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The Kentucky Bourbon Trail: How To Create The Perfect Bourbon Trail Tour

Are you are bourbon drinker? Whether you enjoy bourbon or not, experiencing the Kentucky Bourbon Trail is an adventure you don’t want to miss.

Kentucky is the bourbon capital of the world, with new bourbon distilleries popping up each year. With so many different options, from the classic Kentucky Bourbon Trail to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour, it is easy to spend a week exploring bourbon country.

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail
Sipping bourbon has become a popular pastime, with many having their favorite bourbons. This is why crafting your own personal Bourbon Trail Tour is the way to go. Ensuring that famous distilleries are visited, then visiting new ones can create an experience to remember.

This post will show you how to create your ideal Bourbon Trail Tour by highlighting tips and giving a sample itinerary. Afflilates links are present in this post, meaning if you choose to purchase anything from them a small commision goes to keep this free site up and running. 

What Is The Kentucky Bourbon Trail 

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail was designed to draw tourists to Kentucky by highlighting Kentucky’s fine bourbon. It is a registered trademark of the Kentucky distillers, therefore to be a part of the official trail, the distillery must be a member of the Kentucky distillers’ association. Buffalo Trace is not a member; therefore, not on the bourbon trail. 

Many distilleries offer custom tours, bourbon tastings, and public tours. Tours typically start on the hour and last an hour. 

Stops Along the bourbon trail

Where is the Kentucky Bourbon Trail 

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail spans across the bluegrass state, with the official starting point in Louisville, Kentucky. The majority of the distilleries are in the north-central portion of the state. It is the official starting point because the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center is here.

You can start the trail and any distilleries; each one has a bourbon trail guide. Another popular starting point is Bardstown, as it is smack in the middle of Bourbon Country. We recommend overnighting here or in Louisville.

kentucky bourbon trail map
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail

How Many Days Should I Plan For The Official Kentucky Bourbon Trail 

There is no set answer to this question because it all depends. It depends on how many distilleries you wish to visit if there are other attractions or activities you want to do, and how much time you have.

Since we are from Cincinnati, we typically spend two nights and get to 6 distilleries. If you get an early start, you may fit in one or two more in. Alot depends on how you like to travel as well. You can go fast and furious, not opt to do the tour, or you can travel at a slower pace enjoying tours, campus walks, and roadside attractions.

If you wish to hit all the disillieries along the trail I would recommend a full week to fully enjoy your experience. 

bourbon barrels

Tips Before Create Your Bourbon Trail Tour

  • A distillery tour is often required in order to sample the bourbon. Many places now offer a sampling only tour that is not as long as the distillery tours. 
  • Many distillieries require a reservation. Book online or call to ensure your spot. 
  • 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 $20-$35 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.
  • Distillery tours usually happen on the hour. Look up each distillery for tour times prior to hitting the road.
  • 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 tours of the distilleries are fascinating.

bourbon trail ideas

Plan A Unique Bourbon Trail Experience

Many distilleries offer an opportunity to bottle your own bourbon. While the price reflects the experience, you will leave with an incredible souvenir. 

A few distilleries that offer the bottle your own bourbon experience are: 

  • Angel’s Envy
  • Heaven Hill Distillery 

Learn to create craft bourbon cocktails from mixologists with your favorite bourbon. Sign up for this unique experience, and you may find your new favorite drink. 

A few distilleries that offer a unique bourbon cocktail experience are:

  • Bardstown Bourbon Company 
  • Bulliet 
  • Jim Beam

Barrel thieving is another popular experience that allows guests to taste three products pulled directly from barrels. Barrel thieving is typically paired with a tour of the facility. 

Sign up for a barrel thieving tour at the following distilleries: 

  • Green River 
  • Bardstown Bourbon Company 
  • Jim Beam

An Itinerary For A Two  Nights and Three Days On The Kentucky Bourbon Trail Tour 

 The wake-up call will need to be early to get a fair amount of distilleries under your belt. That means arriving at the first distillery when they open at 10:00 am.

Remember that you need to be at your last distillery by 4 pm since that is when the last tour will leave! Expect a 90-minute drive to get to your first distillery if you are hitting the bourbon trail from Cincinnati.

This itineray is serving as your guide. Feel free to switch out distilleries to reflect those that are a priority to you. Spend more time at your favorites, only do tastings, stop for lunch and make this trip your own. 

Tip: Check each distillery for pandemic protocols, hours, and tour reservations. Each distillery is different. 

Bourbon Tour Tips

The First Stop: Buffalo Trace Distillery 

Ironically the first stop on the bourbon trail is a distillery that isn’t on the official trail. Buffalo Trace is a famous distillery offering classic bourbons such as Blanton’s, Eagle Rare, and Pappy Van Wrinkle. It has quickly become one of my favorite distilleries to visit because they don’t charge to tour, and their grounds are beautiful. 

Buffalo Trace Distillery

Buffalo Trace is a great spot to start your adventure. Be sure to get your picture with their famous buffalo mascot!

Budget Tip: I like to do the distillery tour at Buffalo Trace since it is free. I then pick different types of tastings and tours at other distilleries. 

Address: 113 Great Buffalo Trace, Frankfort, KY 40601

Stop Number Two: Castle and Key Distillery

Built-in 1887,  the former E.H. Taylor distillery (Old Taylor Distillery) has been restored to a the beautiful Castle and Key Distillery.   While their bourbon is aging Castle and Key serves up wonderful spirits and has a phenomenal gin. 

Castle and Key is located only 15 minutes from Buffalo Trace. It is  great stop if you have non-bourbon drinkers in your party.

Budget Tip: There is a free self-guided tour of the Castle grounds which includes access to the Botanical Trail, Springhouse, Taylorton Station, Counter 17 (walk up bar), and the Boiler Room which is now the gift shop. 

 Address: 4335 McCracken Pike, Frankfort, KY 40601.

Stop Number Three: Woodford Reserve Distillery 

Only six minutes down the road from Castle and Key is the historic distillery of Woodford Reserve. Tucked away in the hills of Kentucky, Woodford Reserve offers visitors a variety of unique tasting and tour options.  

Snacks are available for purchase here, which I highly recommend, especially if you don’t feel like swinging through a drive-thru or going to a sit-down restaurant. 

Budget Tip: Complimentary Mocktails are served at the Cocktail Bar for designated drivers and those under 21 years old. 

Address: 7855 McCracken Pike Versailles, KY 40383

Roadside Attraction: Daniel Boone’s Grave

A quick unique roadside attraction is the grave of Daniel Boone. Now far from Buffalo Trace is the Franklin Cemetary, the final resting place to this American legend. 

Address: Frankfort Cemetery 215 E. Main St., Frankfurt KY 40601

The next stop is Wild Turkey. It is roughly a half-hour drive into the heart of bourbon country. The rolling hills dotted with horse farms make this a scenic tour of Kentucky’s countryside.

Stop Four: Wild Turkey Distillery 

Wild Turkey offers the standard tours you will see at most other distilleries. However, if Bubba is still there, request him as your tour guide. He is absolutely amazing and incredibly knowledgeable! He will teach you everything you ever wanted to know and beyond about bourbon and the industry.

Address: 1417 Versailles Road, Lawrenceburg, KY 40342

wild turkey distillery

Stop Number Five:  Four Roses Distillery 

After three hours of tours, a good amount of time driving this is likely going to be your last distillery of the day. That is if you even make it here depending on how your opted to structure your day. 

 Four Roses offers a variety of tours and has a Visitor Center in Lawrenceburg. They offer a guided flight tasting which is perfect for those looking to skip out on a full tour and enjoy fine Kentucky bourbon. 

Address: 1224 Bonds Mill Rd, Lawrenceburg, KY 40342

Where To Overnight Along The Kentucky Bourbon Trail

The beautiful small town of Bardstown is the ideal spot to overnight. 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.

There are a variety of Airbnbs and cabins scattered throughout the trail for those looking for a more space. 

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.

Day Two Along The  Kentucky Bourbon Trail Tour

Stop One: Heaven Hill Distillery

The Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience is a must while visiting the Bardstown area. Heaven Hill Distilleries provides visitors an immersive American Whiskey experience. Offering educational tastings that bring the history bourbon to life. 

Heaven Hill also operates The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience found along Whiskey Row in the heart of downtown Louisville. Celebrating the legacy of Evan Williams, it features guided tours, educational Bourbon tastings, an artisanal distillery, and handcrafted cocktails at On3. 

Address: 1311 Gilkey Run Rd., Bardstown, KY 40004

Craft Bourbon Trail

 

The Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience is a must while visiting the Bardstown area. Heaven Hill Distilleries provides visitors with an immersive American Whiskey experience. They are offering educational tastings that bring the history of bourbon to life. 

Heaven Hill also operates The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience found along Whiskey Row in the heart of downtown Louisville. Celebrating the legacy of Evan Williams, it features guided tours, educational Bourbon tastings, an artisanal distillery, and handcrafted cocktails at On3. 

Address: 1311 Gilkey Run Rd., Bardstown, KY 40004

Stop Two: Willett Distillery

This craft distillery is along the Craft Bourbon Trail and is known for its Kentucky Rye Whiskey. Their small size makes the tour more personal, going into great depth about their product.

Willett Distillery offers tasting and distillery tours, but reservations are mandatory. 

Address: 1869 Loretto Rd, Bardstown, KY 40004

Stop Three: Abby of Gethsemani

A quick stop between distilleries is to the Abby of Gethsemani to pick up some bourbon fudge and bourbon balls made by the Trappist Monks. The fudge is out of this world, so buy more than one container! The Monks support themselves by making homemade goods. Be sure to check out their hours on their website.

Stop Four: Limestone Branch Distillery

Another stop along the craft bourbon trail is Limestone Branch Distillery. Take a guided tour to gain insight on how the smaller operations make their products. 

 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!

Address: 1280 Veterans Memorial Hwy, Lebanon, KY 40033

Stop Five: Maker’s Mark Distillery 

Maker’s Mark Distillery is by far one of the prettiest distilleries on the trail. The black buildings with red trim set the stage for a bourbon experience like non-other. Come inside the distillery for a step-by-step tour highlighting the distillation process. Pre-pandemic, the tour even allowed visitors to dip their fingers and sample the mash while brewing!!

 Then open your pocketbook because the tour lets out in the gift shop. For a unique souvenir, buy a little bottle of makers in the gift shop and go dip it in the red wax yourself!! It is the perfect way to commemorate your adventure along the bourbon trail. 

Address: 3350 Burks Spring Rd, Loretto, KY 40037

Louisville: Overnight On The Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Are you looking for an overnight with plenty of entertainment, good food, and a great nightlife scene? Louisville is precisely the place you want to overnight. Many travelers along the bourbon trail like to make Louisville their home base after taking in horse farm after horse farm in between the distilleries. 

Louisville is a lively city full of trendy eateries, bourbon bars, and live entertainment. Louisville is home to the Frazier Museum, which is the official starting point of the Bourbon Trail. Here you can pick up your official Bourbon Trail Passport and other merchandise. 

A few of our favorite hotels include the Omni Louisville, the 21 C Hotel and the Grady Hotel

Tip: One of our favorite restaurants in Louiseville is Harvest. A farm-to-table restaurant is open for brunch, lunch, and dinner. Make a reservation. 


Booking.com

Stop One: Evan Williams Distillery 

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 find a mint julip experiences.

Stop Two: Bulleit Distillery 

Kentucky Bourbon Trail

 

Located just outside the heart of Louisville is Bulleit Distillery. The distillery tour will require you to hop aboard a shuttle to the distillery. There is a short tasting afterwards.  Bulleit does have the warehouses and you will get to take a peek in along with the lab, the offices, and a barrel repair workshop. The giftshop does sell Bulleit Bourbon and cockatils are available. 

 

Stop Six: Jim Beam Distillery

Jim Beam along Kentucky Bourbon Trail

The James  B. Beam Distilling Co. has been the Birthplace of Bourbon for over two centuries. With such a rich history of bourbon booking a tour will not disappoint.

Jim Beam offers a variety of tours including one that teaches you how to create special bourbon cocktails. 

Address: 526 Happy Hollow Rd., Clermont, KY 40110

The End Of The Road

This is where I would wrap up my third day along the  Kentucky Bourbon Trail Tour before heading back to my home. Don’t forget to collect plenty of bottles to bring back home to your home bar. 

If you are considering adding in more days to your Bourbon Trail Tour consider adding in these distilleries. 

  • Rabbit Hole Distillery 
  • Angel’s Envy Distillery 
  • Town Branch
  • Wilderness Trail Distillery
  • Old Forester 
  • Lux Row

 

 A few popular attractions in Louisville include, the 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!

Creating Your Own Kentucky Bourbon Trail Tour

 

Kentucky Bourbon Trail

 

Bourbon Trail Guide

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