Sunday, June 14, 2015

Almost Everything You Need to Know to Travel the Kentucky Bourbon Trail– Part I

A 3 day journey to 9 distilleries


For DAYS TWO and THREE (click here)

     Our mission was to visit all 9 distilleries on the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail.  The payoff would be the 2015 KBT t-shirt as bragging rights after receiving a stamp on our passport from each stop on the trail.  The "how-to-do-it" was vague from what I had read.  Does one have to tour each distillery, or is a visit to the visitor's center sufficient for validation?  The answer is you'll want to tour your favorites as it's most likely the only way you'll be able to do a sampling of their bourbons.  Beware, however, the distilleries are anywhere from 20 minutes to a little over an hour apart so plan for one (maybe two) tours per day.  They range in price from $5 to $12 including a complimentary 2 to 4 pours.  The tours are timed so if you miss one, you'll have to wait for the next one (usually an hour apart).  Tours are added at some distilleries during peak travel season.  Be sure and check closed days as that could really be disappointing.  Not all distilleries are open every day.  Lastly, tours are much more time consuming than one may originally imagine, lasting on the average a little over an hour each.  A mere visit to the grounds and gift shops will most likely be the only time you'll have for less favorite brands.

Town Branch Distillery
      We got on the trail on a Friday in Lexington (coming from Cincinnati), with a plan to work east to west.  Four of the stops are grouped in the Lexington/Frankfort area.  Our first venue was Town Branch just on the outskirts of downtown.  This was only a visit on our tour so we used it as a restroom break and to pick up our passport, which was already stamped by them.  Town Branch is unique in that it is also a brewery, producing the highly popular Bourbon Barrel Ale.  Walking into the visitor's center, a patron yelled to us to be sure and try the Coffee Bourbon Barrel Ale.  Looking back, Town Branch would have been a nice tour to have taken.  Next time!

     The drive to Woodford Reserve was through Kentucky horse country with views of some famous farms and rolling countryside along the way.  It takes one through Versailles, home to Ouita Michel's Wallace Station Deli and Bakery where folks were lined up at lunchtime.  We were looking 
Woodford Reserve Visitor Center
to make the noon tour at Woodford, and fortunately there were ones added that day due to the busy weekend.  Woodford is 
Woodford Reserve Visitor Center
the "Country Club of the Bourbon Trail", which is apparent from the time one enters the lobby.  Tour buses take visitors to the various buildings for guided tours, utilizing earphones to defuse the background noise, but none-the-less annoying as they kept crapping out.  Everything was beautiful and organized around the Woodford grounds, culminating 
Woodford Reserve Copper Distilling Pots
Woodford Reserve Bottling House
in the bottling house where all comes together from the filling and boxing of bottles to their labeling and seals.  All ends with the 2 pours and a bourbon chocolate.  Lunchtime was 
Bourbon Pours and
Truffle in the Tasting Room
planned at Glenn's Creek Cafe conveniently located in their visitor center complex.  We were disappointed with the gift shop, which seemed heavily geared to selling their bourbon rather than related gift items.

Four Roses Visitor Center
     We chose to go to Four Roses next even though Wild Turkey was closer.  Four Roses closes a little earlier and we wanted to make sure we made it in time.  John and Bryce 
Featured Bourbons
seemed interested in a tasting and, lo and behold, they were willing to give them one without the tour.  They didn't realize it was timed, which would have put us a little behind with our itinerary so they asked if they could do the tasting earlier. "Sure!", replied the manager and they were off to experience one of the highlights of their trip.  
The Grounds of Four Roses Distillery
One note here:  distilleries should consider doing tastings only.  As we stated before, it's impossible to do the tours at every brand.  Therefore, tastings are a win-win situation–the visitor gets to taste different varieties, which invariably leads to a purchase of bourbon.  Why haven't they figured this out?

Wild Turkey's New Visitor Center
     Wild Turkey was one of the shortest drives between locations.  Sporting a brand new visitor center, it was one of the smaller structures on the trail.  It was the end of day one and they were adding tours, but we had a time commitment to be at our B&B an hour away.  However, a stop at the patio area and the rocking turkeys were a must.

Hill House Bed & Breakfast
in Loretto, KY
    Our stay at Hill House B&B in Loretto (click here) was a delight.  Lisa Marie, with her dog Rudy James (because everyone in the south has two names) were our hosts for two nights.  Getting to know the six of us was a little overwhelming, but we truly felt very at home with them.  She made a few suggestions for dinner in nearby Bardstown, which had been named the prettiest small town in the USA. That night we decided on The Rick House (click here), a steakhouse located in a historic building.

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