If you’re headed down to Kentucky to embark on the incredibly unique Bourbon Trail, be sure to check out my personal tips!
-As of September 2013, there are seven distilleries that comprise the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail (an eighth one is being added next year). With that said, significant driving is involved to visit the distilleries. Although a few are less than 20 miles apart (Wild Turkey and Four Roses, for instance), visiting others means spending a fair amount of time in the car. If you have limited time (i.e. three days or less) there’s a good likelihood you won’t be able to visit all seven unless you literally make it your ardent mission to do nothing but visiting the distilleries and spending every waking moment getting to them. We had two full days and in that time got to visit five of the seven. I didn’t feel overwhelmed with visiting this many since two of them were a 15 minute drive from each other but at the same time, we really didn’t do anything else during those two days.
-Most of the distilleries don’t offer tours past 3 PM and all are only open for limited hours on Sunday so once again, if you’re on a tight schedule that includes a visit on a Sunday, plan accordingly. On the Sunday we were there we visited two distilleries. Maker’s Mark involved somewhat of a drive from our bed and breakfast (about 35 minutes from Bardstown, Kentucky) and Heaven Hill was on the way back from Maker’s Mark and only five minutes from our bed and breakfast, so it was convenient to visit those two.
-Almost all of the distilleries are in rural areas, and by rural I mean limited anything. Maker’s Mark is located in the town of Loretto but for miles we drove past nothing but farmland for as far as the eye could see. Obviously the more rural feeling adds to the charming nature of the distillery (they wouldn’t be so pretty in a congested city area), but come prepared with a full tank of gas, water, etc. (Thankfully for us there was a gas station right in Loretto.)
-It’s not a bad idea to have someone serve as the designated driver; however, unlike at any winery sampling rooms or breweries, the bourbon isn’t “free flowing.” Although some distilleries offered more samples than others (Four Roses let you sample three bourbons versus the one you received at Woodford Reserve), the samples are not in tumblers but rather, shot glasses. There also aren’t any bars where you can purchase additional samples. The only way to be “naughty” would be to crack open that bottle of bourbon you got in the gift shop, but I hope no one would be THAT tacky.
-While there were some children on the various tours we were on, most visitors were adult. With that said, I think children would be extremely bored on the tours. Although I’ve been on other spirits tours where children were present, the tours at the distillery were on the longer side (often more than an hour). Moreover, with the exception of our ghost tour at the Buffalo Trace distillery (no longer part of the trail) in which they served root beer for anyone who wished to abstain from a bourbon sampling, none of the distilleries had non-alcohol options.
-And on a related note, none of the distilleries offered the option to have your bourbon mixed in anything (i.e. coke or juice). Although I know bourbon traditionalists would scoff at “tainting” it with an external addition, it’s essentially fire in your mouth. I was hoping that one would have the option to “mix” since when I visited the Jameson Distillery in Dublin, Ireland they did offer things to mix with the whiskey. Sadly this was not to be in Kentucky, so be prepared.
-Some tours charge an admission fee (Woodford Reserve, Wild Turkey, Maker’s Mark, Town and Branch, and Heaven Hill) while Four Roses does not. The fee is between $5 and $10 per person.
Kentucky Bourbon Trail-a sneak peek
Bed and Breakfast Review-Beautiful Dreamer (Bardstown, Kentucky)
Buffalo Trace Distillery
Bardstown, Kentucky Dining Recap
Bardstown, Kentucky-a photo essay
Maker’s Mark Distillery-a photo essay
My Old Kentucky Home’s Federal Hill
Kentucky’s McCracken Pike-drive of a lifetime
Distillery Recap-Four Roses and Wild Turkey