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Jun 9, 2013 03:37 PM

Bourbon Trail help

Was driving through Kentucky later this summer and thought of doing a day (or two) visiting some distilleries. Any tips on which ones offer the best tours appreciated. Have been through small local (Garrison Bros) distillery and kinda have a good idea of the process. Are appointments required or is it drop-in style like most wineries?

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  1. Forbes article on touring the Bourbon whisky trail:

    1. My Dad and I did it as a bucket-list road trip last fall. We hit 7 distilleries (Bourbon Trail plus Buffalo Trace) over a long weekend. Didn't hit any of the really small operations mostly due to time.

      My favorites were Buffalo Trace first. Second probably Jim Beam. Buffalo Trace has a hardhat tour that you have to book in advance. We didn't but I wish I had. I love the feel of the place- brick warehouses on the river. And the small bottling line where all the high-end stuff gets bottled.

      I liked Jim Beam because of the tour they were just starting when we went. They have a small-scale setup where you can see the it all at a scale you can understand (and wistfully dream of having in the backyard, 28-foot column and all). Then you see it all at the crane-your-neck-to-take-it-all-in scale. Cool stuff (lame, computer-poured samples).

      I enjoyed Wild Turkey, too. Then probably Makers. Heaven Hill, Four Roses, and Woodford probably the least.

      One really cool little place we hit was the Midway School Bakery. Neat place, great baked goods, award-winning sorghum to take home.

      2 Replies
      1. re: ted

        Buffalo Trace was my favorite as well, in terms of quality of the tour. I just did the regular tour, but I will most likely go back to do the Post-Prohibition tour at some point (the hard-hat tour would also be really cool). I also thought Four Roses was a very nice tour - my guide clearly just LOVED working at a distillery, and got a lot of joy out of pointing out all of the mash vats in various stages of fermentation.

        I also did Willett, Limestone Branch, and Town Branch. I enjoyed Willett primarily for the opportunity to try some whiskies I had never run across at home. LB was fun because it's such a small operation, and to be able to taste the "moonshine" right off of the still. They also had jars full of the heads, hearts, and tails so that we could actually smell the differences. TB...was just fine. The guide was good, but I didn't learn anything new for my $7, and while I can see the appeal of their products, they're not really my taste.

        1. re: ted

          From our recent visits, would rank Woodford's corn to cork (6 max,book in advance, $25) as our favorite tour even if they had only one sample at the end. Buffalo Trace (hard hat tour) was a close second (and free to boot!), Maker's guide was least knowledgeable. Would advise skipping Heaven Hill. Willett was a good tour of a small scale operation.