Kentucky Bourbon Distilleries Tours

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Bourbon is the only spirit native to the United States. Unlike Champagne or Parmigiano-Reggiano, "bourbon" is not a protected name, and bourbon can be made anywhere in the world. Yet 95% of the world's bourbon comes from a 90-mile region in the center of Kentucky. This is attributed to an abundance of corn (the primary source of grain in bourbon), limestone in the ground producing pleasant spring water, and alternating hot summers and cold winters, which help the bourbon seep in and out of the barrels to age quickly.

The Kentucky Distillers' Association (KDA) promotes tours of bourbon distilleries on an official Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Distilleries on the trail offer tours, most lasting about an hour, where they teach you about how they make their bourbon. The process is nearly the same at each one; it's subtle differences that give each its distinctive flavor. The tour guides will explain the basics of bourbon, but they also love answering detailed questions, especially if it gives him a chance to explain why they think their bourbon is better than everyone else's!

And, of course, all of the distilleries offer you a taste of their products at the end of the tour. For most people, this is the highlight of the tour, as you finally get to experience the complex flavors the tour guides were talking about.

Get in[edit]

Ideally, a real tour of Bourbon Country should start with in Lexington or Louisville. Lexington is, in some ways, a better choice, since one distillery (Town Branch) is downtown and several others are within a 45-minute drive. On the other hand, Louisville could be said to be the superior starting point not only because it's home to the Evan Williams and Bulleit museums (with Evan Williams running a small artisinal distillery) but also because it originated many bourbon cocktails and has a strong connection to bourbon and bourbon lore.

Get around[edit]

If you're planning on visiting the distilleries on your own, you'll need a car. All but one are well out in the open country. You won't be bored by the drive, though, as Kentucky's scenic rolling hills are beautiful at any time of year.

There are also several tour and limousine services offering packages for visiting distilleries.

There are maps for getting around by bicycle, but it's quite a long trip.

Few distilleries are near each other; if you intend to visit multiple distilleries, don't plan on more than two per day. For the ones furthest from your starting point, you may only be able to do one in a day unless you're dedicated.


Four Roses Distillery, built in the early 1900's in a Spanish mission style

Kentucky Bourbon Trail[edit]

The official Kentucky Bourbon Trail comprises eight distilleries. You can get a "passport" book at any of them, in which you can collect stamps from each distillery you tour. Once you have all eight stamps, you can mail it in for a free T-shirt.

  • Evan Williams Bourbon Experience528 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202 +1 502-585-3923. Tours Mo-Sa 10AM-5PM; Su 1PM-5PM; last tour 4PM. Tour adult $12, kids 11–20 $9, 10 and under free.
  •   Four Roses Distillery1224 Bonds Mill Road, Lawrenceburg, KY 40342 +1 502 839-2655. Tours Mo-Sa 9AM-3PM on the hour; Su 12PM-3PM on the hour. Four Rose Distillery's main building was built in the early 1900s in a Spanish mission style, complete with arches, red tiled roofs and even a bell tower.
  •   Cox's Creek Warehouse & Bottling Facility624 Lotus Road, Coxs Creek, KY 40013 (approximately one hour from the distillery by car),  +1 502 543-2264 ext 697. Tours by appointment.
  •   Heaven Hill Distilleries1311 Gilkey Run Road, Bardstown, KY 40004 +1 502 337-1000. Mo-Sa 10AM-5PM (last deluxe tour 3:40PM); Su March-December 12PM-4PM. Mini tour ½ hour, $3; Deluxe tour 1¼ hours, $5; Trolley tour ½ hour, $5; Behind the scenes tour 3 hours (by appointment), $25.
  •   Jim Beam Distillery (Jim Beam American Stillhouse), 526 Happy Hollow Road, Clermont, KY 40110 +1 502 543-9877. Mo-Sa 9AM-5:30PM, tours every half hour 9:30AM-3:30PM, except 12:30PM; Su 12PM-4:30PM, tours every half hour 12:30PM-3PM. Adults (21+) $8; under 21 years old free.
Maker's Mark production line at distillery
  •   Maker's Mark Distillery3350 Burks Springs Road, Loretto, KY 40037 +1 270 865-2099. Tours Mo-Sa 10:30AM-3:30PM every hour on the half-hour; Su March-December 1:30, 2:30, 3:30; closed some holidays. Aside from the usual distillery tour perks, Maker's Mark offers a unique souvenir: you can purchase a small bottle of bourbon and dip it yourself in their signature red sealing wax (must be 21 or older). Free.
  •   Town Branch Distillery (Alltech's Lexington Brewing & Distilling Company), 401 Cross Street, Lexington, KY 40508 (downtown Lexington, near intersections of Versailles Rd. / W High St. and W. Maxwell St.),  +1 859 255-2337, e-mail: . M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su noon-5PM; tours every hour, last tour at 4PM; Jan-Feb no tours on Tuesdays. Touring Town Branch, you'll get a double-header of beer and whiskey. From its roots as an agricultural company started by yeast expert Dr. Pearse Lyons, Alltech began brewing beer with the intention of making slightly more than its employees could drink. Ten years later, they now produce 5 beers and 3 spirits and are Kentucky's largest brewery, working 24 hours a day to keep up with demand, 80% of which is for their signature Bourbon Barrel Ale. Tour $8.50, 18 and under free.
  •   Wild Turkey Distillery1525 Tyrone Road, Lawrenceburg +1 502 839-2182. Tours Mo-Sa 9AM, 10:30AM, 12:30PM, 2:30PM, 3:30PM; March-December 1PM, 2PM, 3PM; closed some holidays. Tours free.
  •   Woodford Reserve Distillery7855 McCracken Pike, Versailles, KY 40383 +1 859 879-1812. Mo-Sa 9AM-5PM, tours 10AM-3PM; Su April-December 12:30PM-4:30PM, tours 1PM-3PM. Tours $7 (first-come first-serve, reservations only for large groups); Special tours $25 (Tu-Th only, reservations required).

Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour[edit]

For the true bourbon enthusiast, the Craft Tour showcases eight micro-distilleries with an emphasis on innovative and handcrafted bourbons. Like the regular Trail, a passport is available; the reward for completing it is a julep cup.


Kentucky Bourbon Festival in Bardstown, KY
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