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MikeF

September Trip report

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MikeF

I tried to summarize our visit to the Bourbon Trail that we have been talking about for years and finally got around to doing.  Our trip started in Rochester, NY, we overnighted in Cincinnati both directions since it's 500 miles from there to Rochester.

 

Day 1 (starting from Cincinnati)

Four Roses Distillery  
They told us that they were offering modified tours (limited access to the distillery) due to their expansion construction so we chose the "Taste of History" which we enjoyed.  We arrived early and were lucky enough to have a private tasting, since no other visitors were there yet!  Our guide was quite knowledgeable and provided a history of Four Roses in addition to the tasting.  I hate to admit it, but I have never purchased any Four Roses products, but I enjoyed all of them and my buying habits are going to change!  Our guide recommended the book Bourbon Empire which I am going to check out.  Four Roses tours are only $5 (free for active duty military/veterans).  You keep your glasses after the tastings.

Tastings
Four Roses Bourbon
Four Roses Small Batch
Four Roses Single Barrel

 

Wild Turkey Distillery
A short drive from Four Roses, tours are $11/person, veterans, active duty are free. A nice tour of the facility, only one minor complaint - the tour guides wear a microphone/amplified speaker set that is extremely loud.

Tastings
Russell's Reserve Bourbon
Russell's Reserve Rye
Rare Breed
American Honey

 

Barton 1792 Distillery
We arrived here after a 50 min drive from Lawrenceburg.  Check in with the guard before entering the property.  All tours are free!  Of course it's early afternoon now and 96 degrees so we are sweating a little (well maybe a lot!)  Got a look at the bottling line.  One of their employees was bottling 1792 Single Barrel.  He dumps 2 to 3 barrels a day, fills 6 bottles at a time, stuffs in a cork cap, places a piece of plastic on the neck of the bottle, then into the heat shrink machine and he manually places those 6 bottles into a box, seals it with tape and places the box on a pallet.  We saw where the grain was received, also coal which is used to heat the mash (not sure what other distillers use for this process).  We climbed several flight of stairs to the top of the column still (remember I said it was 96 degrees at ground level, now it's really warm!)  We were able to taste the White Dog fresh from the still then back down to ground level and a visit to a rickhouse.  Our guide told us that their corn and rye went into the cooker at the same time so there was no "corn taste" in the finished product.  Seems like most of the other producers add the rye after the corn mash has cooled a bit?

Tastings
Very Old Barton 80 proof  (I haven't tried this before, but it was decent!)
1792 (I like their Full Proof!)
Chocolate Bourbon Ball Cream (pretty nice, purchased a bottle)

 

Stayed at the Louisville Marriott East which is a bourbon themed hotel, in their bar you can choose from over 200 varieties of bourbon.

Day 2 (starting from Louisville)

Four Roses Warehouse and Bottling
We arrived at 9am and once again received a private tour, since no other visitors were there yet.  Started out with a short video, then a trip to the building where the distillate is received from the Lawrenceburg facility (I didn't know all distillation is done there and trucked to the Bardstown location twice daily).  Barrels are filled here, then moved to a rickhouse, which we visited next.  Four Roses rickhouses are unique in that they are single story, not tall buildings which most other Bourbon producers use.  They had some Four Roses Private Selection Single Barrel Barrel Strength varieties for $72 in the gift shop, these are hard to find!

Tastings (same as Distillery)

 

Willett
Once again we were lucky enough to receive a private tour since there were no other visitors at the time. Tour discounts for veterans/military.  Received a nice tour of the facility, if you wanted to, you could sample the fermenting mash.  If you're a cat lover, you'll see a few here, we found one peeking down at us from the second level of a rickhouse.  In the rickhouse we visited, they had some hams hanging amongst the barrels for a famous local chef.  We were told that they would hang there for up to 2 years!  They have some projects underway including an onsite B&B.

Tastings  
Willett Pot Still Reserve - everyone gets this plus 2 other choices from their entire product line (I enjoy Rowan's Creek and Noah's Mill and wanted to try some of their other options)
Pure Kentucky (my wife and I shared)
Old Bardstown BIB (my wife and I shared)
Willett Family Estate Bottled 4 Year Rye - very nice, purchased a bottle here as I wasn't sure if I could get it anywhere else

 

Heaven Hill
We rushed to get here from Willett (maybe a 5 minute drive).  A tour group had just left, but they let us catch up to them (Tours are $10/person).  I didn't realize that no distillation is done at this location, it's all trucked in from the Bernheim distillery in Louisville (they didn't rebuild the distillery after the fire in 1996).  We visited a rickhouse where most of the information was shared by our guide (lots of history and production information).   I was a little leery of the 2 "flavored" products offered at the end of the tasting, but I enjoyed both of them and wished I had purchased bottles in the gift shop as I was unable to find them elsewhere.  They had some Elijah Craig Barrel Proof for $75 in the gift shop (one of my favorites).

Tastings
Larceny
Elijah Craig
Rittenhouse Rye
Fulton's Harvest Pumpkin Pie Cream
Evan Williams Kentucky Cider

 

Jim Beam
This was our 4th stop of the day and we made the 2pm tour by minutes ($14/person)  The tour was enjoyable and informative.   I have read complaints that tours are repetitive and if you've seen one, you've seen them all, but I think we learned a few new things on each tour.

Tastings - least generous, especially given the high price IMHO of the tour.  Everyone was given a plastic card with a chip that allowed 3 tastings.  Insert the card into one of a number of machines that dispensed the product (very small quantity).  You were able to choose from all of their product line (including Booker's, Baker's, Basil Hayden's, etc)

 

Back to the Louisville Marriott

Day 3 (starting from Louisville)

Buffalo Trace
All tours are free, the tour started with a short video, then we visited the building where they hand label Blanton's.  Visited a rickhouse, our amusing guide said if you were 6' 1" or taller to be careful as the clearance was low and if you scraped your head, all he could offer was some alcohol for the scrape (not the kind you drink!).  Blanton's was available in the gift shop ($60), you were allowed to purchase up to 2 bottles.  If you collect the horse stoppers, they can be purchased in the gift shop for $3.50/each

Our guide asked if anyone knew what their #1 seller was, no one did.  Fireball sales last year were over $900M, which is pretty amazing (I have never tried it and don't really have any desire to)  He said if you had purchased some and were having a hard time getting rid of it to try a 50/50 mix of Fireball with Angry Orchard hard cider.

Tastings (very generous!)
White Dog (everyone was allowed to sniff/taste if they wanted)
Buffalo Trace
Eagle Rare
Bourbon Cream

 

While in Frankfort, we decided to get some Kentucky history (and give our livers a break!).  I highly recommend both of these tours.

Governor's Mansion Tour (reservations required)
State Capital Tour

 

Purchases

Willett Family Estate Bottled 4 Year Rye (at distillery)
Barton Chocolate Bourbon Ball Cream (at distillery)

Total Wine Louisville (best prices around)
Four Roses SB
Buffalo Trace Bourbon Cream
Barrell Whiskey Batch #5
Bulleit Barrel Strength
Old Forester 1920
Evan Williams BIB 1.75L
Booker's Sip A While  2017-04
Booker's Kathleen's Batch  2018-01
R L Seale's Finest 10 yr old rum
Doorly's 12 yr old rum

  • I like it 6

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HoustonNit

Very cool, did you drive from Rochester, if so how was it? I live in Houston but from Rochester and visit every year. Cool trip, looks like you had a good time.

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MikeF

We did drive, it's 500 miles from Rochester to Cincinnati (interstate all the way), then about another 120 to Lawrenceburg where we started.

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Richnimrod

Nice report.   Sounds like all had a fine time. 

Not unexpected in one's initial visit to 'The Motherland'.   ;)

Good for y'all!

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HoustonNit
We did drive, it's 500 miles from Rochester to Cincinnati (interstate all the way), then about another 120 to Lawrenceburg where we started.

Wow i might need to split with an overnight in Cleveland or something.

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