Kentucky’s water is special. Most of the Commonwealth is situated on a limestone shelf that acts as a natural water filter, removing iron and adding minerals like calcium and magnesium. These minerals happen to be important to fermentation, which helps sour mash grow up to be delicious bourbon. And get this, guys: Kentucky is really, really close to Cincinnati.
The state has capitalized on its geological good fortune with the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. At each of the trail’s eight primary destinations, tourists can learn about the rich history and tradition of distilling bourbon and, more importantly, they can sample the goods.
At Maker’s Mark in Loretto, tour guides discuss the company’s unique, sweet-tasting bourbon as well as the evolution of their internationally recognizable branding campaign (spoiler alert: behind every smart man there’s a smarter woman). You can even buy a bottle of Maker’s Mark at the gift shop and dip it in red wax all by yourself. At Jim Beam in Clermont, visitors learn about the 200-year Beam family bourbon dynasty and their journey to be The World’s Number One Bourbon.
After you’ve conquered the larger household names, visit Four Roses Distillery and Wild Turkey Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Evan Williams Distillery in Louisville, Woodford Reserve Distillery near Versailles, the Bourbon Heritage Center in Bardstown, and Lexington Brewing and Distillery in Lexington. If you still haven’t had enough, there are several craft micro-distilleries scattered throughout the state just waiting to be explored.
Pick up a Kentucky Bourbon Trail Passport at any of the eight primary distilleries, collect all eight stamps, and earn a complimentary T-shirt. To catch them all, you’ll probably want to make a weekend of it. We recommend staying at the super-haunted Old Talbott Tavern in Bardstown, where you can wander the halls—tumbler of bourbon in hand—and spook yourself silly.
1. Nominate a designated driver or book a tour before embarking on this magical journey. Safety first; they don’t call bourbon the warm Kentucky hug for nothin’.
2. Take an intermission (or three) to fortify yourself with local BBQ so you can keep on keepin’ on. Trust us. You really need that T-shirt.
Learn more about the Kentucky Bourbon Trail here: kybourbontrail.com
Learn more about the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour here: kybourbontrail.com/craft-tour
Learn more about the Old Talbott Tavern here: talbotts.com