- Danielle Belyeu
KENTUCKY BOURBON TRAIL
Kentucky is washed in whiskey, with 95% of all the bourbon produced in the U.S. originating in the Bluegrass State. Liquor only earns the title of “bourbon” if it’s made up of 51% corn and aged in new, charred-oak barrels. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail has woven together 42 innovative distilleries, while tasting rooms and bottle shops have brought the spirit to buzzy downtown areas. Carve a bourbon-soaked path across Kentucky, uncovering the traditions and tastes of the Southern state.
Bardstown, dubbed the Bourbon Capital of the World, has 11 distilleries. One, Bardstown Bourbon Company, is a vast operation spread over 100 acres of farmland, where soaring glass buildings reveal glittering stills. Come here to shake a bourbon cocktail, “thieve” the spirit straight from a barrel in the rickhouse or take a tour to learn about mashing or aging. The distillery’s restaurant serves refined Southern-style food.
REVIVAL VINTAGE BOTTLE SHOP,
Head to Covington, a laid-back city right on the border with Ohio. It’s home to Revival’s second outlet, a shop dealing in rare and vintage liquor. Cofounder Brad Bonds digs out dusty bottles at garage sales and similar troves and sells them or cracks them open for tastings at the shop’s tiny bar. This treasure trove for spirit-lovers hawks everything from 19th-century bourbons and rare bottles of Pappy Van Winkle whiskey to 1960s Puerto Rican rum.
EVAN WILLIAMS BOURBON
Louisville is home to the historic Whiskey Row, formerly known as the “Wall Street of Whiskey.” Back in 1783, Evan Williams established Kentucky’s first commercial distillery on this block. The original distillery closed, but the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, operated by Heaven Hill, continues its legacy. Here you’ll find a compact artisan distillery and a museum that offers a multimedia deep-dive into bourbon production from the 1700s to the present day. Finish with a tasting flight in stylish loft bar ON3.
BUFFALO TRACE DISTILLERY,
Though it isn’t one of the 42 distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Buffalo Trace is an essential stop. It’s the oldest continuously operating distillery in the U.S. Explore “Bourbon Pompeii,” a series of 19th-century foundations and 18th-century fermenters that have been excavated and preserved. Beyond the history, the distillery pioneers aged bourbons in a high-tech, climate-controlled warehouse and also runs various tours.
FRESH BOURBON TASTING
Lexington is in Kentucky’s Horse Country, known for its rippling hills and neat white fences. Downtown, you’ll find the Fresh Bourbon Tasting Room, where owners Sean and Tia Edwards are recognized by the state as the first African Americans to produce Kentucky bourbon since slavery, and their product is a departure from tradition. Great for bourbon beginners, its primary grain (after corn) is honey malt, giving it a sweeter flavor. The tasting room, with its chandeliers and sleek marble bar, is ultra-modern, too.
Written by Guest Contributor