If you know someone who’s a bourbon lover, there’s one travel adventure that’s probably on their radar – and if it’s not, you need to make them aware of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. It’s truly the ultimate whiskey adventure. Louisville and Lexington, and lesser-known Bardstown are full of some of the best distilleries in the world, and there’s a lot to explore in between for the bourbon-seeking adventurer.
Here’s a look at the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and how to best travel through this part of the country.
The Bourbon Distilleries
The first thing you’ll want to do when planning a trip to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail is to review the distilleries and layout a plan that fits your tastes. You might want to stick to distilleries in the larger cities, but we’d recommend exploring outside of Louisville and Lexington and getting a taste for some of the other distilleries in the state as well. Here’s a list of the top distilleries to choose from when you visit Kentucky.
There’s a lot to consider so get out a pen and paper and mark down a list of your favorites.
Kentucky Bourbon Trail®
This is the official list of trail member sites on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
-Angel’s Envy Distillery in Louisville
-Bardstown Bourbon Company in Bardstown
-Bulleit Distilling Co. in Shelbyville
-Bulleit Frontier Experience at the Stitzel–Weller Distillery in Louisville
-Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in Louisville
-Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg
-Heaven Hill Visitor Center in Bardstown
-Jim Beam American Stillhouse in Clermont
-Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse in Louisville
-Lux Row Distillers in Bardstown
-Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto
-Michter’s Fort Nelson Distillery in Louisville
-Old Forester Distilling Co. in Louisville
-O.Z. Tyler Distillery in Owensboro
-Rabbit Hole Distillery in Louisville
-Town Branch Distillery in Lexington
-Wild Turkey Distillery in Lawrenceburg
-Woodford Reserve Distillery near Versailles
Craft Bourbon Trail
- New Riff Distillery
- Second Sight Distillery
- Old Pogue Distillery
- Boone County Distillery
- Neeley Family Distillery
- Jefferson’s Reserve @ Kentucky Artisan Distillery
- Ky Peerless Distillery
- Jeptha Creed Distillery
- Willett Distillery
- Preservation Distillery
- Boundary Oak Distillery
- Casey Jones Distillery
- MB Roland Distillery
- Dueling Grounds Distillery
- Limestone Branch Distillery
- Barrel House Distillery
- James E. Pepper Distillery
- Bluegrass Distillers
- Hartfield & Co. Distillery
- Brown-Forman Cooperage
- Barton 1792
- Buffalo Trace Distillery
- Copper & Kings Brandy Distillery
- Independent Stave Cooperage
- Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse
- Old Samuels Distillery
- Starhill Distillery @ Huber’s Farm
There are incredible distilleries in each of these regions, but if you’re just getting started exploring the wonders of Kentucky, we’d recommend sticking to the 18 distilleries on the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail. If you’re trying to do all 18 distilleries in one trip, you’re going to need 7 days, so plan ahead. We’d highly recommend leaving at least this much time. This isn’t just a stop-in, sip a dram, and onto the next distillery kind of experience. Take the distillery tours or tastings, get to know each business and what makes them special, and make a purchase to bring home to your collection. A few distilleries a day is what you’re aiming for, no more than that.
Where to Stay
We’d recommend setting up home base in Louisville, as it’s home to good food and nightlife in addition to being close to the distilleries on your route. The Frazier Museum in Louisville is home to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center, the best place to start your whiskey adventure. The 21c Museum Hotel and the Galt House are two lovely options in town to consider. Ending your journey at the Wild Turkey Distillery is fairly common, where you could consider staying at the nearby Beaumont Inn. It’s 30 minutes drive but well worth visiting – it’s listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
How to Visit
Try doing a mix of distillery tours and distillery tastings. If you booked 18 distillery tours, you’d probably find yourself pretty drained by the end of your visit. Take a look at each of the distilleries you plan to visit and we’d suggest touring anywhere from 4-8 of them, depending on your interest level. Be sure to do tastings at the others!
Good to Know
-Distilleries open at 9am or 10am and close at 3pm or 4pm, in general.
-The craft bourbon trail visits micro distilleries, if you’re looking for smaller crowds and some whiskey you’ve likely never sampled before.
-If you’re looking for souvenirs that aren’t bottled, check out Sweet Mash.
Check out Mint Julep Tours, Pegasus Distillery Tours, or Central Kentucky Tours for the Lexington Area. These are some trusted tour providers that will help you explore the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in style.
For more information on planning your trip check out the Kentucky Bourbon Trail official website. It’s full of information and planning guides.