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Help planning a Kentucky Bourbon trip

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On 12/17/2017 at 10:57 AM, Backdoctor said:



I've been enjoying trying many different bourbons the past year. I realized I liked bourbon much more than single malt. That said, I try to go to smaller production labels if possible though I do like Angel's Envy, Michter's American Whiskey and Bourbon, Basil's Hayden, AE Rye, Willett Pot among others. Just got some EH Taylor Small Batch, and really liked it. Have had Noah's Mill, Van Winkle 12 yo ( thought it was overrated), Willett Rye, Bookers, Bakers, Clyde Mays and many other. 


With that in mind we are thinking of mixing tourism with bourbon tasting. Maybe spend a day or two in Nashville then head north to Louisville/Lexington area. Also thinking of some time in Daniel Boone National Forest. 


In my mind I know I'd love to visit Buffalo Trace, Willett, Angel's Envy. I know a lot of bourbons are made at distilleries that don't have the name of the bourbon on them, like Buffalo trace who makes many different labels. So what are some "can't miss" tours or tastings? Are there places that are worth taking a tour vs some that are good just for a tasting? I have a LOT Of experience with wineries so I know some places you SHOULD do the tour, others just a tasting is fine. 


Also, any stores, places to eat that are also special. I am looking at flying into Nashville, spend a day or two there, drive to Lexington and spend 3 days working way to Louisville. Leave a day for hiking in Daniel Boone, and head back to Nashville to fly back. Flights and rental car is about $300 less this way and its only a few hours extra driving. 


Looking for your experience and advice. Thanks.



I didn't read all the responses, but I'm sure plenty of people gave great recommendations. I'll give you my experience doing the Bourbon Trail, and what I would and wouldn't recommend.


First what I did. Traveling from FL, I wanted to pack the most into a little time as could. I used the Bourbon Trail as a guide and added a couple distilleries. As a result, my trip was broken into 3 regions (Lexington/Frankfort, Bardstown area, and Louisville). I visited 13 sites, but certainly didn't do that many tours. Some places like Beam, I simply got my card stamped, looked around, had a bbq sandwich and hit the road. By breaking into regions, I was able to be more efficient. I also planned well in advance. 


So what did I like:

  • Bardstown and Frankfort were my favorite areas by far.
  • Maker's is a great tour. The Chihuly (sp) exhibit was there, which made it better than just the one piece. 
  • Heaven Hill connoisseur tasting is worth it.
  • Four Roses has a bottling facility near Bardstown that offers a 15 min tasting.
  • Willet was solid, but nothing special, unless you really like their products, which I do.
  • Angel's Envy had a quick tasting experience. Not a fan of AE, but it was nice to have the abbreviated experience
  • Buffalo Trace is awesome. Tours and tastings are free, and numerous tours to choose from.
  • Wild Turkey had my favorite tasting: RR SB, Rare Breed, Russell's Rye, and American Honey. Nice basic tour with a beautiful setting.
  • Woodford Corn to Cork tour is awesome, beautiful campus and surrounding area.
  • While not bourbon, Copper and Kings was very interesting. Not your typical distillery.
  • Everyone was super nice with the exception of Louisville.

What I didn't like:

  • Town and Branch is subpar. Decent tour, but not a fan of their juice. They do have a brewery there too, which we didn't tour.
  • Jim Beam 90 min tour was a non-starter for us.
  • Louisville as a whole was disappointing. It reminded me of St. Louis. Busted streets, rude people. 
  • Missed out on a tasting at Evan Williams due to employee not understanding what they offered. Again...Louisville.

What would I do different:

  • Ditch the Bourbon Trail. Just find the distilleries that you like and are interested in. 
  • I would have ditched Louisville entirely.
  • I would have ditched Town and Branch.
  • Given myself more time. I was fortunate that everything worked out and I actually had as much luck as I could ask for, but I had zero margin for error. 

My suggestions:

  • Plan, plan, plan.
  • Research the tours and try to take upgraded tours. The standard tours are the same at about all of them.
  • Engage your wife in picking the tours. Maker's offers a dinner on Fridays I think. So something different like that could keep her engaged. Woodford looks more like a winery than a distillery, but the corn to cork tour is full of real information that she may find engaging. The alternative tours could help save you with her.
  • I ate at two restaurants at the distilleries, pass on those and find something local in town.
  • Plan, plan, plan. 

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On 12/30/2017 at 10:54 AM, alcoholica said:


  • Louisville as a whole was disappointing. It reminded me of St. Louis. Busted streets, rude people. 

Not sure what was happening that day, but I've been to Louisville at least a half dozen times and the people have aways been super friendly and helpful. If you skip Louisville you miss out on a lot of great restaurants and bourbon bars.

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Posted (edited)
On ‎12‎/‎26‎/‎2017 at 8:18 PM, Backdoctor said:

Would really like to see Michter's , Buffalo trace. Also seems Maker's Mark is a must. Also thinking Woodford. Need to get a map and mark out what's next to what. I'm thinking 2   a day, around 6-8 the whole trip.  Also would love to see Angels Envy ... 


You should go where you want, but I would personally cross off Michter's from the list.  Anything about them today is a relatively recent fabrication and not directly linked to anything of real substance.


Since this is your first trip, Maker's is a MUST tour #1.   After Maker's, for the 2nd and 3rd priorities, it would be a toss-up between Buffalo Trace Hardhat tour (for real authenticity and educational value) and Woodford Reserve (for outright natural beauty, albeit with a tad more "marketing production" than some would prefer). 


If you have more time, then I'd add Willett (for scenery), or Four Roses (for unique architecture/atmosphere), Wild Turkey (authenticity with zero fake marketing fluff), or Jim Beam (I only recommend the long 3 hour tour, which is very educational, second only to the Buffalo Trace Hardhat tour.  If you can't do the long tour, then forget Beam).


Having said all this, I've been to Kentucky 3 or 4 times and visited all the major distilleries multiple times, and by far the best distillery tour experience I had was my first Wild Turkey tour, but that's because my tour guide was Eddie Russell himself (one of their master distillers).  So, there's something to be said for one of the "VIP tour" options if available.  My main point is that each place has something unique to offer, and your experience might vary depending on the individual circumstances of your own trip.


Enjoy your trip!

Edited by Kepler

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