Will Drive For Bourbon: Wild Turkey

Lawrenceburg, KY
84

It’s been just over a year since Wild Turkey opened its new $4 million visitor center. The starkly simple black structure—the starting and ending point of your tour—pays tribute to Kentucky’s agricultural and distilling past, evoking both tobacco barns and rickhouses.

That’s just part of Gruppo Campari’s investment. The Italian beverage company purchased Wild Turkey from Pernod Ricard in 2009, then pumped in nearly $100 million of improvements, including a $50 million expansion in 2011 that took production capabilities from 5 million to 11 million proof gallons annually, and a $43 million packaging facility that brought bottling back to the distillery in 2013. So, fair warning: You’re visiting a veritable bourbon factory. Where fermenting tanks at some other distilleries are cypress, here they’re stainless steel, and 24 of them fill one enormous room. From the fermenting floor, you can peek into the computerized control room, as well as the tasting lab, where samples ring two tables, one for each master distiller: Jimmy Russell and his son, Eddie. (The elder Russell celebrated 60 years with Wild Turkey last September.) After fermenting comes distilling—Wild Turkey employs a copper column still—then it’s back to the visitor center, where you can pick two samples. Sip slow and enjoy the view of the U.S. Route 62 bridge and its perfect S-curve, the Kentucky River, and the railroad trestle bridge that crosses it.

Tours: Mon–Sat 9 am–4 pm, Sun 10–3 (Apr–Oct;  all tours on the hour)
Cost: $10, $1 to the Boot Campaign, which supports military families; free with a military ID
Samples: Two (Choose from nine wild Turkey Brands)

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