Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Ahhh…bourbon. Enough said? This magical, tasty amber liquid is my liquid gold. I think I have always enjoyed the taste of bourbon, but I didn’t come to appreciate it as much as I do until a few years ago, or especially until after I visited the Kentucky bourbon trail. If you are in the Midwest region and looking for something different to do during the day or for a long weekend, I highly recommend visiting any of the distilleries along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. You will truly appreciate the beauty of the properties, the family history, and how the distinct taste of Kentucky Bourbon is made.

During my last visit home to Ohio, my family and I planned a two-day bourbon trail weekend. There was a bit of pre planning involved, as there are with most trips. We only had Saturday-Sunday afternoon to fit our bourbon stops in.

There are a total of 9 distilleries spread out over several counties with several miles of traveling between them. Each Distillery has its own unique property, hours of operation, admission fees, tours, tastings, and of course bourbon! Because of the distance between the distilleries and hours of operation, it would take at least 3 days to fit all of the distilleries in. If you want to hit all of the stops at the leisurely pace, with time to walk the grounds, I would definitely take 4 days.

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Map of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. You can find this online too.

My accomplices for this journey were my dad, his girlfriend, my sister, her fiancé, and myself. We live in Cincinnati, Ohio, and left at the crack of dawn on Saturday morning. Like 7:15am. A quick stop at Starbucks so we would all get along for the car ride, and then hit the road.

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Wild Turkey distillery

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Our plan of attack was Markers Mark and Jim Beam for day one. Wild Turkey and Buffalo Trace for day two. Markers Mark is the farthest out from Cincinnati, in the direction we were heading. Out tactic was to start the farthest out and work our way back.

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At Maker’s Mark you can wax dip and sign your own bottle. This is a checkmark!

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Dip and twist just like an Oreo cookie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jim Beam’s property. Fred’s Smokehouse is also on the property. I recommend leaving enough time to get something to eat here.

Of all the distilleries some you may recognize, and others you might not be so familiar with. You may recognize a specific brand of bourbon that is produced at a distillery that will surprise you. You should check out kybourbontrail.com for more information on which brands are produced at each distillery if there is a particular item you are looking for.

What do you do learn at the distilleries?

All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. There are very distant characters that make up Kentucky bourbon. All bourbon must be made in the USA, but the majority are produced in Kentucky. All bourbon must be made from at least 51% corn, and be aged in a newly charred white oak barrel for a minimum of two year. Distilled whiskey must stay below 160 proof and when it goes into the barrel is must be below 125 proof. And, there cannot be anything added to bourbon other than water.

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Maker’s Mark tasting presentation.

Jim Beam tasting guide.

Jim Beam tasting guide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angle share: The Angle Share is a term used to describe this magical scent that will perk your nose up before you even learn what the word means. You know when you walk down the bread aisle at the grocery store? That scent… Do you know what I am talking about!? You will experience the same effect with the angle share in the barrelhouses, but even better. You might even start trying to take bites of the air. Go on. The smell is included with your tour fee, and there aren’t any calories.

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Maker’s Mark fermentation tanks – you can see the yeast bubble!

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Sour Mash.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Markers Mark wax dip assembly line.

Markers Mark wax dip assembly line.

Taste a drop of 120 proof distilled bourbon being filled into a new charred oak barrel.

Taste a drop of 120 proof distilled bourbon being filled into a new charred oak barrel.

These are all things that will be covered in more depth on your bourbon trail visit. The guides are fun, whitty, and intelligent people. All of our guides were wonderful and really made our visit worth the trip.

What if you don’t like bourbon or like to drink very much?

 Even if you are not a bourbon lover, I recommend the visit. Bourbon is not my sister’s choice of poison, and she does not like to drink too much, and she had a great time. You will not be consuming much at these visits, this is more of the business and educational side of the magical liquid. Which brings me to the next point.

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Barrelhouse at Wild Turkey property.

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Chihuly glass installation at Markers Mark.

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Resting barrels at Buffalo Trace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will I get drunk and how do I get to the next stop on the bourbon trail?

Drinking and driving is ALWAYS a bad idea. But, you are at a bourbon distillery so you will want to drink. To get from A to B you will need to travel most likely by car. During the tasting portion of all of the tour, the “taste” was .5oz or maybe even less. It was just enough to coat your tonged and give you a taste. Not one of us was ever even buzzed. Water is offered at every stop, and there is plenty of walking you can do outside before you leave, if you feel you need so wait awhile. If you are catching a buzz you must be drinking something else then what they are providing with the tours.

There is another option for large groups to rent a party bus to drive from place to place. Then you can drink all you want in between your stops. This would be a great weekend activity to do with friends or for a birthday.

What else?

Aside from the knowledge you will learn about what makes Kentucky bourbon, Kentucky bourbon, the history, and all of the beauty from the properties. There is one more very important thing to consider. F-O-O-D. Duh! Not only is bourbon something you can cook with, but there is an endless list of phenomenal Kentucky eateries.

I sadly was not on the bourbon trail long enough to explore more options, but there are certainly options out there. Make the time to stop at LOCAL, down home, Kentucky style, restaurants. For some of you this will be the most memorable part of your trip.

This was a great weekend adventure with my family, and I hope you will make the time to visit too. Visit Kentuckybourbontrail.com for information on hours of operations, tour times, fees and directions. Don’t forget to pick up you passport and get your stamps along the way!

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A special thank you to Sunny for sharing his awesome photography with me for this post!

Here are a few bourbon cocktail recipes.