size makes the tour more personal and they have an awesome still to gaze your eyes upon. I highly recommend adding Willett to your itinerary.
Stop Three: Abby of Gethsemani
You need to stop here to pick up some bourbon fudge made by the Trappist Monks. The Monks support themselves through making homemade goods so you will be supporting a good cause. The fudge is out of this world so be sure to buy more than one container! Be sure to check out their hours on their website.
Stop Four: Limestone Branch Distillery-1280 Veterans Memorial Hwy, Lebanon, KY 40033
This is a stop on the craft bourbon trail and is worth a visit to see how the smaller operations make their products. They currently do not charge for their tours and Limestone makes moonshine as well! Be sure to sample the Moon Pie Moonshine! Our guide was a riot and taught us about how Stephen Beam started the distillery. Lo and Behold! Mr. Beam showed up and signed bottles of bourbon for the few guests in the distillery!!! That made this stop forever memorable!
Stop Five: Maker’s Mark–3350 Burk Spring Road, Loretto, KY 40037
By far one of the prettiest distilleries on the trail. I loved the red and black theme throughout the entire campus. I highly highly recommend stopping here. This tour even allowed visitors to dip their fingers and sample the mash while it is brewing!! Then open your pocketbook, buy a little bottle of makers in the gift shop and go dip it in the red wax yourself!! It is such a great souvenir and a one of a kind experience.
Stop Six: Jim Beam– 526 Happy Hollow Rd., Clermont, KY 40110
Depending on how your day has gone, how much bourbon you have drunk or how much time you have spent at other distilleries you may not have time for Beam. If this is somewhere on your bucket list…then swap this with one of the other distilleries that are not as interesting to you. If not, add it the following day if you are doing a three-day stretch!
Stay the Night in Louisville
Still looking for more bourbon? Looking for an evening with plenty of entertainment, good food, and a great nightlife scene? Swing up and stay the night in Louisville. If you are wanting some great food, get your ass to Harvest. You won’t be disappointed and will likely go back the next day! Its amazing, hands down. Then head to 4th Street Live or hit Main Street for a more low key scene. Don’t go too crazy, because you will need to get up and drink more bourbon in the morning.
Stop One: Evan Williams
This is conveniently located in downtown Louisville and will make a quick first stop for your day. Unless by this time you have had your fill of bourbon and are ready to start sampling some Kentucky Hot Browns.
Stop Two: Bulliet
Located just outside the heart of Louisville is Bulliet….it pops out of no-where and is a great stop. This is one of the quicker tours since they are not producing a product here on campus yet. They do have the warehouses and you will get to take a peek into the lab, the offices, and a barrel repair workshop.
The End Of The Road
This is where I would end my Bourbon Trail Tour before heading back to my hometown of Cincinnati. Don’t forget to collect plenty of bottles to bring back home with you. There are tons of great things to do in Louisville that gives you the opportunity to make your adventure and memories. Some fun things nearby are Louisville Slugger Museum, Church Hill Downs and Colonel Sanders’ Grave. A fun little town to stop in on the way home is in La Grange, Kentucky. Where the trains roll right now the middle of the main street!