Along the bourbon trail.
Updated: Apr 20, 2019
There is something special about taking a road trip with a big group of old friends. Add to that scenario copious amounts of bourbon and a good time is assured.
I love bourbon. I love wine as well, but a good glass of bourbon is something special. So imagine my excitement to finally have a chance to tour the mecca of bourbon, Kentucky. We planned to hit all of the major distilleries, and a few of the artisan ones as well in a three day drinking expedition.
We began our journey at the Kentucky Artisan Distillery, the producer of the highly regarded Jefferson's Bourbon as well as many others. It is a very small operation dedicated to producing quality over quantity.
There is lots of cool memorabilia here despite being a fairly small operation. There are many antique stills and barrels with experimental formulas. It was a great place to start our journey.
Moving north we headed for Louisville, home of many of the large operations. Our first stop was the Angel's Envy Distillery right in the heart of downtown Louisville. This is a beautiful refurbished factory building. The distillery is modern, but the character of the worn building remains. This is definitely a high tech operation, and the reservation only tour takes you to every part of the process.
This bourbon gets its unique flavor from being finished in port wine barrels. As beautiful as the tour was, the tasting room was next level. All bourbon makers do tastings. You are provided with a sample of most of the products they make, along with various tasting accompaniments to enhance the tasting experience. What made this place so special was the presentation. After the tasting presentation the rear wall of the room opens up revealing a full bar serving some of the most beautiful cocktails ive ever seen. It really was a unique experience.
The next stop on the tour was the Buffalo Trace distillery. This is one of the largest operations in Kentucky. They make their signature brand, as well as many other well known brands of Bourbon. Blanton's, Eagle Rare, Weller, George T. Stagg, as well as the most sought after bourbon, Pappy Van Winkle.
This place had the most incredible rick houses,and there are many of them. Buffalo Trace produces over 200,000 barrels of bourbon per year, a staggering number. These houses hold thousands of barrels each, rack after rack of precious liquid.
As you enter the corridors narrow until you are completely surrounded by barrels. The sweet smell of the aging bourbon thick in the air. Bourbon gets its color from aging in charred oak barrels. The changes in temperature force the liquid into the wood imbuing it with the signature sweet, smoky flavor. This process goes on for years, the longer the aging the more liquid is lost to evaporation, called the angels share.
Along the way we visited many more distilleries. Woodford Reserve, Four Roses, Wild Turkey, and Makers Mark as well as many others. But even with three days of constant touring, we didn't have time to visit them all.
The final stop was one of my most anticipated. Willett Distillery is a small operation that uses a beautiful copper pot still. Willett is one of my favorite bourbons and I looked forward to see its creation. Luckily when we arrived on Sunday I got the final tour spot of the day, narrowly avoiding disappointment. This is a fairly new distillery, the buildings were noticeably modern in comparison to the antique places we had visited.
This was a short but fascinating trip. I learned so much, and tasted some of the most famous bourbons in the world. Many of the bourbons we sampled were very rare and expensive spirits that I would never have the opportunity to try otherwise. Although we covered a lot of ground, there we so much more we didn't get to see. I cant wait for the next time we embark on the bourbon trail.