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Tasting along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail

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By Wayne Lazarus on November 17th, 2009

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2009. The Kentucky bourbon tradition though, is over 200 years old and a solid part of American history. Of the eight distilleries on the trail, four are located in Bardstown and the other four are all near Frankfort — so they make for an easy two or three day trip. You don’t even have to like bourbon to enjoy the tour. It’s a beautiful drive, there’s good food along the way and the distilleries have gift shops.

Heaven Hill Distillery

Heaven Hill Distillery

A good start is the Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center in Bardstown, a limestone and white oak replica of the signature barrels used for aging bourbon. Here you can tour the warehouse and participate in a tasting. There’s plenty of history on display, including the irony that it was a Baptist preacher who accidentally discovered the effects of charred oak barrels for aging the product. Over 95 percent of the world’s bourbon is distilled and aged in Kentucky.

There are three other distilleries in this area. At Jim Beam, you’ll get a tasting and can explore the Beam home. The tour at the Tom Moore distillery, known for its 1792 Bourbon, is free but reservations are required. At the Maker’s Mark distillery, located south of Bardstown in Loretto, visitors can buy a bottle and hand-dip it in the distinctive red wax to create a personal souvenir.

Makers Mark Fermenting Tanks

Makers Mark Fermenting Tanks

Take the Bluegrass Parkway towards Lexington and turn just before Lawrenceburg to tour the Four Roses distillery. Go on to Lawrenceburg and turn west on U.S. 62 to get to the Wild Turkey distillery. The Woodford Reserve distillery is just a little north, along U.S. 60. Finally, take 60 into Frankfort to U.S. 421/127 to the Buffalo Trace distillery.

Pick up a Bourbon Trail Passport (or download it) and have it stamped as you tour. It’s worth a commemorative T-shirt when you finish all the distilleries. Have a taste for more? Louisville has designated a whiskey row as its Urban Bourbon tour, where you can try more bourbons and bourbon-inspired dining in historic bars.

(Photos courtesy Kentucky Department of Travel. Used with permission.)

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