KY Bourbon Distilleries: A Frommer’s Top Destination for 2008
The American Whiskey Trail is a list of historical whiskey sites suggested to tourists by the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S., a trade organization for the liquor industry.
Of the distilleries listed in the AWT, all but three are Kentucky Bourbon Distilleries (I’m not counting the two rum distilleries in the Caribbean – it would be next to impossible to add those to a single travel itinerary).
While the AWT is a great starting point, and I applaud the Distilled Spirits Council for publishing it, there are richer resources for taking a trip through American whiskey history. To really get at the heart of American whiskey, I suggest you turn to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is a campaign developed by the Kentucky Board of Tourism in cooperation with a number of well-known bourbon distilleries in the state. Their website provides maps, lists of nearby hotels, a primer on bourbon history & production, and plenty of gorgeous photography of bourbon country to really draw you in.
Each of the participating distilleries (big names and small) offer guided tours of the grounds and have gift shops to pick up souvenirs. Because some counties in Kentucky are still dry, not all are able to provide samplings, but most do. All seven are located in Central Kentucky and can be visited over the course of two days.
While I have not been to all of the distilleries on the Trail (still need to visit Wild Turkey and Heaven Hill), it’s safe to say they are all well worth a visit. Maker’s Mark is probably the best starting point — they clearly have invested the most in their visitor’s center and tour, creating what might be considered a bourbon theme park.
My favorite though, has to be Four Roses, because they take you through every part of the bourbon making process and let you see it close up — from grain selection to distillation, aging, and bottling — ducking under pipes and walking the distillery catwalk along the way. That’s not a knock on the others though, they are all fantastic and highly recommended!
For those of you who have been, which is your favorite distillery tour and why? Leave a comment below to let us know.