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Feb 17, 2012 02:58 PM

Visiting Bourbon Country

In March I'll be driving north from Chattanooga to Louisville and then southeast from Louisville to Asheville. I'd like to visit at least one of the bourbon distilleries while I'm in the area - do you guys have any recommendations? I am reasonably familiar with nationally-available brands of bourbon, so a place that lets me try/learn about obscure stuff rather than just Maker's Mark, Bulleit, Four Roses, etc would be preferable.

In addition, are there any bourbons that I could find easily in Kentucky but not so easily back home in Seattle?

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  1. I visited the Bourbon Trail recently. Heaven Hill (Louisville) makes a large number of lesser known bourbons (Fighting Cock!), so that might be a good place to stop. Their basic tour is mostly a history lesson, but some of the other tours sounded interesting. If you've never done it, get a tour that includes a rick house. The smell is amazing, it'll haunt your dreams.

    Buffalo Trace (Frankfort) is a national brand so I'm sure you've heard of it, but the tour was good.

    IMO, tours weren't a great time to be trying new bourbons. It's nice, of course, but at the end of a tour at 10 am isn't the best time to be trying to find a new whiskey to like.

    1. The Maker's Mark distillery is absolutely worth visiting. Don't miss it if you're down that way.

      The Buffalo Trace tour is also very good.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Pedr0

        I have to agree with Pedro on the Maker's tour. It is the perfect blend of history, eduction and fun. And the place is effing gorgeous. The only downside is that it isn't really "close" to much else. But that is relative to how much driving you mind doing. Now, if you just want to taste and not really tour, there are tons of great bars all over the area with terrific selections. If you just stay in Louisville at either the Seelbach or 21c they both have great bars with outstanding selections and then you don't have to drive anywhere.

      2. So, where in Chattanooga should I arrive so that you can pick me up and take me with you?

        My Dad and I have been talking about going and visiting some distilleries for a while but haven't managed to firm up a trip.

        Don't forget Jack Daniels and/or Dickel on your way up from Chattanooga.

        1. Distillery touring, tasting and bourbon buying are distinct activities. Because of local liquor laws, the distilleries only give at most three one-ounce samples and can only sell a limited number of varieties -- I think four. Buffalo Trace on occasion has sold items that are exclusive to its gift shop, though -- their cream liqueur and at one point their white dog was only sold in their gift shop but that is no longer the case. Each gift shop will also give you a shpiel about how they sell bourbon mainly as a courtesy to their visitors and their prices are not designed to compete with the retailers -- and in point of fact you will pay at least as much, if not more, at the distillery.

          Best overall tours are Maker's Mark and Woodford Reserve because you see the whole process from milling to bottling. Same is true of Buffalo Trace hard-hat tour, I think, but that is by reservation only and we've only done the regular tour. Heaven Hill's tasting is very informative and they give you tastes of some higher-end products but the actual distillation is not done in Bardstown so you only actually see a warehouse.

          If you want to buy, find a liquor store with a good selection and knowledgeable staff. We are partial to Old Town Liquors on Bardstown Rd. in Louisville but you can search the board here for other recs as well.

          3 Replies
          1. re: ravchaz

            That reminds me - most distillers aren't actually distilling during summer because it's too hot. March should be fine but I went in August and many of the distilleries were not running.

            1. re: ravchaz

              Thanks. I admit that's the answer I suspected I was going to get. We are also visiting Charleston, so I think there are Louisville are where I'll do most of my bourbon-tasting (but that's another thread, of course).

              1. re: lavaca

                The Brown Hotel lobby bar has a nice selection, including bourbon flights so you can try a nice variety. The Seelbach is also reputed to have a nice selection. Both are recommended in that you can indulge widely and then go upstairs to sleep in your room.

                There are also a couple of restaurants which offer bourbon flights -- Bourbons Bistro and the Maker's Mark Lounge come to mind.

            2. Wine Spectator magazine has a travel article on visiting Bourbon Country.