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View Full Version : What is THE thing to do in Kentucky?



Old Bill
01-14-2007, 21:02
I am in the planning stages of a rather lengthy motorcycle trip that will take me and a friend into the heart of bourbon country - north/central Kentucky. I am anticipating that we will have a day to spend doing some kind of bourbon sight seeing. With that in mind, what is THE thing to do or see?

Also, any of you native Kentuckians have an opinion of the Bert Combs Highway leading to the Va. border. Looking for a scenic route..... thanks

oldironstomach
01-14-2007, 22:09
When are you going?

Just about any of the distillery tours are enjoyable (keep in mind that they shut down during the summer months) but the "hard-hat" tour (vs. the regular hourly tour) of Buffalo Trace is my new favorite. 2.5 hours of seeing just about everything except the grain mill and high-speed bottling line up-close and personal. It's a large-scale industrial operation compared to the quaint charm of some of the others, but they lay it all out for you to see. Another thing that sets this tour apart is the people working everywhere throughout the facility...I've hardly seen anybody except the guides on my other tours.

barturtle
01-14-2007, 22:18
Of course working people depends on when you go...I've had tours there that ranged from seeing nobody other than your tour guide to being locked in to where you had to step over barrels to leave the warehouse to not being able to hear what the tour guide was saying...but then I go twice a year just to smell the place.

Four Roses is a nice place to visit, tiny, few visitors (at least the couple times I've gone, a really complete tour. very nice.

MikeK
01-15-2007, 09:48
Four Roses is a nice place to visit, tiny, few visitors (at least the couple times I've gone, a really complete tour. very nice.

I agree that if you only have time for one stop, Four Roses is arguably the best pick. The people are excellent, you get a great tour, and it isn't too busy. The only down side is you wan't see a barrel house.

Every distillery and tour is different, so you can visit them all and see a different side.

I have a short writeup and pictures of most of the KY distillery tours on my website:
http://www.mkellstrand.com/whiskey/ky_adventure

Hopefully this will give you a flavor of each tour so you can pick the one(s) that would most appeal to you.

Enjoy!

cowdery
01-15-2007, 14:02
Unfortunately, everybody probably has a different favorite. I recommend Woodford Reserve. Very scenic in its own right and in a scenic neighborhood. You'll probably want to spend some time cruising around the horse farms in the greater Lexington area too. That's something I certainly enjoy. Maker's Mark also is very good and, again, in a scenic area well off the beaten path.

As much as I'd like to think bourbon is THE thing in Kentucky, THE thing really is horses, so you should experience some of that.

oldironstomach
01-15-2007, 14:39
I agree that if you only have time for one stop, Four Roses is arguably the best pick. The people are excellent, you get a great tour, and it isn't too busy. The only down side is you wan't see a barrel house.
While I love Four Roses (the people are terrific, plus there's the fact that most of their comparatively small tanks are still cypress), that's not quite the only downside. Along with no barrel house, you won't see a bottling line. And current of last summer at least, we were told that they had accidentally let their pouring license lapse and were unable to offer tastings at the visitor center. I'd still absolutely want to go, but it's just not my top pick.

Woodford Reserve's tour is quite good, plus you get to stand on the same hallowed ground where James Crow invented bourbon as we know it. Instead of putting you up-close with new whiskey, they pour a sample to sniff from a fresh aged barrel hovering over a dump tank. Their product isn't one of my regular tipples, but they do give good tour IMHO.

MikeK
01-15-2007, 15:32
Good call on the horse farms Chuck. The other nice thing about Woodford is that they offer a number of different tours, depending on how much time you have to spend and what you want to see.

And again, you can visit every distillery that offers tours, and not get the same experience twice.

Cheers,

barturtle
01-15-2007, 20:15
One thing that I like to recommend for people to do is to go for a ride on the Belle of Louisville, a classic steam wheeler. Possibly the most leisurely activity you can think of.

nor02lei
01-15-2007, 22:21
If you are visiting Louisville there are at least 4 brewery pubs that serve excellent beer and in most cases excellent food as well. Its well worth the effort to visit one or several of them.

Leif

Solomon2
01-16-2007, 16:42
I'm also trying to plan a drive through Kentucky, hitting the distilleries as I go. I really need to stitch together some kind of travel plan, though. You'd think somewhere there'd be a tourism board just for folks like me...

TNbourbon
01-16-2007, 17:28
I'm also trying to plan a drive through Kentucky, hitting the distilleries as I go. I really need to stitch together some kind of travel plan, though. You'd think somewhere there'd be a tourism board just for folks like me...

http://www.kybourbon.com/english/pages/trail.html

http://www.visitbardstown.com/tourism/

Solomon2
01-16-2007, 18:24
Precisely what I what I wanted, thank you very much. (Maybe I'll even do Tennessee one day, but the only T-whiskey I like so far is JD SB.)

Old Bill
01-16-2007, 19:43
Time will not permit the horse stuff. And, the trip is planned for mid June. Why do most distilleries cease operations during the summer?

BSS
01-16-2007, 20:20
Bill

The Mountain Parkway (Bert T Combs) will not take you all the way to the Va line. If you are looking at going from Central KY to Va that way, here are the roads I would take to get the most scenic routes. Go I-64 east out of Lexington, take the Mountain Parkway when you get to it. The MP starts out like a normal Interstate/Parkway and turns into a two lane road with wide shoulders once you start getting into the hills. The MP ends at Salyersville where I would take KY-114 to Prestonsburg. In Prestonsburg I would take US-23 to Pikeville and then to after you pass Pikeville, I would take US-460. When you are nearing Va, I would take KY-80 south through Elkhorn City and then into the Breaks Interstate Park. If you want a scenic drive, thatís the place to be. Once youíre into Va, its all up to you. Starting at US-460 the roads are twisty, up and down the mountains, mostly two lane roads without much of a shoulder.

As for when youíre in Central Kentucky, drive around and look at the horse farms. In Kentucky, we have roads designated as Scenic Byways. Woodford County alone has three of them. I think the best part of the horse farms are driving the back roads (and some of the main roads) looking at them. You donít have to stop and take a tour to feel like youíve seen a lot when it comes to the horse farms.

And Woodford Reserve can be easily worked into your scenic motorcycle cruising.

cowdery
01-16-2007, 21:06
Time will not permit the horse stuff. And, the trip is planned for mid June. Why do most distilleries cease operations during the summer?

They don't, and now more than ever (because many are operating at capacity) they are operating year-round except for brief breaks for maintenance.

If you cruise through the Lexington area on just about any road but the interstate you will inevitably see many horse farms and that should be sufficient as far as giving you a flavor of that aspect of the state. Another reason to hit Four Roses, Woodford Reserve or Buffalo Trace, which are in that area, as opposed to the Bardstown-area plants.

I know well the route BSS is recommending and I second his recommendation. Breaks is awesome.

Old Bill
01-19-2007, 14:20
Thanks BSS. I was eyeballing my Kentucky map, and that's the route I considered and will likely follow. Thanks for your recommendation. Once in Va, I'll keep moving along 460 to Blacksburg to my parent's place. From there, there's good riding in nearly every direction. As far as "bourbon" sight seeing, I think the Bourbon Heritage center in Bardstown is up for consideration, but I wouldn't mind a bottle of Four Roses to bring home to Minnesota, so a stop there would be nice, too. We don't get such things here, just the usual suspects.

cowdery
01-19-2007, 22:14
While Four Roses is a nice tour, you can buy Four Roses at any decent-sized liquor store in Kentucky. You don't have to get it at the distillery.

craigthom
01-20-2007, 14:40
As of last Monday Four Roses is pouring samples. I got tastes of the single barrel and the small batch. I still like the single barrel better.

Either would make a nice souvenir to take home, since they are only sold in Kentucky.

They offer tours of their separate warehousing facility by appointment, but, if you are in that area, you may as well go to Jim Beam, where you can look in (but not go in) a warehouse and get nice samples. Or go down to Heaven Hill, which only has a tour of a warehouse (along with my favorite tasting experience).

Woodford Reserve is the only one that charges a fee, but they do have the whole deal there. You can also go down the road from there and see the ruins of Old Taylor and Old Crow.