A Vacation for Bourbon Lovers
If you love Bourbon, as I do, then the Kentucky Bourbon Trail is probably on your Bucket List. Of course, after reading this edition of DW&S, you know that Virginia boasts its own Spirits Trail too. But, if you want to experience Kentucky, then I have created a four-day guide for you.
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is diverse. (See the map here) You will see urban distilleries in Louisville and traditional brands tucked into the Kentucky hill country. Visitors look for parking places on city streets and will see bluegrass views on backroads. This beverage trail will take you from Louisville to Bardstown and then over to Lexington, KY.
First, a bit of advice. Plan your Bourbon Lovers Vacation in advance. To fully experience the distilleries, you will want to take a tasting tour at each. The Kentucky distilleries sell tours and tasting tickets in advance, and they do often sell out. Some tours are free, but most are at a small fee. Most include a tasting, and some even include free swag—such as a tasting glass at Four Roses Distillery.
Keep in mind that you will not want to visit this trail during the heat of Summer. The fermenting and distilling rooms are included on the tours. Distilling is a hot process, and adding Summer heat will make the tour almost unbearable. Not to mention, some distilleries pause tours during the Summer heat.
Please have a designated driver. You will be traversing a wide swath of Kentucky, and you will want to taste the Bourbon and enjoy a few crafted cocktails along the way. During my visit to the trail, I had a designated driver. As I was offered a taste of a new release or a unique cocktail, I was able to accept without worry.
I spent ten days browsing the trail and adding to my personal Bourbon collection. The DW&S travel page is popular with readers. One reason is that our travel writers provide trip ideas, that can be enjoyed over a long weekend. While on this trail, I looked for a four-day solution. I talked with the teams at the distilleries, and I spoke with other Bourbon lovers that I met along the way. If you do not have ten days to spend on the trail, keep reading for the best tip of all.
Make Louisville the center-piece of your visit to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Either drive or fly to Louisville and start your four-day Bourbon vacation. If flying to the area, you may even be able to experience the trail, without a rental car.
Louisville is the home of the Kentucky Derby and the Urban Bourbon Trail. Combine this part of the trail with the vibrant local food scene, and you just may want to stay in the metro area for the long weekend. Here is a taste of the Bourbon that you will find within a short walk or ride of the city center:
Angel’s Envy, Copper & Kings American Brand Distillery, Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse, Kentucky Artisan Distillery, Kentucky Peerless Distillery, Michter’s Fort Nelson, Old Forester Distillery, Prohibition Craft Spirits, Rabbit Hole Distillery, and Stitzel-Weller Distillery. With that robust list, you can probably see why I think that you should use Louisville as your vacation epicenter.
While in Louisville, there is no doubt that you will discover the secondary market built around the local Bourbon industry. Bourbon themed restaurants such as Bourbon Raw and Bourbons Bistro dot the map. If you would like to purchase some Bourbon themed merchandise, stop by 5-0-Lou on Frankfort Avenue for a collection of Bourbon-themed art, apparel, and cocktail supplies. Or stop by my favorite, A Taste of Kentucky, with three locations in Louisville.
In Kentucky, not all Bourbon is served in a glass. I found my favorite, a piece of Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie. It is a meld of two iconic local favorites—Bourbon and pecans. You will want to find a piece. Also, find a signature Mint Julep and slather some Bourbon Honey Butter on a hot breakfast biscuit.
While visiting the trail, you will probably want to visit some of the nationally-known brands such as Woodford Reserve, Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey, and Four Roses. During my visit, I quickly learned a trail lesson. To visit Louisville and a selection of nationally-known distilleries, you will travel many miles while juggling your tour schedule. I learned this lesson during a few hectic trail days. There is a solution.
Stay in Louisville and book a curated tour. Imagine boarding a private, small tour bus in Louisville and being whisked away to distilleries along the trail. All of the tour providers allow guests to bring their own coolers of snacks and yes…cocktail mixers. Feel free to enjoy a cocktail while gazing out the bus window in the Kentucky countryside. The full-day tour also includes lunch at a popular restaurant. You will arrive at each distillery and be escorted to meet your guide. The schedule is expertly managed by your designated driver, and all fees are included in your booked tour.
Escorted tours usually include two-to-four distillery stops. On my next visit to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, I plan to stay in Louisville and book two days with a tour company. Each day is visiting different distilleries. The tour provider offers pick-up and a safe return to locations in Louisville.
Here are three of the top Louisville-based Bourbon Trail tour companies:
My Top Trail Tip: Stay in the urban center of Louisville. Spend two days on a curated tour sandwiched between two days exploring Louisville. The tour company will ensure that you get to experience a tour of the busiest distilleries without stress. That leaves two days to explore Louisville at your leisure. That is how a Bourbon fan can see a large portion of the trail in only four days.
The DW&S editorial team enjoys providing four-day travel plans to well-known foodie and beverage regions. Visit the DW&S website to read about locations such as Charleston, Savannah, the Adirondacks, Bar Harbor, and Florida. Check out the DW&S Adventure Section: www.DineWineAndStein.com