Travel Log: Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Louisville, KY

Words and photos by Duane Clawson
Earlier this summer, I had an opportunity to make a journey down the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.  The Bourbon Trail consists of ten distilleries that stretch from Louisville to Lexington in Kentucky.  Most of the distilleries offer tours of their facilities and tastings at the end of the tour.
Every great adventure has a beginning and ours begins with a short five-hour jaunt down Highway 64 to our Airbnb located on the outskirts of Louisville.  After arriving at our secluded destination and meeting our most gracious host, Linda, it was time to relax in an exquisite, five-bedroom, 8,000 square foot country estate.  After a good night’s rest, we were off to our first distillery, Maker’s Mark.
Of course, a warm, early summer Friday had brought what seemed like everyone to one of America’s most popular distilleries.  Traveling with friends that were on a mission to hit as many distilleries as humanly possible in two days, our time was short at this beautiful distillery.  Maker’s Mark is also the southernmost distillery on the trail.
Traveling a slight bit back to the north found us taking our only full distillery tour of this whirlwind weekend getaway.  Willett Distillery, a very unassuming, small family-owned craft distillery, located just off the Bluegrass Parkway, greeted us with open arms and a liberal sampling policy.  This distillery has been doing it old school since 1936.  Bringing the true meaning to a family-owned and operated business, our tour guide was the Master Distillers' wife.
Just a stone’s throw up the road from Willett, we made a brief stop at Heaven Hill’s gift shop and picked up some tasty Evan Williams Hot and Spicy Barbecue Sauce.  Rounding out our first day we made our final stops at Barton Distillery and the mighty Jim Beam distillery located just off of Happy Hollow Road.  The upmost care is taken of the distillery grounds and a statue of James Beam himself greets visitors outside of the American Stillhouse, which houses seven generations of Beam memorabilia, a gift shop, and of course, a tasting area for your enjoyment!
The hills of Kentucky wrapped around us as we headed east on day two, stopping in for a stroll and tasting at Buffalo Trace Distillery, located in Frankfort, KY.  If you do the tasting at Buffalo Trace, beware of the White Dog.  At 125 proof, it bites!  The drive back to the Woodford Reserve Distillery may have been one of the most scenic, as the never-ending white fences of massive horse farms lined both sides of the road leading to this classy distillery.
Tucked away on a hillside, just off of Versailles Drive overlooking the Kentucky River, sits Wild Turkey Distillery.  No tours available for an hour had us stocking up on Turkey gear and making a quick departure for our last stop, Four Roses Distillery.  After ignoring the maps on our phones, we found ourselves seeing a Kentucky that few see and made us fear for our lives for just a second!  After our slight detour, Four Roses made up for it with a sampling of their bourbons and we got to keep the rose-emblazoned sampling glass provided by the distillery.
Some may not know of the popularity of Kentucky bourbons, and in part, that is why I chose to share this adventure with you.  But there is one thing that almost everyone knows, that Kentucky is the horse racing capitol of the world and Churchill Downs is the home of the World Series of horse racing, the Kentucky Derby!  Horse racing fan or not, once you pull into the parking lot of Churchill Downs, you automatically feel that something historic has happened between the twin spires of the Downs.  A couple of mint juleps later, and my wallet 36 dollars lighter from betting on the ponies, our whirlwind weekend was over as quickly as it had begun.
The history that Kentucky holds is definitely a national treasure that needs to be explored.  And if you have a thirst for some of the finest, traditionally-distilled bourbons the world has to offer, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail is a destination that is your pot of brown gold at the end of a rainbow!  More photos of my travels are below:

Contributed by Duane Clawson
Travel Log: Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Louisville, KY Travel Log:  Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Louisville, KY Reviewed by Scott Rowe, Editor on August 22, 2016 Rating: 5
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