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Backdoctor

Help planning a Kentucky Bourbon trip

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

Hi,

 

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.

 

Harris

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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flahute
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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Kepler
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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gcdc

Michter's does not offer tours at the distillery, and their downtown Louisville location is not open yet. I enjoyed the Angel's Envy tour though I wish they did have both bourbon and rye as part of the tasting rather than just the bourbon. With the limited amount of Plantation XO barrels they have for the rye though I can understand. They also have a cocktail bar at the end of the tasting if you want which I didn't partake. I went by Jim Beam still house as well. I was too late for a tour, but was able to grab a token for a bookers front porch($9), and walk around the grounds for awhile for a self-guided tour.

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Backdoctor

Hi All,

 

Had worked on my trip a couple months ago. PowderKeg has been helping me a lot via PM. After a month break in March with spring training, my wife and I are now working on our days. We fly in late 7/11 (Wednesday) and plan to spend  7/12-13 ( Thurs-Fri) in Nashville, then head out early Saturday and visit Bardstown hitting Willett and Barton/1792. Then visit the Civil War Museum there. 

 

I have been tossing on weather to spend the night in Bardstown or drive up to Louisville where on Sunday I plan Angel's Envy, Evan Williams and the Louisville Slugger Museum.  IIRC someone mentioned a good place to eat in Bardstown, we can always do that and head to a hotel in East Louisville.

 

From there I am going back and forth on staying in East Louisville the whole time for a base and driving to other places from there vs going to ANOTHER hotel in the Lexington/Frankfort area for a few nights. I was thinking that there would be more chance of nightlife in Louisville vs Lex/Frankfort such as restaurants and stores. That said, if in the Frankfort area we could grab a dinner there before heading back to hotel in East Louisville if we go that way. I was just trying to avoid hotel to hotel to hotel... 

 

That Monday I had planned 4 Roses so far, nothing else yet. Tuesday would be Buffalo Trace and Woodford Reserve, then maybe Rebecca Ruth Candy. Wednesday we have a 6:45 PM return flight from Nashville, so I thought maybe hitting Heaven Hills on way down.

 

Looking for some hiking or non alcohol things for wife. With only 4R on Monday so far, is there anything cool to see in Frankfort/Lex area? Is Fort Knox worth visiting ( I know its in diff direction)? 

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Backdoctor

Have a couple questions. 

 

How safe is downtown Louisville at night, after dark? Speaking to a friend, he said to consider staying in Louisville a night or two and consider Lexington area  for a couple nights.

 

Where are there good restaurants in either town, which has the better restaurants? 

 

Thanks

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fishnbowljoe

Take your passports if you plan on visiting Fort Knox. There are a few states that have security issues with their drivers liscenses (Illinois is one <_<) and Homeland Security won’t let you in if  you’re from those states. If you were thinking about heading back west  to Fort Knox, you may want to consider heading south instead. Lincoln’s birthplace is in  Hodgenville. It’s less than an hour south of Bardstown. Well worth the visit IMHO.

 

Biba! Joe

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smokinjoe
14 hours ago, Backdoctor said:

Have a couple questions. 

 

How safe is downtown Louisville at night, after dark? Speaking to a friend, he said to consider staying in Louisville a night or two and consider Lexington area  for a couple nights.

 

Where are there good restaurants in either town, which has the better restaurants? 

 

Thanks

Louisville is probably as safe as any other Metropolitan area after dark, but I find it to not be very well lit in many areas.  Use common sense, and you will fare well.  The most troublesome issue I do have with the city is the large number of panhandlers and how aggressive they are.  A delicate subject I know, and I don’t want to sound like an uncaring jackass, but I find the situation to be beyond just annoying.   

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flahute
6 hours ago, smokinjoe said:

Louisville is probably as safe as any other Metropolitan area after dark, but I find it to not be very well lit in many areas.  Use common sense, and you will fare well.  The most troublesome issue I do have with the city is the large number of panhandlers and how aggressive they are.  A delicate subject I know, and I don’t want to sound like an uncaring jackass, but I find the situation to be beyond just annoying.   

You will LOVE Seattle Joe. 

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PowderKeg

Well if I can impose my thoughts one more time - I worked on Ft Knox for 8+ years and IMHO there ain't much to see unless you're ex-mil going to the PX/Comm inside the Main Gates.  The Patton Museum used to be accessed from outside the gates off 31W, but it looks like that may have changed since I left.  A moot point though for the next few months at least since its supposed to be closed thru May for improvements.  There are a couple of public hiking trails on the north end of the Post also (and only) accessed from outside (Bridges to the Past & Tioga Falls, do an i-net search), but maintenance and signage  has been minimal, and the once historic steel RR bridges (one of which had a cameo in Stripes as the communist checkpoint) are gone and replaced with concrete monstrosities.

 

If you want nature/hiking, check out Bernheim Arboretum (i-search again) - it has the big advantages of being right off I-65, right across the road from JB, and only a few miles from 4R Warehouse & Bottling.  If you want a 4R tour/taste W&B may be the better option than a trip out to the distillery in L-burg - last heard they were still effectively locked down for construction at the distillery - tours still held but very little to see if they won't let you near the still on the day you're there.

 

As usual, IMHO (but I got a lotta O that's not always H...)

 

Good luck!

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Backdoctor

Working on a day in Bardstown.  Plan to leave Nashville, stop at Corvette Museum at 9am for a couple hours, then drive to Bardstown, 1.5 hour on way to Louisville. 

 

Is it possible to get to Bardstown and visit Willett, Barton/1792 AND Heaven Hills lets say from 1:30 on till they close? HH has a 4:30 tour, seems open the latest of them all.  Are any of them extensive tours or tastings. Would I be rushing it? The other alternative is to hit one on the way back to Nashville from Lexington Wednesday when we head to the airport for a late flight. 

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Richnimrod

Your proposed schedule seems a very tight one to me. 

I rather doubt it would be enjoyable to rush through three tours in less than one afternoon.    I'm not even sure it could be done, let alone enjoyed.    Some of the tours will likely be ones for which you'll likely await the start of the next one to set off.     You'd need a great deal of luck to arrive 'just in time', and have space available at each destination's next tour.

If one wanted any time to languish around in the gift shops or commiserate with distillery personnel at all, it just seems like not enough time. 

To do the tours to simply 'check 'em off the list' would be to do yourself an injustice, in my opinion.

Of course everyone must decide for himself how best to budget his time.

Good Luck!

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Backdoctor

So probably keep it to two as I originally planned.... thank you. I thought it may be a bit much. 

 

 

Working on a day in Bardstown.  Plan to leave Nashville, stop at Corvette Museum at 9am for a couple hours, then drive to Bardstown, 1.5 hour on way to Louisville. 

 

Is it possible to get to Bardstown and visit Willett, Barton/1792 AND Heaven Hills lets say from 1:30 on till they close? HH has a 4:30 tour, seems open the latest of them all.  Are any of them extensive tours or tastings. Would I be rushing it? The other alternative is to hit one on the way back to Nashville from Lexington Wednesday when we head to the airport for a late flight. 

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lcpfratn

I agree with Rich that trying to squeeze in all three would be tight. There’s also Lux Row Distillery that just opened for tours that is a great tour. I’d do Barton and Willett, and swing by the Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center gift shop if you have time before they close at 5:30pm. Lux Row would be a good stop on the way back from Lexington to Nashville.

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Paddy

^^^Don't forget that you lose an hour between Bowling Green (central) and Bardstown (eastern).

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Backdoctor
18 hours ago, Paddy said:

^^^Don't forget that you lose an hour between Bowling Green (central) and Bardstown (eastern).

Yeah, have to get my wife up and moving early..... thank you

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Backdoctor

I hope to bring back some good bourbons. Powderkeg recommended buying at Total Wine, Liquor Barn and a couple other places in Louisville. Would love to find Weller 12, some higher end Booker, higher end Michters. We don't see that here locally in my area. Any others I should specifically look for that are harder to get? There is a place in Louisville that has a tasting bar with over 100 bourbons, including the Pappy's. I know they don't sell them all by the bottle. Truthfully, I had the Van Winkle 12 and have had many others I liked better. I got it from Total Wine a couple years ago for $90. 

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Backdoctor

At Woodford Reserve, what is the opinion on the Distillery Tour vs the Corn to Cork tour? Do they taste different bourbons at each? 

 

Any input appreciated.

 

Thank  you

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Backdoctor

Well, had everything all planned and ready to go but unfortunately my wife had a bad fall and fractured her right tib/fib and left 5th metatarsal. She will have plates and screws on both sides, cancelled the entire trip.  She wants me to go to the area with a friend of mine, but if it happens it won't be until late September. She has surgery tuesday, that is my focus now.

 

Thank you to all for all your help

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dad-proof

Sorry to hear. Best wishes for a speedy recovery. 

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PowderKeg

Wow, sorry to hear that, hope she recovers quickly and fully.  Family comes first, the distilleries aren't going anywhere (now the rickhouses may be another matter, esp if your name is Barton...)

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