Best Stops on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Visit the Bluegrass Region and discover America’s official spirit and enjoy horse farms, attractions, and historic sites.

Visit the nine stops along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail tour, and you’ll see why this iconic, all-American spirit has become the toast of whiskey connoisseurs worldwide. Officially designated by Congress a “distinctive product of the United States” in 1964, 97 percent of the world’s bourbon is made in Kentucky.

Maker’s Mark Distillery is located on scenic 850-acre grounds framed by magnolias and sugar maples. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Maker’s Mark Distillery is located on scenic 850-acre grounds framed by magnolias and sugar maples. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here are four noteworthy stops along the trail, where bourbon is king, but you’ll also find many other attractions.

Bardstown

The second-oldest town in Kentucky, Bardstown is known for its beautiful downtown as well as its bourbon.

Central Kentucky is the birthplace of America’s native spirit, and Bardstown can legitimately lay claim to being the “Bourbon Capital of the World.” At one time, the area was home to as many as 22 distilleries, producing bourbons said to “have a bite that would blow your ears off” and were supposedly as harsh as the outlaws and desperados they fueled.

Twenty-eight warehouses are home to hibernating Bourbon barrels on the grounds of Barton’s 1792 Distillery. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Twenty-eight warehouses are home to hibernating Bourbon barrels on the grounds of Barton’s 1792 Distillery. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, only four of those distilleries remain around Bardstown: Barton’s 1792, Heaven Hill, Willet Distillery, and Maker’s Mark, as well as the Bourbon Heritage Center.

While you’re in town, visit My Old Kentucky Home State Park.

Hungry or thirsty? Check out Old Talbott Tavern, on Court Square. Established in 1779, the tavern still serves as a place of reprieve and drink for travelers. In the old dining room, visitors can enjoy Kentucky classics such as a Kentucky hot brown (hot turkey over hot toast and smothered in a buttery sauce), fried green tomatoes, and southern fried chicken. In the bourbon bar visitors can enjoy live entertainment, snacks, and an expansive list of spirits.

Clermont

The visitor experience starts at the newly built Jim Beam American Stillhouse, a two-story shrine to the historic Beam family and brands. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The visitor experience starts at the newly built Jim Beam American Stillhouse, a two-story shrine to the historic Beam family and brands. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The world’s largest Bourbon distiller, Jim Beam showcases the home of their distillery in Clermont by providing visitors who make the journey an experience that is worthy of the title, “World’s Most Popular Bourbon.”

The visitor experience starts at the Jim Beam American Stillhouse, a two-story shrine to the historic Beam family and brands. The tallest wall inside is a Beam family tree stretching back seven generations and highlighting all of the family members who went on to become Master Distillers. With over 30 names on the wall it’s easy to see why the Beams are considered the “First Family of Bourbon.”

While you’re in the area, relax at the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest.

Woodford Reserve's manicured gardens and stone warehouses, known also as "rickhouses," exude the essence of Southern refinement. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Woodford Reserve’s manicured gardens and stone warehouses, known also as “rickhouses,” exude the essence of Southern refinement. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Versailles

That’s “ver-sales,” please. Green pastures, white fences, horse farms that breed legendary thoroughbreds. And bourbon, of course. Woodford Reserve Distillery, the oldest and smallest stop on the trail, offers several different tours.

You can also indulge your My Friend Flicka fantasies at several farms and get you up close and personal with some of the world’s finest Thorough horses.

Lawrenceburg

History, food, golf, shopping and―did we mention? – bourbon are all part of the mix in Lawrenceburg. Its quaint downtown is graced with an impressive courthouse building, shopping, dining, and more. Lawrenceburg, is home to the Four Roses and Wild Turkey distilleries.

The Wild Turkey Distillery tour reveals an intriguing combination of tradition and modern mass production. In the fermentation room, for example, 70-year-old cypress tanks stand next to modern stainless steel ones.

The Wild Turkey Distillery tour reveals an intriguing combination of tradition and modern mass production. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Wild Turkey Distillery tour reveals an intriguing combination of tradition and modern mass production. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Our visit began and ended in the new visitor center with a gift shop and tasting room. Inspired by the silhouette of Kentucky tobacco barns , the two-year-old visitor center has an unbeatable view of the Kentucky River and its bridge and unique railroad trestle (the turnaround point for the Bluegrass Scenic Railroad).

Worth Pondering…

Let dreamers whine of the pleasures of wine for lovers of soft delight

But this is the song of a tipple that’s strong for men who must toil and fight.

Now the drink of luck for the man full of pluck is easy to nominate

It’s the good old whiskey of old Kentuck

And you always drink it straight…

―The Ballad of Whiskey Straight, a 19th-century Kentucky poem

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