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Bourbon Trail & Where to watch the derby

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My wife and I are headed to Kentucky next week. We are staying in Bardstown and our general plans so far are to go to Chapeze House, Mammoth Caves, and a lot of bourbon distilleries. My favorite bourbon brands that we can get around here are Four Roses, Eagle Rare, Woodford Reserve, and Buffalo Trace so we are planning to visit those possibly along with Jim Beam, Heaven Hill, Marker's Mark.

This trip only coincidentally is at the time of the derby. We don't want to do the infield thing but are wondering where a good place to go to watch would be. Ideally the place will have good food and will have a nice TV on which to watch the brief race. Since we will be staying in Bardstown it doesn't have to be in Louisville.

Aside from that, are there specific distilleries worth a visit that we may not have heard of here in Wisconsin?

I have advised my wife not to drive away in the middle of the night to look for Timothy Olyphant; as such, we will have a car that we enjoy driving, so off the beaten path is doable for both items above.

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  1. (You're right to avoid the infield unless you like more of a... let's say NASCAR crowd and NOT seing the races!)

    Do keep in mind that the Derby itself is only one of many many races on the day. Any sports bar or restaurant with TVs will be showing all of race day, but most people who celebrate Derby have cocktail-type parties in their homes, IME.

    1. One of the better restaurants in Bardstown now is Circa. It recently opened and we have been very happy with both lunch and dinner experiences. They have a TV area which should be nice for watching the derby. It is just a couple of doors down from Chapeze House. A short walk away is Toddy's where you can find an excellent selection of Bourbon. Don't miss the top shelf choices above the counter.

      While you are out at Woodford Reserve or some of the other distilleries you should consider visiting Midway for some good restaurant choices. Holly Hill for excellent fine dining and Heirloom come to mind. Wallace Station for great sandwiches.

      Not sure of other lesser known distilleries to visit. There is a newer port finished "bourbon", Angel's Envy. It is distilled in louisville at the louisville Distilling Company but I'm not sure they take visitors or have tours. It might be worth giving them a call. Not my type of "bourbon" but probably worth trying as it seems to be an up and coming product. Also, if you like Four Roses, I would consider visiting the Cox's Creek Warehouses. This is where Four Roses ages and bottles their bourbon. I wouldn't miss the Lawrenceburg site but if you have extra time you might want to at least call and see if their gift shop has any special bottlings. I picked up a couple of anniversary editions signed by Jim Rutledge there a few years ago. The number is 502-543-2264. They also do a good tour there.

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      Wallace Station
      3854 Old Frankfort Pike, Versailles, KY 40383

      1. I agree with Wallace Station. We were there over Christmas and it was excellent.

        I'd also suggest Evan Williams as a distillery to visit. Great bourbon.

        Also, if you plan on purchasing some bourbon the Costco in Louisville has some nice bottles at even nicer prices.

        DT

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        Wallace Station
        3854 Old Frankfort Pike, Versailles, KY 40383

        1 Reply
        1. re: Davwud

          Thanks, all. Will try to remember to report back on the above suggestions.

        2. Maybe it's just me, but the Jim Beam distillery was easily the worst alcohol-related establishment (breweries, distilleries, etc.) I've visited. You don't really get to see the distillery or it's inner workings- you can walk around the grounds of the distillery and you get to watch a short video in the gift shop. You do get to sample some of their bourbon, but other than that it was pretty sad. Makers Mark is a must-see in my opinion; I also enjoyed Four Roses.

          1. So where did you watch the Derby? The last time we went to the Derby we almost decided to watch the races at Keeneland instead. (We weer staying in Lexington.)

            The one memorable thing for us at Maker's Mark was the spread they had out for their guests in honor of the Derby. Owensboro's Moonlite BBQ catered it, cooking everything onsite. I know the restraurant itself has its share of detractors, but it was preety good that day. Maybe it was due to the Maker's Marks mint julips they were mixing up for everybody.

            Of the distilleries we visited, Wild Turkey was extremely underwhelimg.

            1. We ended up watching the Derby at Parker's near/in Bardstown. Lots of fun people there and even a guy of dubious legality taking bets. They weren't serving Mint Juleps or Derby Pies, though, so that was kind of a bummer. Still, it was fun.

              We took the tour at Buffalo Trace, Maker's Mark, Jim Beam. We also visited Four Roses and Woodford Reserve. Part of this may be that there were just TOO MANY people at Woodford the day before the Derby, but I was very underwhelmed and not interested at all in a tour. The place was just a bit too corporate-slimy for me. Even more than Jim Beam, somehow. Of the tours we took, Jim Beam was possibly the worst but better than described in this thread. We got a fair amount of information and got to stand in their warehouse. The other two were certainly much, much cooler. Marker's Mark's tour allowed us to actually look at the mash and distiller. And the visitor area was a lot of fun, with talking photos and fake phone calls, etc. Buffalo Trace was also great, and we got to stand 2 inches away from the people actively bottling Blanton's.

              We managed to hit up Wallace Station and were very glad we did.

              Circa was closed Saturday so we ended up at The Stable House (something like that) which was a great building, but meh food.

              Chapeze house was pricey but the experience was very memorable and we were very glad we went. The food was pretty good comfort food, and the service was stellar. I loved talking to the Colonel about various things.

              We hit up Moonlite BBQ per other threads here and enjoyed it in that sort of bad good food or good bad food or whatever way. The place was completely slammed on Mother's day, though! They didn't have any moonlite BBQ food at Maker's on Derby Day when we were there :(

              We went to Liquor World to stock up before we left. Good prices there and they were helpful in identifying items we likely couldn't get elsewhere. They even had a signed bottle of Bulleit that we will be giving as a gift.

              Overall a fun trip. Next time I will make sure to actually get seats at the derby. We didn't have time to go to Mammoth Caves this trip either.

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              Wallace Station
              3854 Old Frankfort Pike, Versailles, KY 40383

              2 Replies
              1. re: TAsunder

                Did you dip your own bottle at Maker's Mark? As a souvenir collector that is the coolest souvenir I have ever purchased.

                1. re: Fibber McGee

                  I dipped a bottle of wheat. It seemed wrong to dip my own bottle of bourbon then open it.