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16 Must-visit Kentucky Distilleries

These Kentucky distilleries offer tours, tastings, and more for the ultimate trip through Bourbon Country.

Elizabeth Rhodes is a special projects editor at Travel + Leisure , covering everything from luxury hotels to theme parks to must-pack travel products. Originally from South Carolina, Elizabeth moved to New York City from London, where she started her career as a travel blogger and writer.

top bourbon distillery tours

Most of the world's bourbon comes from Kentucky. All of the big bourbon names are here: Jim Beam, Woodford Reserve, Maker's Mark, Wild Turkey. The state's natural environment and weather are perfect for growing corn, an essential ingredient in bourbon, and distilling, so when spirit-savvy European immigrants settled in Kentucky in the 1700s, it was a match made in whiskey heaven.

Now, hundreds of years later, people can visit the state to experience the top Kentucky distilleries — some which have been crafting spirits for generations — including those along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail , a route with 42 distilleries offering tastings and tours.

Kentucky distillery tours, tastings, and experiences show visitors how spirits are made. Tour-goers walk away with a better grasp on the process, a more refined palate, and probably a few bottles to take home. Those looking for a well-rounded whiskey experience should start their journey at the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center in Louisville. Here, visitors can learn more about bourbon history and plot their distillery stops.

Make Louisville your home base for a multiday trip along the trail — the city is home to its own Urban Bourbon Trail . The bars on it serve at least 60 kinds of bourbon and have trained staff who can answer questions, so you're sure to leave Kentucky with a new appreciation for the brown spirit.

Here are 16 Kentucky distilleries all bourbon fans should visit — and don't worry, some even offer gin or vodka for those hoping for variety.

Wild Turkey, Lawrenceburg

With an award-winning visitor center designed with the traditional silhouette of a Kentucky tobacco barn, a tasting room that looks out over the Kentucky River, and a gift shop selling souvenirs and Wild Turkey bourbon (of course), this is the perfect place to learn how the famous brand's spirits are made. You might even spot Hall of Fame distillers Jimmy and Eddie Russell hard at work.

Bulleit Distilling Co., Shelbyville

Bulleit Distilling Co. opened its distillery to visitors in 2017, making it a relatively new addition to the Kentucky distillery scene, but the bourbon made here is based on family tradition dating back to the 1800s. A "high-rye recipe" sets the spirit apart from others in Kentucky Bourbon Country. Stop at the Shelbyville distillery to give it a taste and learn about the brand's history through an interactive, multisensory experience.

James B. Beam Distilling Co., Clermont

Jim Beam is one of the most recognizable names in Kentucky bourbon, which makes the James B. Beam Distilling Co. a must-experience for many. The distillery is located in Clermont, where the first Jim Beam was distilled in the late 18th century. Guests can take a tour, dine on Kentucky burgoo and hot honey fried chicken in The Kitchen Table Restaurant, and sample its signature cocktails at the bar.

Maker's Mark Distillery, Loretto

An iconic brand known for its red wax-dipped bottles, the Maker's Mark Distillery in Loretto is a National Historic Landmark. It also claims to be the largest distillery in the world and the first in Kentucky's Bourbon Country. On tours, guests can learn about the history of the brand, dating back to the 1950s, its makers, and its centuries-old recipe. You can even Make Your Mark by hand-dipping a bottle to take home in the classic red wax at the DIY dipping station.

Woodford Reserve Distillery, Versailles

Visit Woodford Reserve's historic distillery in Versailles for tours and tastings in a beautiful pastoral environment speckled with pre-Prohibition warehouses and made serene by trickling Glenn’s Creek. Another National Historic Landmark, the distillery is where Woodford Reserve says the "art of making fine bourbon first took place" in 1812.

Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort

This family-owned distillery has traditions dating back to the late 1700s. Now a National Historic Landmark, Buffalo Trace Distillery welcomes whiskey drinkers to sip and learn about the history of bourbon production on a tour. It's not all about the brown beverage here, either: Buffalo Trace also makes some tasty vodkas and refreshing sodas.

Four Roses Distillery, Lawrenceburg

Take a tour or enjoy a guided tasting at this Lawrenceburg distillery . Built in 1910, the unique Spanish mission-style facility is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, so you can enjoy a history lesson while learning about Four Roses' unique recipes. After your tour, you can sit down with a seasonal cocktail at Bar 1888 (fun fact: 1888 was the year "Four Roses" became trademarked).

Angel's Envy Distillery, Louisville

Located on Louisville's Whiskey Row, this distillery offers unique tours and tasting experiences. The Bottle Your Own Single Barrel option, for example, gives visitors the chance to bring home a bottle they filled themselves. Besides tours, you can also take courses here, including a fun Manhattan or rye cocktail-making class that puts you behind the bar.

Castle & Key Distillery, Frankfort

Often regarded as one of the best distilleries in the country, Castle & Key offers tours and tastings in the Old Taylor Distillery in Frankfort. The Castle itself stands as the main attraction, but the grounds also include a sunken garden and beautiful springhouse. Exploring the property is as fun as tasting the bourbon in a cocktail from Counter 17. And if you tire of bourbon (hey, it happens), then try a Castle & Key-distilled gin or vodka instead.

Bardstown Bourbon Company, Bardstown

This innovative distillery , located on 100 acres in a small town south of Louisville, offers experiences ranging from blind tastings and blending demonstrations to food pairings and mixology classes. There's also an on-site restaurant with boozy milkshakes, poutine, chicharrónes, and bourbon-spiked bread pudding.

Green River Distilling Co., Owensboro

Learn how whiskey goes from grain to barrel, partake in a custom called barrel "thieving" (tasting bourbon straight from the barrel), or sit with the experts at Green River Distilling Co. while you sip. The distillery is in Owensboro, just across the Ohio River from Indiana. Without a tour, you'll still have a great experience sampling a flight at the cocktail lounge.

Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience, Bardstown

Founded in 1935, Heaven Hill Distillery maintains more than a million barrels aging in 60 warehouses across Kentucky for a portfolio of brands. Go for a tour at Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience, in the maker's birthplace of Bardstown, for a behind-the-scenes look at its production process, stroll through the on-site museum, and enjoy a tasting at the Five Brothers Bar.

James E. Pepper Distillery, Lexington

Named for the Kentucky colonel and third-generation distiller who advocated for his family's whiskey recipe in the 1800s, the James E. Pepper Distillery reopened in 2018 after being dormant for half a century. Now at the heart of the Lexington Distillery District, it welcomes bourbon lovers in for tastings and a casual history lesson on the distillery, the family, its ties to horse racing, and how the American Revolution played a role in Pepper-made bourbon.

Limestone Branch Distillery, Lebanon

Keeping family bourbon and moonshine recipes alive for more than 200 years, Limestone Branch is run by a couple of seventh-generation distillers. The Lebanon location is a tranquil place to visit for an old-fashioned tour and a cocktail of the highest quality from the Minor's Lounge on site. It's particularly worthwhile if you also have an interest in gin, as the clear spirit is produced here, too.

Old Forester Distilling Co., Louisville

Take a tour of Old Forester 's Whiskey Row facility to learn how the 1870-founded brand ferments, distills, matures, and bottles its bourbon. Per usual, each tour ends with a tasting. However, if you miss out — this place gets busy and books tours months in advance — you'll still walk away with a higher whiskey IQ after trying the bourbon varieties at George's Bar.

Kentucky Peerless Distilling Company, Louisville

Housed in a former tobacco warehouse at the end of Whiskey Row in downtown Louisville, Kentucky Peerless is really into making rye whiskey, but it also does bourbon. A visit to the distillery can be enhanced by a guided tasting, distillery tour, or private VIP Heritage Experience. A bonus to your visit: meeting the distillery cat, aptly named Rye.

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Best Distilleries to Visit on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Julie Last updated: January 15, 2024 United States 30 Comments

Best Distilleries to Visit Kentucky Bourbon Trail

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is hot right now! With the increasing popularity of bourbon, tourism is up in Kentucky. What better way to learn about and sample bourbon than on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail?

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is a collection of eighteen whiskey distilleries. All of these distilleries offer tours and tastings. On the tours, learn how bourbon is produced, hear about the history of the distillery, and end with a bourbon tasting. It’s a fun, interactive glimpse into this important piece of Kentucky history and it is a great way to spend a weekend.

See them all or pick your favorites. Take the tour or just do a tasting. There is no right way to see the Kentucky Bourbon Trail as long as you have a good time.

Here is what you can expect at the distilleries.

Table of Contents

Distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Evan williams bourbon experience.

The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience is located in Louisville, right on historic “Whiskey Row.” Its location makes it the perfect place to start your tour if you are staying in Louisville.

Evan Williams Bourbon Experience

Evan Williams offers the most technically advanced tour, complete with videos, immersive exhibits, and a walk through “old Louisville.” Travel back in time to 1783, to the very early days of Louisville, where you will learn about the early history of bourbon and this area of Kentucky. A visit to Evan Williams is educational and entertaining. At the end, sample three different bourbon whiskeys in one of their cozy tasting rooms.

  • Where: Whiskey Row, Louisville
  • Website: evanwilliamsbourbonexperience.com

Angel’s Envy

This distillery features bourbon finished in port wine barrels and rye whiskey finished in rum barrels.

Angel’s Envy offers two tours. Their signature tour is a one-hour tour of the distillery. The Inside the Barrel Tour focuses on the finishes of their bourbon and whiskey. This tour not only includes an in-depth tasting of their products but you also get to taste unfinished Rye whiskey directly out of the barrel.

Angels Envy Tour

Tours are by reservation only.

  • Where: 500 E Main Street, Louisville
  • Website: angelsenvy.com

For suggestions on how to plan your time, don’t miss our Kentucky Bourbon Trail itinerary planner . Get suggestions on how to plan your trip, whether you just have a few days, a long weekend, or an entire week.

Rabbit Hole

Rabbit Hole is one of the newest members on the block. This ultra-modern facility is located in Nulu (New Louisville) and opened in August 2018.

Rabbit Hole Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Tasting the sour mash while on a tour of Rabbit Hole.

We love the story of how this distillery got started. Two clinical psychologists, a husband and wife team, developed a love for bourbon. They quit their jobs, mortgaged their house, and “went down the Rabbit Hole,” opening this distillery.

Tours are one hour long and end with a tasting. 

  • Where:   711 E. Jefferson Street, Louisville
  • Website:   rabbitholedistillery.com

Michter’s Fort Nelson Distillery

As you tour each distillery, it is the small differences that set each one apart. Michter’s emphasizes their use of high-quality ingredients, low entry proof (they are one of the lowest, at 103 proof going into the barrel), and chill filtering their whiskeys.

Michters Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Michter’s offers several different tours. We took the Discovery Tour, which is the basic, 1 hour tour of the facility. The tour ends with a tasting in the tasting room and the chance to mix a cocktail at the bar (really, you just mix bourbon, pre-poured fruit juice, and tonic water).

The Founders Tour and Legacy Tour takes the experience one step farther with more information on the distilling process and tastings of special selections of whiskeys.

The tours end at the bar on the second floor, a great place to get a drink and enjoy the view down Main Street in Louisville.

  • Where:   801 West Main Street, Louisville
  • Website:  michters.com

Old Forester

Old Forester is the only bourbon to be continually sold by the same company before, during, and after prohibition. Their first bottled bourbon dates back to 1870. 

This is a must-see tour. The tour is very well done and you get to see a few things that many tours do not include. The tour includes a walk through their cooperage, where you get to see how the barrels are made (this is the only tour on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail where we saw this). You also get to see the plates that go into the still and you get to see the bottling line in action.

Old Forester Distillery

Old Forester offers several different tours. Their basic tour is the Old Forester Tour, a one-hour tour that ends with a tasting. They also have specialty tours that are not offered on a regular basis, but if you want a more in-depth tour of Old Forester, or if you like the idea of taking a VIP tour, visit their website to see all of your options.

  • Where:  Louisville, Kentucky
  • Website:  oldforester.com

Stitzel-Weller Distillery

Also known as Bulleit Bourbon, this distillery is located in Louisville. Bulleit has been in operation since 1935 but opened to the public in 2014. They specialize in high-rye bourbon whiskey. The facility has a historic look and feel to it. 

This distillery offers tours and tastings. Tastings last 30 minutes and it’s a great way to sample Bulleit bourbon if you don’t feel like taking a tour. They also offer mixology classes (currently once a month), a one-hour standard tour, as well as a 1.5 hour behind-the-scenes tour of the distillery.

  • Where: 3860 Fitzgerald Road, 5 miles from downtown Louisville
  • Website: bulleitexperience.com

Bulleit Frontier Whiskey

Bulleit Distilling Company

Built in 2017 and open to visitors in 2019, this brand new distillery features modern, state-of-the-art technology. Like Stitzel Weller, this Bulleit facility offers a handful of different tours and tastings.

Bulleit Kentucky Bourbon Trail

We took the 30 minute Unlocking the Senses tasting, where we sampled four Bulleit whiskeys. You can also take a tour of the facility or a cocktail class.

  • Where:   Shelbyville, KY
  • Website:  bulleit.com

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey produces one of the most popular bourbons in the US and one of the best selling bourbons in the world. Tour the distillery, see the hundreds of barrels inside of the rickhouses, and maybe meet legendary Jimmy Russell while you are here. Jimmy, the master distiller at Wild Turkey, is the world’s longest tenured active master distiller. We met him while on tour, a friendly, down-to-earth man enthusiastic about producing great bourbon whiskey.

Wild Turkey Distillery Tour

Wild Turkey got its name during a hunting trip in 1940. The executive of Wild Turkey shared his bourbon with his friends…while hunting wild turkey.

Definitely do this tasting! For those who are not bourbon drinkers, a sample of American Honey may be something to tickle your tastebuds. We hear it’s great on pancakes so we brought some home to test out that theory!

  • Where: Lawrenceburg
  • Website: wildturkeybourbon.com

Wild Turkey Bourbon

Four Roses distillery was built in 1910 and features Spanish Mission-Style architecture, a rarity in Kentucky. Take a tour here to learn the very interesting history of Four Roses. During the mid-20th century, Four Roses was the top selling bourbon in Japan but it could not be purchased in the US, even though it was being produced in Kentucky.

While we were here, there was a lot of onsite construction so Four Roses offered shortened tours. We opted to pay for a tasting rather than take the tour. While you are doing your tasting, ask to see the poster of Four Roses in Times Square. You probably never noticed that Four Roses was captured in this very historic photo.

Four Roses offers tastings and a one-hour of their facility.

  • Website: fourrosesbourbon.com

Four Roses

Town Branch

This bourbon distillery also produces beer. They offer one hour and fifteen minute tours where you can learn about their bourbon and beer production, ending with a tasting. The only way to do a tasting is to take a tour. 

Town Branch offers a wide range of tours as well as a mixology class. Visit their website for full details.

  • Where: Lexington
  • Website: lexingtonbrewingco.com

Town Branch

Woodford Reserve

Woodford is the oldest and smallest distillery on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. To get here, it is a gorgeous drive through horse farms and rolling, bluegrass Kentucky hills. This is a distillery to put high on your list.

Woodford Reserve has a historic, upscale feel to it. It is a National Historic Landmark property and they offer several different tours depending on your level of interest. You can elect to skip the tour and just do a tasting instead. We passed on the tour at Woodford and I regret it. However, the tasting was awesome.

Tim and I had a private tasting out on the deck overlooking the historic buildings of Woodford Reserve. We sampled two of Woodford’s bourbons and both were excellent, some of our favorites on the whole Bourbon Trail. The setting and the delicious bourbon made this one of our favorite tasting experiences.

Woodford Reserve Bourbon Tasting

Tours at Woodford are one of the most expensive on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, starting at $16. In fact, we spent $8 just to do a tasting, and that included only two bourbons. But it was worth it…you have to try the Woodford Reserve Double Oaked bourbon. Yum!

  • Where: Versailles
  • Website: woodfordreserve.com

Woodford Reserve Tour

Jim Beam American Stillhouse

Come as a friend, leave as family…this is the motto behind Kentucky’s largest bourbon producer. The Beam family is the most influential family in the history of bourbon making. They have been in the business for over 200 years and helped establish several other bourbon distilleries.

Jim Beam Stillhouse

The Jim Beam American Stillhouse is the location of the Jim Beam Distillery. On their 90 minute tour, one of the longest tour on the Bourbon Trail, learn the entire process of the production of bourbon, ending with a tasting. This is a very popular tour so their website states that a reservation is required at least two days before your visit.

You can also purchase a drink at the Bourbon Bar and skip the tour. This is exactly what we did.

Many people rave about the Jim Beam tour and tasting. During the tasting, you get to choose from a variety of whiskeys from self-dispensing machines. Like Wild Turkey, Jim Beam offers flavored whiskey  which may appeal to some visitors.

Jim Beam tasting

Jim Beam also has an Urban Stillhouse located in downtown Louisville, located on 4th Street Live. A bourbon educational experience and tasting is offered here. You can get your Jim Beam stamp in your Kentucky Bourbon Passport at either location.

  • Where: Clermont
  • Website: jimbeam.com

Maker’s Mark

For an amazing experience, make sure you visit Maker’s Mark. This was our favorite tour on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail for several reasons. The tour gives a fabulous insight to the making of bourbon, the property is gorgeous, the history behind Maker’s Mark is intriguing, and the bourbon is delicious.

If you visit one distillery on the Bourbon Trail, make sure it is Maker’s Mark.

Makers Mark Bourbon Trail

To get to Maker’s Mark you will drive through rural Kentucky. One lane roads snake through the hills and farms, and Tim and I were wondering if we were going to the right place! Seemingly in the middle of nowhere is the beautiful property of Maker’s Mark.

We took the first tour at 9 am on a chilly Saturday morning. For one hour we walked through the property, learned the history behind the making of Maker’s Mark, tasted the sour mash right out of the distilling vats, and ended with a tasting. The entire tour was fascinating, entertaining, and dare I say inspiring?

In the gift shop, you can personally hand-dip a Maker’s Mark bottle of bourbon in red wax. This makes the perfect souvenir to bring home.

Makers Mark wax dipping

Maker’s Mark offers a Distillery tour (which we took) and several specialty tours tours, such as a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on at the distillery and one that offers a class on mixing drinks with bourbon.

  • Where: Loretto
  • Website: makersmark.com

Makers Mark copper barrels

Lux Row Distillers

This is one of the newest distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Lux Row produces Rebel Yell, Ezra Brooks, Blood Oath, and David Nicholson whiskeys. 

This was another one of our top experiences on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

We took the one-hour tour and the visit to the rickhouse was one of the highlights. The smell inside of a rickhouse is amazing…bourbon, vanilla, with hints of spice…it’s delicious. At Lux Row, the first few rows of the rickhouse are removed, forming a small “lobby.” Standing here, you get to appreciate just how many barrels sit on the shelves of a rickhouse.

Lux Row Rickhouse

The highlight of any tour is the tasting. That’s the whole reason you are here, right? Rarely did we taste three or four whiskeys at one distillery and like all of them. Lux Row was different. We loved everything we tasted, and we are not the only ones with this opinion. Not only did other visitors to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail rave about the whiskeys at Lux Row, but also the guides that we spoke to at other distilleries.

Lux Row Bourbon Tasting

In the lobby of Lux Row, there is a small bar where you can sample the higher end whiskeys or have a cocktail. I recommend tasting the Blood Oath and the Ezra Brooks. Yum!

  • Where:   Bardstown, KY
  • Website:   luxrowdistillers.com

Heaven Hill

The Old Heaven Hill Springs Distillery opened in 1934, just after the end of Prohibition. Since that time, the company has expanded to overseeing a range of bourbon labels, such as Elijah Craig and Evan Williams. In 1996, the distillery in Bardstown burned to the ground and has not been rebuilt. The rick houses at the Bardstown location are used to store the Evan Williams bourbon that is distilled in Louisville.

There are two tours that include tastings, the Mashbill Tour and the Connoisseur Experience. Since there is no longer an active distillery, we opted not to take the tour. Instead, we explored the onsite Heritage Center, which is a great place to get an overview on the history of bourbon in Kentucky.

  • Where: Bardstown
  • Website: heavenhilldistillery.com

Heaven Hill

Bardstown Bourbon

This distillery is the first “Napa Valley style destination” that combines bourbon tasting with culinary expertise. You can take a tour or participate in their cocktail class at this very modern distillery.

We took the Shaken & Stirred cocktail class and this was our favorite experience on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. For one hour, at the tasting bar located inside of the rickhouse, we learned how to mix two cocktails, the Kentucky Mule and the Sazerac. While we got a hands-on lesson on how to mix our drinks, we learned interesting facts about bourbon and other spirits. If you are looking for a different way to experience the Kentucky Bourbon Trail without taking tour after tour after tour, this cocktail class is a nice thing to throw into the mix.

Kentucky Bourbon Trail Cocktail Class

Bardstown Bourbon also offers a great one hour tour of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. This tour starts with a whiskey tasting (most tours end with the tasting) and ends in the rickhouse with tasting of bourbon pulled right out of the barrel. That’s a fun, unique way to end a tour!

Bardstown Bourbon is very innovative and creative with their tours and events. Make sure you check their website for seasonal events and unique tours that you might not find at other distilleries.

Bardstown Bourbon

Finally, Bardstown Bourbon also has a full restaurant. This is a great place to go for lunch before or after your tour or cocktail class.

  • Website:   bardstownbourbon.com

Green River

Formerly known as O. Z. Tyler, this distillery is located in Owensboro, Kentucky, almost two hours from Louisville. They aren’t even in the same time zone as the other distilleries (Green River is in the Central Time Zone). However, their distilling process is very innovative and a visit here is worthwhile if you want to learn about a unique way to distill bourbon.

The bourbon and whiskey at Green River spend less time in the barrel than at most distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. However, the spirits are further refined with their patented TerrePURE process. This is an ultrasonic process that removes impurities and improves the quality and taste, speeding up the refining process without spending years in the barrel. 

OZ Tyler Barrels

  • Where:   Owensboro, KY
  • Website:   greenriverwhiskey.com

Wilderness Trail Distillery

Wilderness Trail Distillery is the newest addition to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and it has been added since our visit in November 2019. We have not been to this distillery yet, but we already happen to be big fans of their bourbon. 

  • Where: Danville, Kentucky
  • Website: wildernesstraildistillery.com

Best Kentucky Bourbon Trail Distilleries: On a Map

Kentucky Bourbon Trail Passport

At your first distillery, pick up a Kentucky Bourbon Trail Passport. The distilleries are listed inside, with space for your own notes and a stamp from each distillery. If you collect stamps from each distillery you can redeem your passport for a Kentucky Bourbon Trail tasting glass. 

Kentucky Bourbon Trail passport

About Our Experience

We have toured the Kentucky Bourbon Trail twice.

In November 2016, Tim and I toured the Kentucky Bourbon Trail when there were only nine distilleries on the trail. Over the following three years, eight more distilleries were added to the trail.

In late November 2019, Tim and I spent a long weekend in Kentucky, touring the new additions to the trail.

As of December 2022, we have visited all of the distilleries with the exception of Wilderness Trail. With the way things are going, there’s a good chance that more distilleries will be added in the future, so I’m sure you’ll see us back here again.

It’s a lot of fun keeping this article updated! 🙂

Our Recommendations

It’s impossible to fit eighteen tours into one weekend, and honestly, they do get repetitive, as most tours teach you how bourbon is produced. By the time you get to the 9th distillery, you may begin to think you could be a master distiller!

In order to take a tour at all eighteen distilleries, you will need at least six days. For most people, a mix of tours and tastings is the ideal visit, which can be done in five very busy days if planned appropriately.

With limited time, especially if you have no desire to take a tour at all seventeen distilleries, here are our must-see distilleries. 

  • Best All Around Experience: Maker’s Mark
  • Best Tasting Experience: Tie between Woodford Reserve and Lux Row
  • Best Experience (That’s Not a Tour): Bardstown Bourbon Shaken & Stirred Class
  • Best Chance to meet the Master Distiller: Wild Turkey
  • Best Tour for Families: Evan Williams Bourbon Experience
  • Best Tour about the Distilling Process from Start to Finish:   Old Forester
  • Best Bourbon Whiskey: Come tour the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and find out for yourself!

We also loved Rabbit Hole for their story and ultra-modern facility, and Angels Envy, with their bourbon and rye whiskeys finished in port wine and rum barrels.

For even more information,  read our guide about the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, filled with information about how to have the best experience, and ideas for more activities in the local area. Don’t miss our Kentucky Bourbon Trail itinerary, with recommendations on how to plan your time, whether you have just a day or two, or a full week.

If you have any questions about the best distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, or if you want to share your favorites, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information for Your Trip to Kentucky

LOUISVILLE: Plan your visit to Louisville with our articles about the Best Things to Do in Louisville and Best Places to Eat in Louisville.

MAMMOTH CAVE: Mammoth Cave is a national park in Kentucky and it makes a great day trip from Louisville and Nashville.

NASHVILLE: For recommendations on what to do in Nashville, check out our articles Best Things to Do in Nashville and Best Eats in Nashville. And for full details on Bluebird Cafe, read our article How to Visit Bluebird Cafe.

NEARBY DESTINATIONS: Asheville, North Carolina makes a great weekend destination. You can also spend a few days in Nashville or visit nearby New River Gorge National Park. 

Read all of our articles about the USA in our United States Travel Guide.

Kentucky Bourbon Trail best distilleries

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Kentucky Bourbon Trail Guide

Comments 30

Avatar for Gina

You article was extremely helpful! We are planning our second trip to Kentucky and due to logistics and timing we are having to narrow down our top choices (many taken from your article) and want to get further advice on a couple of points. On our first trip we toured Angel’s Envy, Copper & King and Rabbit Hole. We are looking for some different experiences but we don’t want to skip over any noteworthy tours either. Is the Shaken and Stirred tour at Bardstown worth moving some other options in order to make that one or would the Rickhouse tour be just as memorable? Also, would the Chocolate Pairing tour at Luxe Row be a suitable alternative to the tour you took or are they comparable?

Avatar for Julie

Hello Gina. It’s worth taking a rickhouse tour at a distillery, since it’s so neat to see the barrels and smell the bourbon. Tim and I really liked the Shaken and Stirred tour, particularly because it taught us some great techniques about how to properly make a cocktail, and we went home with several bourbon cocktail recipes. If you can fit it into your schedule, it’s worth it if you want to mix some drinks in a small group setting, plus the setting in the rickhouse is something special. But if mixing cocktails isn’t a must for you, then the rickhouse tour is the next best option. At Luxe Row, I believe we took the Distillers Production tour, but the chocolate pairing tour sounds like a lot of fun too and a good substitute. Tasting the bourbon at Luxe Row is a must because everything they produce is amazing. But with Bardstown and Luxe Row, you picked out two of our top experiences on the Bourbon Trail. I hope you have a great visit! Cheers, Julie

Avatar for Mark

Thank you. I’ve been to about half of these with my son and I can’t fault any of your recommendations. There are some you should add, Castle and Key (great architecture), Buffalo Trace (great tour), and Jeptha Creed (small scale, unique products) are all worth a visit. Woodford Reserve is my favorite because of the historical buildings (full disclosure, I live in Versailles but have no connection with the industry), and as you note, Maker’s Mark is also great tour. The scale of some of the bigger places is simply amazing, Jim Beam and Wild Turkey come to mind for me.

Thanks for the recommendations! Several of the ones that you list are not on the “official” Kentucky Bourbon Trail, so I can’t include them in this post. However, we will keep them in mind for a future visit and I am sure our readers appreciate the recommendations. Cheers, Julie

Avatar for Deb Kennedy

Thanks–This is an excellent review for newbies. Are the distillerIes still doing tours and tastings with COVID? Do you have any lodging or vrbo recommendations to reduce driving?

Hello Deb. You would have to check with each individual distillery to see what their policy is. At the end of our Bourbon Trail Itinerary I list recommended hotels for each town. This will also help you put together a multi-day itinerary. Have fun!! Cheers, Julie

Avatar for Collin Turner

Great guide, thank you for putting together! Very helpful.

You’re welcome!

Avatar for Stephen

I see it was holiday season based on the photos, but what dates were you guys there? Were the distilleries operating at that time?

We were there the weekend before Thanksgiving. And yes, everything was open and it was a great time to go. In fact, we are planning a return visit the same weekend this year. Cheers, Julie

Avatar for Bill Leuenberger

My wife and I are going that same weekend (before Thanksgiving) and we are starting with Old Pogue and coming right back to Louisville. My wife has planned it out from there.

Nice! Maybe we will cross paths somewhere. Cheers, Julie

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13 Best Bourbon Trail Tours: A Regional Travel Guide to Kentucky’s Distilleries

13 Best Bourbon Trail Tours Woodford Reserve Distillery Pot Stills

Table of Contents

“whiskey row”, stitzel-weller distillery tour, maker’s mark distillery, james b. beam distilling co. (jim beam), willett distillery, heaven hill distillery, woodford reserve distillery, four roses distillery, buffalo trace distillery, wild turkey distillery, final thoughts.

Ready to sip your way through the best bourbon trail tours in Kentucky?

This in-depth bourbon distillery tour guide will take you through the best Kentucky distillery tours like Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, Old Forester, Evan Williams, Buffalo Trace, Jim Beam, and more.

The Kentucky Bourbon distilleries listed below are grouped within each region and then ranked for their tour and bourbon quality.   The majority of the bourbon distilleries are spread throughout the regions of:

  • Loretto, Clermont, & Bardstown
  • Versailles, Lawrenceburg, & Franklin

Due to the distance between these regions and potentially conflicting tour times, it might be difficult to tour 2 to 3 of your favorite bourbon distilleries in one day. So here are my top three tips for planning your bourbon trail trip.

1. When you are planning, ask yourself: What is my favorite bourbon brand (or the one I’d like to know more about)?

Once you settle on those favorites, see what other distilleries are located nearby that you might enjoy touring and tasting then reserve those to fill in the rest of the day.

2. RESERVE IN ADVANCE.

As soon as you know that you’re taking this trip, start reserving bourbon distillery tours immediately . The best tours book up fast, particularly on the weekends. On my most recent trip in July of 2023, I had to adjust my trip to a day earlier because so many of the tours I wanted to take were already booked.

That being said, if there’s a distillery tour you would like to take that’s located on “Whiskey Row” in downtown Louisville but you can’t book it online, my advice is to go in person and talk to one of the guides at the reservation desk. They might not be able to get you in on a specialty tour, but they can typically get you a space on the regular tour.

*Also note that most distilleries in July (and for some in December as well) close their fermentation facilities for maintenance, meaning you won’t be able to tour those areas.

3. Base yourself in Louisville in a hotel on or near Whiskey Row.

From here, you can easily walk or Uber / Lyft to 4+ amazing distilleries, which is a great option if the time on your trip is limited. I most recently stayed at Hotel Distil on Whiskey Row, and I would gladly stay there again. It’s an ideal location for walking to all major downtown attractions and distilleries. Plus the Hotel Distil also houses one of Louisville’s best restaurants, Repeal .

Now, time to talk about the distilleries…

Region: Louisville Bourbon Distilleries

Evan williams experience.

Evan Williams Distillery Showroom Featuring a Large Whiskey Glass Bourbon Fountain

The  Evan Williams Experience  is located in downtown Louisville on historic “Whiskey Row.”

The seamless tour features state-of-the-art films and interactive elements to relay the history of Evan Williams and the art of distilling bourbon. All tours conclude with a bourbon tasting in one of the upstairs rooms on the recreated street of “Whiskey Row.”

One tasting room is a “speakeasy” that once stood on that site with Prohibition-era replica tables where the bourbon could be hidden inside. An easy lift on the tabletop in front of you reveals the inner compartment that contains pre-filled bourbon glasses.

Although it’s one of the lower-priced bourbons, Evan Williams  is remarkably good in its flavor profile, smoothness, and complexity, and Evan Williams Single Barrel is excellent. Whenever I’ve done a blind bourbon-tasting flight, their Single Barrel always ranks in my top 3.

GENERAL TOUR INFORMATION

  •  Traditional Tour & Tasting: $18

Evan Williams offers several more extensive tours as well as seasonal tasting experiences, so check their website for the most recent offerings.

Old Forester Distillery

The Old Forester Distillery Visitor Center with Big Red Column Still on Whiskey Row in Louisville, KY

The Old Forester Distillery Tour & Visitor Center opened on “Whiskey Row” in the summer of 2018. Although it’s a relative newcomer to Louisville’s historic downtown district, Old Forester is the only bourbon continuously sold by the same company before, during, and after Prohibition.

But that’s not the bourbon’s only claim to historic fame. In 1870, George Garvin Brown ensured his bourbon’s consistent quality by becoming the first distiller to sell the bourbon in a sealed glass bottle.

The general tour is a top-quality experience with one of the most memorable aspects being that you can see the meticulous barrel-making process first-hand. It’s one thing to look at a charred American white oak barrel stave, but it’s something else to see (and feel the heat) of that charring in person.

A worker at Old Forester hand making a Bourbon Barrel

The Old Forester Distillery tour ends as most tours do in a private room with four bourbons to taste.

Paired with the tasting is Old Forester’s chocolate-dipped bourbon modjeskas, which are marshmallows wrapped in caramel and then dipped in bourbon dark chocolate, topped off with smoked sea salt. If you love them, you can buy a bag in the gift shop which is filled with loads of other great gifts.

If you’re in a hurry and can’t find the time to tour Old Forester, you can pay a visit to George’s Bar which is a cozy cocktail lounge offering cocktails and flights in the visitor center.

General Tour Information

  • Old Forester Tour: $32
  • Nothing Better In The Market Tour: $70

Angel’s Envy Distillery Tour

The Angel's Envy sign outside the Bourbon distillery in Louisville, Kentucky

While I prefer both the Evan Williams Experience and Old Forester Distillery tours over this one, Angel’s Envy is still well worth the visit. The gift shop is large and well-stocked, and the facility is interesting to tour.

The standard tour is exactly that, “standard,” with not a lot of extras to experience, but you will learn the intricate process of making bourbon and why all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon.

Bourbon flight tasting with chocolate pairing at Angel's Envy Distillery

What makes Angel’s Envy a standout from other bourbons and ryes is their emphasis on “finishing” the bourbon.

In addition to meeting the bourbon standard aging process (a minimum of two years in a new charred American oak barrel), Angel’s Envy then places its bourbon in port barrels and its rye in rum barrels to finish, lending each one a more distinctive flavor profile which you’ll explore during the tasting at the end of the tour.

500 E Main St, Louisville, KY 40202

STANDARD TOUR INFORMATION

  • The Signature Tour: $25
  • Private Select Tour: $45

Angel’s Envy offers several experiences and classes, so check their website for the most up-to-date offerings.

Michter’s Distillery

The pot stills at Michter's Bourbon Distillery in Louisville, Kentucky

Also located on Louisville’s historic “Whiskey Row,” Michter’s Distillery is a great option for those who prefer a tour that doesn’t involve a lot of walking, given that the entire tour takes place in one large room.

Situated across the street from the iconic Louisville Slugger Museum , Michter’s is a smaller facility with limited space, but the tasting is where the tour shines. The guide places an emphasis on tasting notes and the role that smell plays in how we perceive flavors.

801 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202

Tour Information

  • The Discovery Tour: $25
  • The Founder’s Tour: $50
  • The Legacy Tour: $100

The 2nd floor features The Bar at Fort Nelson which is a relaxed space filled with leather club chairs where you can enjoy classic and creative cocktails. Click here for more information on the Bar at Fort Nelson.

The Stitzel-Weller Distillery Visitor's Center Building

The Stitzel-Weller Distillery is only a 20-minute drive from downtown Louisville, making it one of the most convenient and historic outlying distillery stops along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Originally opened on Derby Day in 1935 and reopened to the public in 2014, the Stitzel-Weller Distillery is one of the true cathedrals of the American whiskey industry. 

Bulleit Bourbon (and their Rye) has long been one of my favorite Kentucky bourbons. It’s hard to miss that orange label, tilted just slightly as it curves around the lower half of the bottle. 

In the past few years, I’ve enjoyed the Stitzel-Weller standard tour which guides you around the historic property and buildings, ending with a tasting of these four bourbons in a private tasting room:

  • Bulleit Bourbon
  • Bulleit 10 Year
  • I.W. Harper
  • Blade and Bow

Most recently, I booked their new progressive walking tour which combines the tasting with the tour. I really enjoyed this different take on the standard tour where periodically you pause, pull out the provided glass cairn (which is yours to keep as part of the tour), and sip the various bourbons and whiskeys offered along the way. The setting is also picturesque as you stroll from building to building.

3860 Fitzgerald Road, Louisville, KY 40216

  • The Stitzel-Weller Experience: $25
  • Progressive Walking Tour & Taste: $65

Stitzel-Weller offers a variety of additional classes and experiences, so check their website for the most up-to-date offerings.

Stitzel-Weller is also home to the Garden & Gun Club, located on the 2nd floor of their visitor’s center. Here you can rest your feet while enjoying a light bite and one of their curated cocktails. Click here for the Garden & Gun Club.

Region: Loretto, Clermont, & Bardstown

The Maker's Mark Bourbon Distillery Visitor's Center

The road to  Maker’s Mark bourbon distillery in Loretto, KY, can be a little confusing. On my first visit here, the route guidance told me that I had arrived, and there was nothing but fields, barns, and a small house or two scattered about. 

To avoid potential confusion and arrive in time for your tour, Maker’s Mark provides these instructions for getting to their distillery from Louisville:

Star Hill Farm is located at 3350 Burks Spring Rd., Loretto, KY, 40037. From Louisville: Driving time: Approximately 1 hour, 30 minutes. 

• Take I-65 South from Louisville to exit #112, Clermont/Bernheim Forest exit. At ramp turn left onto Hwy. 245 South to Bardstown. 

• Take Hwy. 245 to intersection of Hwy. 62, turning right, and continue on Hwy. 62 east for approx. 2 miles. Hwy. 62 runs into Hwy. 150 where you will turn left and continue approx. 2 miles and drive past My Old Kentucky Home State Park. 

• At intersection of Hwy. 150 and 49, turn right onto Hwy. 49 South and follow the brown historical landmark signs to Holy Cross, which will direct you to go left onto Hwy. 49. 

• Follow Hwy. 49 where you will turn left onto Hwy. 52 East into Loretto. Continue on through Loretto. 

• Turn left onto Bill Samuels Jr. Rd. and historic Maker’s Mark® Distillery is straight ahead. 

Regardless of which tour you reserve (they offer a wide variety and actively update them), you’re in for a great experience. Plus, Maker’s Mark is just a beautiful place. The grounds, house, and distillery buildings are picture-perfect. 

Paved Path at Maker's Mark Bourbon Distillery

At the end of each tour, you’ll have an opportunity to taste a selection of their bourbon.  

I’ve had the opportunity to experience 2 of Maker’s Mark Distillery Tours, and if you only have time to tour 1 Kentucky bourbon distillery, make it this one. It was the hands-down favorite (on currently my 3rd trip) along Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail. 

Glasses of bourbon at the Maker's Mark Tasting Room

General Distillery Tour Bourbon Tasting

  • Maker’s White (which is basically moonshine or “white dog”)
  • Regular Maker’s Mark (the kind you can buy anywhere)
  • Maker’s 46 (which is made by inserting seasoned French Oak staves into the bourbon barrels to add additional rich flavor)
  • Maker’s Cask Strength (bourbon derived from a single barrel and my favorite of the 4).

After the tasting, you’re given a decadent bourbon chocolate to savor before you walk under the Chihuly glass ceiling of the hallway to the Maker’s Mark gift shop. 

If you like, you can dip your own bottle of Maker’s Mark in their iconic red wax or buy an exclusive bottle of the Maker’s Private Select.

Maker's Mark 46 Bourbon Barrel filled with charred Oak staves

The distillery address is technically: 3350 Burks Spring Road, Loretto, KY 40037.

GPS will try to take you to the Business Office, but the Historic Distillery is more directly accessed using Bill Samuels Jr Road.    

TOUR INFORMATION

  • General Distillery Tour: $ 24
  • Behind the Bourbon: $65

Be sure to check the Maker’s Mark website for the most up-to-date tours and experiences.

White James Beam Bourbon building

It doesn’t get much more iconic than Jim Beam bourbon . With its instantly recognizable name and its best-selling brands including Booker’s, Knob Creek, Basil Hayden, Old Grandad, and, of course, Jim Beam, the distillery is an impressive one to visit.

Located 30 minutes from Louisville by car, it’s an accessible distillery to visit if you don’t want to drive too far afield. Due to the fermentation tanks, rickhouses, and bottling facility being situated fairly far apart, this tour involves riding a large comfortable bus to a couple of the locations, but it’s a quick trip each time.

Quite a lot of thought has been put into the design and aesthetics of the tour experience, with the first building of the tour featuring an indoor waterfall illustrating Kentucky’s natural limestone filtration which makes the whiskey taste better.

Waterfall feature inside the James Beam Distillery

Towards the end of the distillery tour, you’ll walk the Knob Creek bottling line where you can hand pick and purchase a Single Barrel bottle and customize the warm wax seal with your thumbprint.

Finally, you return to the Visitor’s Center where you’ll be able to taste four of their most popular bourbons before being set loose in their two-story gift shop.

I really enjoyed this tour, and I would happily do it again. Due to the popularity of this bourbon brand, I feel it’s a great place to start, but the tours fill up fast.

568 Happy Hollow Rd. Clermont, KY 40110

  • Bourbon The Beam Way – Distillery Tour & Tasting: $28

Jim Beam Distillery offers several more tasting options and experiences that you can book, so check the website for the most up-to-date listings.

Another great feature of Jim Beam Distillery is their onsite restaurant, The Kitchen Table. Here you can order appetizers, salads, burgers, pizzas, brisket, fried chicken, and even dessert. The large cocktail bar in the center shakes and stirs up some great bourbon cocktails, or just order your favorite bourbon to sip neat.

If you’d like to make a reservation for The Kitchen Table, it’s available on Resy.

Whiskey Sour at Jim Beam

Located about 30 minutes from Maker’s Mark is the  Willett Distillery , perched on top of a hill overlooking the green valleys of Bardstown, KY.

One of the most recognizable aspects of Willett bourbon is their striking pot still bottle design.

Bottle of Willett Bourbon on a barrel

This rustic family-owned distillery is beautiful and well-maintained from its photo-filled visitor waiting area to the final tasting room.

Because Willett Distillery functions on a smaller scale, only 1 tour experience is offered at this time, so if touring Willett Distillery is at the top of your wishlist, reserve early. They accept bookings 90 days in advance.

1869 Loretto Road, Bardstown, KY 40004.

  • Distillery Production Tour with Tasting: $25

Willett Distillery also features “The Bar at Willett” where you can order up-scale small plates alongside classic and inventive cocktails. Reservations are required, so click this link if you’re interested in reserving The Bar at Willett.

Wall of Bourbon barrels on shelves at Heaven Hill Distillery Visitor Center

An official member of Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail, Heaven Hill Distillery is also located in Bardstown near the Willett Distillery. 

While their gift shop and visitor center are top-notch with self-guided exhibits and an informative film in their 1935 Distillery Theatre, the actual general tour is not that exciting or enticing, especially when compared to the quality of tours offered by Maker’s Mark & Jim Beam. 

Heaven Hill might not be a familiar name to you, but most likely, you’ve heard of some of their bourbon brands:

  • Rittenhouse Rye
  • Elijah Craig
  • Evan Williams

While the website calls it a “tour,” it’s actually an informed tasting inside a room with a guide. You won’t be walking through rickhouses or seeing yellow bubbling mash unless you pay more for their “Bottled & Bond Tour & Tasting” for $35.

If you’re looking to sample more varieties of bourbon while giving your feet a rest from touring distilleries, or if you’re looking for a more “indoor” experience, Heaven Hill is a great option. 

1311 Gilkey Run, Rd, Bardstown, KY 40004

  • Magic of the Mashbill: $18
  • Whiskey Connoisseur Experience: $25
  • Bottled-in-Bond Tour and Tasting: $35

Heaven Hill also offers a bar experience on the 2nd floor of the visitor’s center called Five Brothers Bar which features bourbon flights and cocktails.

Dining Tip: Eat Lunch in Historic Bardstown

Tables inside Talbott Tavern's dining room in Bardstown, Kentucky

In between touring the many Kentucky distilleries, you’re going to want some lunch or dinner, and Bardstown has a lot to offer. 

Perfect for lunch or dinner,  Talbott Tavern , built in 1779, is a site steeped in history.

“The Talbott Tavern is a uniquely well-crafted early American stone building and as a young boy Abraham Lincoln and his family stayed here. .. There are noticeable bullet holes in the now faded paintings where legend Jesse James shot them.” | Dry Stone Masonry Institute of America

In keeping with the theme of the bourbon trail, Talbott Tavern offers a customized flight where you choose your tasting made up of the wide variety of bourbon and rye they serve sourced from the surrounding distilleries. 

Another great option is the Scout & Scholar Brewing Company offering classic pub food and plenty of beer on tap if you’re looking for a break from all that bourbon. But if you’re not, they also offer Private Select Bourbon flights to expand your tasting profile.

Region: Versailles, Lawrenceburg, Franklin

Three Woodford Reserve Pot Stills inside the Distillery

The Woodford Reserve tour is charming in every aspect—from the old barrel railway used to move the freshly filled barrels to the rickhouse to the on-site bottling facility and visitor/tasting center. This tour was one of the most memorable I have ever been on over the years I’ve been touring Kentucky’s distilleries.

The Private Select Bourbon room at Woodford Reserve Distillery

The Woodford tour ends, as all do, with the bourbon tasting. The tasting room is located on the other side of the fireplace wall of the visitor center, with a rectangular bar facing the fire. The guide stands in the middle, offering tasting note tips.

The see through fireplace inside the stone wall of the Woodford Reserve Distillery Visitor's Center

We were able to taste the  regular Woodford Reserve  and the Cask Strength  (or dessert bourbon as they call it) combined with a chocolate bourbon truffle. 

Bourbon Barrels inside the Woodford Reserve Distillery

7785 McCracken Pike, Versailles, KY 40383

  • Woodford Reserve’s Path To Flavor Tour: $32

Woodford Reserve offers several additional tours and specialty experiences, so click the link below to see their current offerings.

Four Roses Bourbon Distillery entrance sign

Situated on top of a breezy hill is the most romantic of the Kentucky distilleries along the Bourbon Trail:  Four Roses .

Established in 1888 originally on “Whiskey Row” by Paul Jones, a Louisville businessman, the Four Roses label is rooted in the story of his proposal to a Southern belle named Mary. After courting her for a number of years, Jones asked Mary to respond to his “final” marriage proposal by wearing a corsage of four red roses to a cotillion dance.  This time she accepted and entered the ballroom wearing the corsage.

While Four Roses bourbon is smooth and the distillery, with its Spanish Mission style architecture, has a unique and interesting story from 1888 to the present, the tour itself can still use some work. It’s more of a “Cliff’s Notes” brief summary version of how they make their bourbon.

Their bottling facility is located at a different location as well, so that element of the process can’t be witnessed on-site. If you have the time, you can take your distillery tour ticket stub and visit the bottling facility for free if you’re interested.

You will be given four bourbons to taste:  The Standard Yellow Lable Four Roses, The Small Batch, Single Barrel, and The Cask Strength.

Four Roses Bourbon Tasting with four glasses

Before or after your tour, browse the large gift shop fittingly accented throughout with roses or you can enjoy a cocktail or bourbon tasting in Bar 1888.

1224 Bonds Mill Road, Lawrenceburg, KY 40342

  • Distillery Legacy Tour: $22

Four Roses Distillery offers several additional tasting experiences as well as seasonal offerings, so check their website for the most up-to-date tours.

Green grass field leading to Buffalo Trace Distillery

Buffalo Trace Distillery is a juggernaut in the world of bourbon.

Consider the brands they make; in addition to the standard Buffalo Trace Bourbon, they are also responsible for crafting Eagle Rare, Blanton’s (John Wick’s bourbon of choice), Pappy Van Winkle, E.H. Taylor, Stagg, Sazerac Rye, and Weller to name a few.   

What sets Buffalo Trace Distillery even further apart from the competition is that they never charge for their tours. They are always complementary. That being said, you still have to reserve in advance, particularly if you want to go on a specialty experience like: The Buffalo Trace Hard Hat Tour .

Even if you’re not overly into bourbon, the grounds are beautiful, not to mention they have one of the largest and most interesting gift shops of the distilleries. The tours are also highly detailed and informative.

That being said, the bourbon tasting experience at the end of the tour leaves a little to be desired. Due to limited quantities, Buffalo Trace only offers a few brands for tasting and purchasing in the Visitor Center. 

113 Great Buffalo Trace, Franklin County, Frankfort, KY 40601

  • All Buffalo Trace tours are complimentary including tours for large groups or tours that require reservations.
  • The Trace Tour
  • The Hard Hat Tour
  • The Expansion Tour
  • Old Taylor Tour

Additional Tours are available focusing on the gardens and historic landmarks, so check their website for current offerings.

Vaulted Cathedral Hallway at Wild Turkey Bourbon Distillery Visitor's Center

The  Wild Turkey Tour  is as industrial as it gets. Not that it makes the tour less interesting, but I prefer the smaller distilleries along the Bourbon Trail as opposed to the mass conglomerate operations. 

The tour lasts about one hour, and you get to see where they make the bourbon as well as where they bottle the various vodka brands that they own. An impressive operation, to say the least. 

The Visitor Center is a fun place to look around and learn a bit more about the history of the distillery location and the origin of the name. Currently, Wild Turkey is closed to visitors and tours as they refresh the visitor’s center, so I’m looking forward to see what updates they have in store.

1417 Versailles Rd, Lawrenceburg, KY 40342

Every year, I look forward to more Kentucky bourbon trail tours and tastes, so check back for updates.

The next two bourbon distilleries on my hit list include:

  • Bulleit Distilling Company Visitor Experience
  • Castle & Key Distillery

While I did a tour and tasting of Bulleit when it was located at the Stitzel-Weller facility, I have yet to visit their new Visitor Center experience that opened in 2019 in Shelbyville, KY. Click here for more information.

And finally, the distillery that is currently intriguing me the most is Castle & Key, which I saw from a distance when I was driving to Lexington. It actually looks like a castle, and in addition to their distillery and grounds tours, they offer a rotating calendar of events. Click here for more information.

Everyone’s taste is unique and preferences differ, but hopefully, this guide helps you discover your go-to bourbon as you forge your own path along Kentucky’s bourbon trail.

If you’re planning on staying in Louisville, then be sure to check out the Go-To Louisville KY Guide for Best Hotels, Attractions, & Dining .

Exterior of Hotel Distil in Louisville, Kentucky at night

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7 thoughts on “13 Best Bourbon Trail Tours: A Regional Travel Guide to Kentucky’s Distilleries”

You’re welcome, and I’m glad you found the information helpful. Enjoy your trip this summer!

Thank you for posting all of the information with tour prices and your opinion. I am looking forward to visiting Kentucky this summer 2023.

Hi Terri, I would recommend checking out the Pegasus Kentucky Bourbon Trail Tour Packages. They are rated really well and offer several packages to choose from with a driver to take you to the distillery region of your choice for the tours. My personal favorite region is the South / Bardstown Distilleries which includes Maker’s Mark (my favorite tour).

https://www.takepegasusdistilled.com/distillery-packages

Hope this helps!

I want to find a package tour that goes to several distilleries/breweries, one inclusive price, and transportation. Is there such a thing?

I would recommend checking out the Pegasus Kentucky Bourbon Trail Tour Packages. They are rated really well and offer several packages to choose from with a driver to take you to the distillery region of your choice for the tours. My personal favorite region is the South / Bardstown Distilleries which includes Maker’s Mark (my favorite tour).

Here is the link: https://www.takepegasusdistilled.com/distillery-packages

If you’re staying in Louisville, The Brown Hotel is my favorite, but there are lots of great hotels along 3rd street between W Broadway and the Riverwalk which put you right in the middle of Louisville’s downtown scene where you can walk to restaurants and other attractions.

Hope these suggestions help, and I hope you have a great trip!

Want to schedule a tour for three and set up a driver to visit 2 top rated distillery’s Also will need accommodations for 2 nites. .any suggestions.

Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the post. I’ll be sure to check out your site as well!

14 Best Distilleries To Visit Along Kentucky's Bourbon Trail

Oak barrels at a distillery

There may not be another drink more mysterious than bourbon. It's known for caramel, vanilla, and oak notes, yet each bottle is unique, carrying different tastes, aromas, and surprising finishes. The amber-colored whiskey has been around since the 1700s when settlers in Kentucky (mainly Scottish, Irish, and German) realized they had the perfect soil for growing grains that would eventually be distilled as bourbon, according to History.com . Today, Kentucky still reigns as the number one producer of bourbon, claiming 95% of all bourbon distilleries. 

It seems Kentucky was destined for the job. It isn't just the soil that makes the land perfect. Fred Minnick, author of "Whiskey Women" and "Bourbon Curious: A Simple Tasting Guide for the Savvy Drinker" tells History.com  that the water plays a big factor because of how the natural limestone works to filter out minerals. That's right — even the water is perfect. All of that is to say if you love bourbon, Kentucky's Bourbon Trail is the place to be. With 37 distilleries, there is truly nowhere else on earth where you will find more bourbon within a 250-mile radius. Feel free to visit them all, but if you find it tough to choose, read on as we look at the best distilleries to visit along Kentucky's Bourbon Trail. Pack your bags and get started.

Evan Williams

According to Explore Kentucky History , Evan Williams is said to be the first commercial distillery in Kentucky. Evan Williams himself came to Louisville, Kentucky from Wales in 1780. You'll find a historical marker (#2445) in his honor in Louisville. Just three years later, after realizing he'd settled in a land where the soil and water were perfect for distilling bourbon, he opened a distillery. 

The brand's website  explains that its bourbon, named after Evan Williams himself, is aged even longer than required by law, creating a Kentucky Straight Bourbon with bold character. As the first distillery in Kentucky, placed along the banks of the Ohio River way back in 1783, Evan Williams is proud to still be delivering one of the smoothest bourbons for novices and connoisseurs alike to enjoy. Today, Evan Williams bourbon is distilled at Heaven Hill Distillery, and you can enjoy the Evan Williams experience in downtown Louisville where they offer tours, tastings, and a fun speakeasy area as well (via Bourbon Trail Tours ).

Angel's Envy

If anything, you've got to visit Angel's Envy to hear the story of such a fantastic name. During the aging process of bourbon, some alcohol evaporates. It's said that the missing bourbon is the "angel's share," per Vine Pair , hence what's left is the angel's envy. You'll notice that Angel's Envy has a beautifully shaped bottle that is inspired by Angel's wings. Angel's Envy distillery is one of the youngest on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, as it began in only 2011. Today, you'll find the distillery in downtown Louisville, as the first full-production distillery to open its doors in that city. 

If you are looking for one of the smoothest bourbons in the world , you'll be in the right place at Angel's Envy. The distillery is known for bending rules in a good way, such as using second-barrel finishing techniques, which are usually only seen in the making of Scotch. Gentleman Ranter's explains that Angel's ages its bourbon in charred American oak barrels for up to six years and in the last few months it is moved to port wine casks, creating a drink that is ridiculously smooth and easy to sip.

According to Michter's , George Washington bought bottles of their bourbon straight from the distillery back during the Revolutionary War to keep his men warm through the long winter at Valley Forge. If President Washington visited, you probably should as well. Michter's began its journey in Pennsylvania back in 1753. It was founded by a Swiss Mennonite farmer named John Shenk.

It wasn't until the 1990s that Michter's found its home in Kentucky, after a long history of dealing with issues such as prohibition, bankruptcy, and the near disappearance of the Michter name. This delightful and sometimes hard-to-find bourbon owes its rareness to barrels that are toasted before they are charred, which helps to expose deeper layers of the interior of the barrels, offering greater levels of flavor to the bourbon, per Cocktails and Bars . You can visit Michter's distillery along the Bourbon Trail in Louisville, right across from the Louisville Slugger Museum.

Old Forester

In case you haven't noticed, most bourbon is steeped in history and heritage, and that's one of the reasons bourbon drinkers love it. Old Forester doesn't disappoint in this area. The founder, George Garvin Brown of Munfordville, Kentucky, created the first bottle of Forester in 1870, according to the brand's website . After purchasing the Mattingly Distillery, George created the first double-barreled bourbon, called "Very Old Fine Whisky," in 1910. A fire shut down production, so the whisky was all dumped, and although it was ready to bottle, he decided to put it all into second barrels. The stories just get better. In the 1940s, during World War II, the Old Forester distillery converted the entire production line so they could produce industrial-grade alcohol. This was done to help out the troops and the entire war effort. You just have to love bourbon stories. 

A fun tidbit about Old Forester is that it is the only bourbon that has remained in the same company before, during, and after prohibition. Tour Old Forester and hear all the great stories about George Garvin Brown on Whiskey Row in Louisville, Kentucky.

Everything you need to know about Bulleit bourbon is summed up by the distillers on its website , which reads "Our aging philosophy is simple: We wait until our bourbon is ready." Simple, yet essential words that describe a bourbon known for its extra spice and smoothness. Bulleit's claim to fame is their higher use of rye in the mash.

As with many bourbons, the story starts out a bit sad but has a happy ending. The Rum Howler Blog writes that Augustus Bulleit, the creator of Bulleit bourbon back in 1830, disappeared while transporting the bourbon across the country, and Bulleit bourbon disappeared as well for over 100 years. Thankfully, generations later, Thomas E. Bulleit, Jr. said enough is enough and brought Bulleit bourbon back to life. According to Bourbonr , it's not a whiskey that is difficult to run across. You'll see it in most bars and liquor stores; however, as a common shelf bourbon, it gives novices and connoisseurs a unique taste, unlike some of the others on the shelf. Check out Bulleit bourbon at the Bulleit Distilling Co. in Shelbyville, Kentucky.

Ready for a little romance? Four Roses has you covered. It starts with a tempting beauty and ends with a "yes" to a proposal. According to Four Roses Bourbon , Paul Jones, Jr. fell in love with a Southern belle and had to have her. In the most romantic gesture ever, he wrote a letter to her, asking for her hand in marriage. To top his amorous proposal, she replied by writing that she would wear a rose corsage to the grand ball they would both be attending if her answer were "yes." And, you guessed it — she wore four roses. Jones was certainly relieved to not be humiliated with a "no" and we are all relieved he continued to make fine bourbon, aptly naming it Four Roses.

Four Roses is known for the fact that it has 10 different bourbon recipes, and each has its own notes. This is done by creating different yeast strains and separate mash bills. The distillery is as gorgeous as the romantic rose label and can be toured along the Kentucky Bourbon trail in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.

Woodford Reserve

If you drink bourbon, you've heard of Woodford Reserve. It's one of the most popular bourbons out there. And although the price point is a decent one at around $50 a bottle, Woodford Reserve is considered a premium bourbon. 

According to The Spirits Educator , the story of Woodford Reserve begins in the cute little Kentucky town of Versailles. There, a man named Elijah Pepper began to distill corn into whiskey in 1797. His son would then take over in 1835 and hire a Scottish scientist to help with the distilling process. That scientist, Dr. James C. Crow, is credited with inventing the sour mash that is still used in bourbon fermenting today. After a few more changes in hand, the distillery would eventually end up with Brown-Forman in 1994 and the bourbon was named Woodford after the county in which it resides.

The distillery, which is along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, is considered one of the most beautiful ones to see. Woodford Reserve's website  explains that they offer several different tour options and you should aim to book them a few months in advance because they sell out.

The history of Jim Beam began with the American dream and some corn. The Boehm family hailed from Germany and arrived in America in 1740 when the country was still 13 colonies. Fast forward 48 years and the family not only moved to Kentucky to take advantage of government incentives that were offered for farming corn, but they also Americanized their name as many immigrants did back then, to Beam (via JimBeam.com ). 

Whiskey, namely rye whiskey, was already popular by then, but Jacob Beam made the decision to start using up excess corn and turned it into a mash for distilling. Their bourbon whiskey was born and folks all over loved Jim Beam. He sold his first barrel in 1795, and the story continues today. By the way, Kentucky already had 2,000 distilleries by the early 1800s, so selling a barrel of a new one you've made was no easy task.

Bourbon law says you must age the whiskey at least two years for it to be considered bourbon. However, Jim Beam is known for its four-year aging process to bring bourbon fans a satisfyingly smooth spirit. Seeing the Jim Beam distillery is seeing a business that began two centuries ago. You'll find them in Clermont, Kentucky where they offer tours and Kentucky hospitality.

Maker's Mark

Maker's Mark begins with Bill Samuels, Sr., who is quoted as saying he wanted a bourbon "that won't blow my ears off," per the brand's website . And that's what happened, but let's back it up a little first. Bill's family already had a bourbon recipe that was 170 years old. He decided to experiment with it, determined to create a bourbon that wouldn't blow his ears off and he, well ... set the drapes on fire, along with the ancient family recipe, while doing so. Thankfully, Bill had spunk and he continued on. He wisely used bread making to experiment with grains and soon he'd find the secret that would make Maker's Mark stand out amongst the bourbon crowd — red winter wheat instead of rye. Brilliant.

It's the red winter wheat that gives Maker's its sweet notes, making it an excellent bourbon in cocktails like the Old Fashioned , and also perfect for sipping neat so you can enjoy Maker's Mark's delicately sweet notes.

We can't end without discussing the dripping red wax that seals the bottle. It's purely decorative and was designed by one of the first women in the bourbon industry, Margie Samuels, whose name resides in the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame. The red wax makes Maker's Mark stand out on the shelves and consumers can't help but be curious. Visit Maker's Mark in Loretto, Kentucky along the Bourbon Trail. 

Heaven Hill

Prohibition ended and the Shapira family got busy making bourbon. Heaven Hill Brands writes that the family was taking quite a risk. The Great Depression was at its peak, the family had no whiskey at the time, and no brand of their own. Today, something people often don't realize about Heaven Hill is that it's the largest, independent, family-owned distillery in the world today, making 19 different bourbons and whiskeys, including Evan Williams and Elijah Craig. The distillery makes a whopping 1,300 barrels a day. Hard work and a dream pay off.

Heaven Hill Distillery explains that the business began in Bardstown, Kentucky by a gentleman named William Heavenhill. The name was misspelled one time as "Heaven Hill" while filling out official paperwork as the business was being formed. It would have cost $10 to fix it, so the separated words of the name remained.

One of the Shapira brothers, Max, was once quoted as saying, "When you're in the business of making products that you can't sell for four years or longer, it takes patience and perseverance" (via Heaven Hill Distillery ). It certainly does. Eventually, the Jim Beam family entered the picture and helped make Heaven Hill the world-renowned distillery it is today. You can visit this amazing place in downtown Louisville, Kentucky.

Willet Distillery is one of the last truly family-owned distilleries in Kentucky. They are very proud of it and believe so highly in their family-owned business that they regularly turn down investors. At one point, the distillery closed because of the financial pressures that came in the 1980s when clear spirits, such as vodka, were king. Fast forward to 1984, when the Kulsveen couple purchased the property from the Willets and brought the Willet Distillery back to life. From there, Willet would become seriously premium. It's one of the most expensive bourbons in the world , with some bottles selling for $4,000.

Willet is known for its willingness to share things, such as its mash bill, with the public. Most distilleries keep those numbers a secret. Because of the past history of Willet, especially having to close the doors at one time, Drew Kulsveen was quoted in Whisky Magazine as saying that customer tastes dictate their business. If people have a change of taste, we have to protect ourselves." That's why they are now seeking the distilling of other spirits as well. Visit the Willet Distillery, rich in history, in Bardstown, Kentucky.

Wild Turkey

It took three different stories to merge and bring us the beloved American bourbon called Wild Turkey, according to The Whiskey Jug . It includes the Ripy family who began a distillery called Old Moore in 1850. Then the story continues with a change in name to Austin Nichols, since the Ripys merged with that distillery, and finally, in 1940 we see the first bottle that's named Wild Turkey, which Austin Nichols came up with while hunting turkeys. By the way, in 2016, Matthew McConaughey became the creative director for the distillery.

Wild Turkey prides itself in using only non-GMO corn in their mash bill (which is kept quite secretive). Bourbon Obsessed points out that Wild Turkey is a classic bourbon, delivering those bourbon notes you'd expect while also hitting your nose and palate with a surprising spiciness.

The distillery is located in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, and offers plenty of tours for Kentucky Bourbon Trail visitors. Wild Turkey writes that its new visitors' site is something to see, and it has even received several awards.

Green River

Along the bourbon trail, you'll find craft distilleries, which are smaller distilleries that are motivated by innovation and creativity, obeying the laws of bourbon production, of course, but also looking for new ways to make it even better. When it comes to innovation today, Green River Distillery is at the forefront. 

Green River believes in doing things correctly because bourbon is bourbon. Master distiller at Green River Distillery, Jacob Call explains that making good bourbon doesn't require a magic bullet. There are certain processes that have to be followed and the right ingredients have to be used. On the other hand, the distillery also believes in shaking up the bourbon world by trying new things, such as aging bourbon in unique barrels. Green River is currently experimenting with wine and rum barrels. 

If that isn't enticing enough, all of Green River Distillery's corn is locally sourced, often within just a few miles of the distillery. On top of that, they give 1% of their sales to environmental causes. It's not just a distillery in Kentucky. It's a part of Kentucky and cares about the environment. Visit this innovative craft distillery along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in Owensboro, Kentucky.

Castle and Key

The distillery, Old Taylor, which once housed the infamous bourbon Colonel G.H. Taylor, was left abandoned until Castle and Key purchased the property and restored it into something beautiful, according to Sipping History . It was Will Arvin, in 2012, who visited the grounds of the old distillery and found roofs caving in, weeds growing wild, and, all in all, a historical place that was falling apart. He fell in love and the site for Castle and Key was born. Castle and Key is another new craft distillery, but the building and grounds that house it are full of rich history. Thanks to the restoration, tours are now happening again, and visitors hear not only the new Castle and Key story but the stories of Old Taylor as well. 

Castle and Key writes that quality is of the utmost importance to the distillery. After all, it's practically on hallowed ground. The distillery make this promise clear by encouraging customers to let them know how they feel about the bourbon and their experiences. Although this craft distillery is along the bourbon trail, Castle and Key offers more than bourbon. It also distills gin, vodka, and rye whiskey. There's something for everyone. Visit Castle and Key in Frankfort, Kentucky. 

Woodford Reserve

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Exciting Tours of the Kentucky Distilling Industry

An Insider's Guide to the Origin of Bourbon 

As the world’s thirst for Kentucky Bourbon grows, the state’s distilling industry continues to grow, offering new and improved visitor experiences. New bourbon attractions are opening all of the time in Bourbon Country.

At this moment, more than 20 working bourbon distilleries in Kentucky make more than 200 of your favorite brands. Most of these working bourbon distilleries offer active tours and unique visitor experiences that include tastings and gift shops.

From varying recipes and yeast strains to barrel char and age levels, each bourbon distillery practices the art of making bourbon just a little differently. You will find a unique experience in the sights, sounds and tastes of each tour as you take in the magic that is making whiskey during each of the tours highlighted below.

Each of the Kentucky Bourbon distilleries on this list, from the craft variety makers to the world’s largest producers, invite visitors to stop by to learn about their brands and have a taste.

Check out the many different bourbon experiences offered in each region of Bourbon County:

top bourbon distillery tours

Angel’s Envy Distillery

Barrel House Distilling Co.

Barrel House Distilling Co.

Barton’s 1792 Distillery

Barton’s 1792 Distillery

Boone County Distilling Company

Boone County Distilling Company

Brough Brothers Distillery

Brough Brothers Distillery

Buffalo Trace Distillery

Buffalo Trace Distillery

Buzzard’s Roost Spirits

Buzzard’s Roost Spirits

Casey Jones Distillery

Casey Jones Distillery

Castle & Key Distillery

Castle & Key Distillery

Copper & Kings American Brandy

Copper & Kings American Brandy

Evan Williams Bourbon Experience

Evan Williams Bourbon Experience

Four Roses Bourbon Warehouse and Bottling

Four Roses Bourbon Warehouse and Bottling

Four Roses Distillery

Four Roses Distillery

Frazier History Museum: Kentucky Bourbon Trail® Welcome Center

Frazier History Museum: Kentucky Bourbon Trail® Welcome Center

Green River Distilling Co.

Green River Distilling Co.

Hartfield & Company Distillery

Hartfield & Company Distillery

Heaven Hill Distilleries

Heaven Hill Distilleries

Jeptha Creed Distillery

Jeptha Creed Distillery

Jim Beam American Stillhouse

Jim Beam American Stillhouse

Kentucky Artisan Distillery

Kentucky Artisan Distillery

Kentucky Mist Moonshine Distillery

Kentucky Mist Moonshine Distillery

Kentucky Peerless Distilling

Kentucky Peerless Distilling

Limestone Branch Distillery

Limestone Branch Distillery

Log Still Distillery at Dant Crossing

Log Still Distillery at Dant Crossing

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Kentucky Crafted Bourbon Trail Tours

The purpose of fun is to have some, so come join us on a kentucky bourbon trail tour.

Mint Julep Experiences has been providing top-notch luxury bourbon trail tours in Bourbon Country for more than 12 years. As the leading tour company for the Kentucky Bourbon Trail ®, we  have given thousands of public and custom tours for tourists and locals alike. Mint Julep takes care of every detail and caters to every need, to create one-of-a-kind bourbon tours.

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Kentucky Bourbon Trail® Tours

Mint Julep Experiences will help you learn the art, history and craftsmanship of America’s Native Spirit as you travel through Bourbon Country for guided distillery tours and tastings! We’ll also make a stop for a local lunch along the way.

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Custom Bourbon Tours

You’ll work with one of our Kentucky Bourbon Trail® experts to customize your day based on your group’s size, interests and other requests. We’ve tailored tours for all occasions — from birthday celebrations and corporate luncheons to bachelor parties.

Mint Julep Experiences plans the entire adventure, start to finish, so you can relax and leave the rest to us. Offering premium bourbon trail bus transportation, we enrich the experience with knowledgeable drivers, enthusiastic guides and clean and comfortable vehicles.

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Our Elevated Experience packages are one-of-a-kind Kentucky bourbon trip, exclusive experiences with some of our best partners. Click below to find out what we have to offer.

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From name brands to small batch craft, bourbon distilleries are making a splash throughout the Commonwealth! More than 1 million visitors travel to Kentucky each year for the ultimate bourbon experience, and many choose Mint Julep Experiences for all their Kentucky bourbon tour needs.

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Tour Bourbon Country’s dozens of bourbon distilleries big and small, old and new, traditional and innovative. Mint Julep Experiences’ Bourbon Trail Tours give you an immersive experience with Kentucky’s best bourbon distilleries along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® and beyond. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail® began in 1999 and has since entertained more than 2.5 million guests, expanding year after year.

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exterior of one of the best bourbon distilleries in kentucky

15 Best Bourbon Distilleries In Kentucky (Tours + Kentucky Bourbon Trail!)

August 2, 2022 //  by  Southern Trippers

Are you wondering where the best bourbon distilleries in Kentucky are located? Wonder no more! We are going to walk you through the best Kentucky distilleries so you can decide which are the best to visit.

There is so much to see and do in Kentucky It’s a state that offers a lot of diverse activities. From scenic Kentucky Hiking to KY Waterfalls the great outdoors in this state offers a lot.

But there is more to this state than just the great outdoors. Kentucky’s small towns are some of the cutest in America and the KY wineries and vineyards are well worth a visit. However, what this state is known for is its bourbon.

Going on one of the bourbon tours in Kentucky is an absolute must when you visit this state. It’s the perfect way to spend a Kentucky weekend getaway.

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail was set up with that in mind. So without further ado let us walk you through some of the best distilleries to visit in Kentucky. We also walk you through the best distilleries to visit on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and tell you everything you need to know about this trail.

Pull up a seat, pour a glass of something smooth, and let’s chat about all things bourbon.

Make sure to check out our list of the best resorts in Kentucky for more inspiration for your Kentucky vacation!

 Bourbon barrels at a distillery along the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky. The article is about the Best Bourbon Distilleries In Kentucky

15 Best Bourbon Distilleries In Kentucky (Tours + Kentucky Bourbon Trail!)

What is the kentucky bourbon trail.

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is not just a trail of the best bourbon distilleries in Kentucky, it’s an organized program. It was created by the Kentucky Distillers’ Association in 1999  in response to the growing whisky and bourbon resurgence. 

It was essentially created to promote the Bourbon whiskey industry in Kentucky and has proved hugely successful. You can collect stamps in your official Bourbon Trail guide and get free rewards.

Are There Distilleries In Kentucky Not On The Trail?

When the Kentucky Bourbon Trail started there were 7 distilleries at the current count there are 18. There are however somewhere in the region of 73 licensed distilleries in the state.

So yes as you can see there are distilleries in Kentucky not on the trail. Some of the top distilleries in Kentucky are not on the trail.

The trail isn’t a nod to greatness, being included isn’t necessarily an honor, it just means they have joined the gang so to speak. Some distilleries choose not to participate for many reasons but it’s mostly down to ownership and legal reasons.

The Kentucky bourbon distilleries off the tour tend to be cheaper and less crowded. So don’t rule a distillery out simply because it isn’t on the tour.

Bourbon Emptying from Freshly Opened Barrel along production line

Average Price Of Bourbon Distillery Tours In Kentucky

All of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail distilleries charge a fee for a tour or a tasting. The price differs a lot ranging from $5 to $30.

Specialty tours are likely to cost more. The price also varies a lot depending on what tour you choose.

It is highly recommended you book your tours in advance as the trail gets busy. If you are on a budget some of the distilleries not on the trail will charge less.

Bourbon Flight with selective focus on four samples at one of the Best Bourbon Distilleries In Kentucky.

Best Bourbon Distilleries In Kentucky You Shouldn’t Miss

Old forester – louisville.

If you like your bourbon with a huge side of history then this is one of the best distilleries in Louisville for you. For over 150 years they have been making bourbon here, in fact, they produced one of the first bottled bourbons in America. Make sure to check out our list of the Best Restaurants In Louisville!

Located on 119 West Main Street, in what used to be considered Whisky Row, Old Forester is still in the same building it was before prohibition. Here you will learn about the history of bourbon and its ties to this area.

This is one of the best Kentucky bourbon trail distilleries for really getting a feeling of how it used to be. And make sure you stay a while as there is so much to do in Louisville .

Four Roses – Lawrenceburg

On the scenic Salt River sits the unique single-story rack warehouse and bottling facility of Four Roses. This distillery in Lawrenceburg is on the National Register of Historic Places so it’s also steeped in history.

This Kentucky whisky tour gives you history, incredible countryside, and a rich, flavourful and mellow bourbon.

Four Roses have some unique recipes which you will get to taste on your tour. If you are looking for something a little more chill then this is one of the best distillery tours in Kentucky for you.

Entrance sign to Four Roses Distillery on Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

Wilderness Trail Distillery -Danville

This distillery in Danville is located on 163 acres of land and began very recently. Opening in 2012 it’s one of the newer bourbon tours in Kentucky.

But don’t let how new it is put you off co-owners Shane Baker and Pat Heis have over 28+ years of fermentation expertise and a whole lot of passion.

The grains are locally sourced and the whiskeys are non-chill-filtered. Chill filtration is a cosmetic process whisky is put through so it doesn’t go cloudy in the glass. Many whisky drinkers believe non-chill filtered whisky is better but it’s a matter of taste and visual appeal.

Here the science of whisky making is at the heart of what they do and creates added interest for visitors. If you like to know the ins and outs of how whisky is made this is the best bourbon distillery tour in Kentucky for learning that.

Signage in front of Wilderness Trail Distillery one of the Best Bourbon Distilleries In Kentucky

Rabbit Hole – Louisville 

This Louisville distillery is another fairly recent newcomer on the block. Kaveh Zamanian took his love for bourbon and whisky and risked it all ditching his twenty-year psychology practice to make authentic spirits.

And the risk paid off. This is one of the best distilleries to visit on the Kentucky bourbon trail if you love things innovative and different.

The distillery is modern and his whiskeys are made 100% in Kentucky. The tour here is a much more immersive impressive experience. It is perhaps a glimpse into what the future of distillers will look like.

This is one of the best distilleries in Louisville for something a little different and unusual. While you are at it, make sure to check out some of the best distilleries in Louisville!

Bulleit Distilling Co – Shelbyville

Bulleit Distilling Co might have only opened to visitors in 2019 but it’s one of the best Kentucky distilleries. It uses state-of-the-art technology to produce rye bourbon with a bold spicy taste.

The bourbon here is distilled and aged in the Bulleit family tradition. On the tour, you will learn about the cultural creators, entrepreneurs, and tastemakers that helped revive Augustus Bulleit’s high-rye whiskey.

Here you get an interactive tasting experience and it’s one of the best Kentucky bourbon distillery tours if you like bold flavors.

If you are visiting this distillery in Shelbyville make sure you check out the town it’s one of the best small towns in Kentucky.

 Stack of Bulleit Bourbon Barrels along the Kentucky Bourbon trail at their historic site

Heaven Hill – Louisville/Bardstown 

Heaven Hill is one of the largest independent, family-owned, and operated distilleries in America. The Shapira family has been at the helm of this Louisville distillery since 1953.

The distillery is at the historic intersection of 17 th  Street and Breckenridge Street in downtown Louisville. You can’t visit this distillery but they do have The Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience which is in Bardstown.

Here you can learn, taste and shop. Have a tasting in the classroom, create your own bottle and explore the hands-on lab. This is more than a tour it’s a real experience and it’s family-friendly.

Heaven Hill Distillery at Bardstown

The James B. Beam Distilling Co- Clermont

This distillery needs no introduction. No list of the top distilleries in Kentucky would be complete without mentioning Jim Beam.

This Clermont distillery has been running for over two hundred years and is one of the most recognizable names in Kentucky bourbon. This is one of the best distilleries to visit in Kentucky without a shadow of a doubt.

They offer the best bourbon distillery tour in Kentucky. The tour is a six-stage multisensory tour that is state of the art. Visitors also have the opportunity to fill their own barrel and put their name on it which sounds very cool.

 Jim Beam Distillery at Clermont, KY. The picture shows the grey Jim Beam building and rolling hills. One of the Best Bourbon Distilleries In Kentucky

Town Branch – Lexington

There is so much to see and do in Lexington and we believe one of those things is to visit a distillery. Bourbon tasting in Lexington is a must.

Dr. Pearse Lyons acquired the 200-year-old Lexington Brewing Company Town Branch in 1999. He resurrected this 1794 brewery and distillery and it’s back to its former glory.

It’s in the heart of downtown and a great stop on your Kentucky whisky tour. Don’t forget to check out some of the best restaurants in Lexington while you are here!

Visitor center of Alltech Lexington Brewing and Distilling Company in Lexington,

Angel’s Envy – Louisville

For a real family affair head to this distillery in Louisville. Angel’s Envy started as a conversation between father and son and ended up with three generations of Hendersons coming together to create a new distillery which opened in 2013.

This urban distillery on Main Street is one of the best Kentucky distilleries. On the tour, you will see the complete distillation process from beginning to bottle and then get to taste in the Finishing Room.

Here they keep their tours small and intimate so booking in advance here is an absolute must. This is one of the best Kentucky bourbon distillery tours.

Castle And Key Distillery – Frankfort

Castle and Key are considered one of the top distilleries in Kentucky, however, it is not on The Kentucky Bourbon Trail. We feel though that this is a must-visit on your list.

Why should you visit? Well, firstly this distillery has a castle. Yes, the castle was built in 1887 by Buffalo Trace’s E.H. Taylor to be his grand showplace and is believed to have put bourbon tourism on the map. However, in 1920 prohibition caused the distillery to shut and it was left abandoned.

In 2014 it was purchased and restored. There are 113-acre of estate grounds to explore here. There is so much to do here from a stroll along the botanical trail to trying the gin, vodka, and bourbon produced here. It is truly one of the best things to do in Frankfort Kentucky!

Maker’s Mark – Loretto

Marker’s Mark bourbon has been around since 1953 and is an iconic bourbon brand known for its red wax-dipped bottles.

At this brewery attention to detail is everything. The barrels are still rotated by hand, an old letterpress is used and the bottles are hand dipped in the iconic red wax.

This is one of the best distillery tours in Kentucky if you like to see things done the old-fashioned way. The distillery is a National Historic Landmark so expect your bourbon to come with a side of history.

Tours here last an hour and visitors can even hand-dip their bottle in the classic red wax.

Maker's Mark Distillery in Loretto. One of the best Bourbon Distilleries In Kentucky

Bluegrass Distillers – Lexington 

If you fancy some bourbon tasting in Lexington then pop into Bluegrass Distillery. Founded in 2012 and opened in 2015 it’s a relatively new edition to the Bourbon Trail.

The bourbon is complex yet smooth and tours take 45 minutes.

Buffalo Trace – Frankfort

Most agree this is one of the best bourbon distilleries in Kentucky and yet it is not on The Bourbon Trail. It’s the oldest continuously operating distillery in Kentucky and even stayed open during prohibition by producing medicinal whiskey.

Here you will find old brick buildings, rolling hills, and a landscape that might just take your breath away. It’s a beautiful distillery.

Buffalo Trace is also a National Historic Landmark and even has a landmarks tour that takes in all the historic places on the site.

Put a visit here high on your list.

Bourbon barrels aging in Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, KY

James E. Pepper – Lexington

At one time Lexington was the hub for all bourbon distribution in the state but prohibition put an end to that. What remains is a lively Distillery District that is well worth a visit.

James E. Pepper is one of the best Lexington distilleries in this district. Originally founded by the family behind Woodford Reserve it shut in the 1950s as demand wained and then reopened in 2008.

In 2018 the distillery started producing its own whisky after briefly distilling in Indiana. The 1776 whiskeys are very smooth and well worth trying.

This distillery is not on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

Evan Williams Bourbon – Louisville

Heaven Hill’s portfolio also includes the world’s second-largest selling Bourbon, Evan Williams Bourbon. The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in Louisville is well worth a visit.

The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience is a multi-million dollar artisanal distillery, immersive tourism experience. It takes place in the building where Evan Williams’ distillery once stood and it celebrates the legacy of Evan Williams. If you are traveling with children they will love it here.

Williams Bourbon Experience on Whiskey Row is part of the Urban Bourbon Trail

As you can see when it comes to the best bourbon distilleries in Kentucky, there are so many to choose from. Visit a few or just go to the ones that are closest to your location.

Whichever of these bourbon tours in Kentucky you decided to embark on we know you will have an amazing time. Please come back and tell us about your experience.

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15 Best Bourbon Tours in Kentucky (2023 Edition)

  • February 13, 2023
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Last Updated on October 9, 2023 by Lydia Martin

Kentucky is known for bluegrass and horse racing, but another reason to visit the state is the Kentucky distilleries, and its impressive roster has reached 73.

If you plan to take Kentucky’s bourbon trail, here are the best bourbon tours in Kentucky that you should not miss out on! 

Table of Contents

Top 15 Bourbon Tours To Experience in Kentucky 

1. angel’s envy distillery.

Address: 500 E Main St Louisville, KY 40202

Best Time To Visit: December to March

Opening Hours: 

  • Monday and Wednesday – 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Tuesday – 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM
  • Thursday – 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM
  • Friday and Saturday – 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM
  • Sunday – 12:30 PM – 5:30 PM

Tour Price: $25 – $99

What They Offer:

Angel’s Envy is one of the Kentucky distilleries that offer appointment signature tours. You will have a chance to see the bourbon distillation process and then a guided bourbon tasting .

At the end of the Angel’s Envy tour , you will taste their own Rye Finished in Caribbean Rum Casks and Angel’s Envy Bourbon Finished in Port Casks. 

2. Buffalo Trace Distillery

Address:   113 Great Buffalo Trace, Frankfort, KY 40601

  • Monday to Saturday – 9:00 AM -5:00 PM
  • Sunday – 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Tour Price: FREE

Buffalo Trace Distillery is a family-owned distillery, and even if it is not included in the Kentucky bourbon trail, you should not miss out Buffalo Trace tour and tasting.

Buffalo Trace offers a historic distillery visit, production and bottling process, and bourbon tasting for free! 

3. Bulleit Distilling Co.

Address:   3900 Benson Pike, Shelbyville, KY 40065

Best Time To Visit: December to February

  • Wednesday to Saturday – 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Sunday – 11:30 PM – 5:00 PM

Tour Price: $22  

Bulleit Distilling Co is a Kentucky distillery that offers a full tour of their bourbon distillery where you can see up close the making of Bulleit bourbon.

A guided tour portion includes a shuttle ride plus a 15-minute rye whiskey tasting at their assigned tasting room.

We have some of the top snacks for bourbon tasting here . 

4. Castle & Key Distillery

Address: 4445 McCracken Pike, Frankfort, KY 40601, United States

  • Thursday to Saturday – 10:30 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Sunday – 12:00 PM – 5:00 AM 

Tour Price: $30

Castle & Key Distillery is a bourbon distillery that offers a guided tour so the guests can explore the distillery’s rich history.

In addition, the distillery tour includes a visit to the current production process of the bourbon.

The tours conclude with a neat tasting which every bourbon lover looks forward to. 

5. Evan Williams Bourbon Experience

Address: 528 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202, United States

  • Tuesday to Thursday -11:00 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Friday to Saturday – 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Sunday – 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Tour Price : $15 – $25

When planning to take the bourbon trail, do not miss visiting Evan Williams distillery because it is one of the best Kentucky distillery tours in the state.

One-hour distillery tour includes a trip to their bourbon history, viewing their bourbon distilling process, and a guided tasting.

But what’s our favorite place to stay for the Bourbon Trail ?

6. Four Roses Distillery

Address:  1224 Bonds Mill Rd Lawrenceburg, KY 40342

  • Wednesday to Saturday – 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
  • Sunday – 12:00 NN – 4:00 PM

Tour Price: $16-$45

Four Roses distillery situated in Lawrenceburg is a historic distillery made in 1910. It is a National Historic Landmark in Kentucky because of its Spanish mission style distillery.

The three Kentucky distillery tours offer in-depth history and bourbon production of Four Roses; make sure to drop by their large gift shop. 

7. Green River Distilling Co.

Address: 10 Distillery Rd, Owensboro, KY 42301

  • Monday to Saturday – 10:00 AM, 11:00 AM, 1:00 PM and 2:00 PM

Tour Price: $12 – $45 

Learn how bourbon goes from mash bill to barrel with Owensboro’s Green River Distilling Co. distillery tour.

Bourbon lovers would surely enjoy the tasting experience of the brand, plus you can grab a delicious cocktail at their lounger after the tour. 

Read: The Best Whiskey Distilleries in Scotland

8. Heaven Hill Distillery

Address: 1311 Gilkey Run Rd, Bardstown, KY 40004

  • Monday to Saturday – 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Tour Price:  $25 – $40

Heaven Hill Distillery tour is different from other distilleries because the tour revolves around tasting, purchasing bottles, and exploring the hands-on lab. 

While it does not hold a personal tour around the production of Kentucky bourbon, you can inspect yeast in the microscope and test your sense of smell at their nosing station. 

9. Jim Beam Distillery

Address: 568 Happy Hollow Road, Clermont, KY

Best Time To Visit: January to March

  • Wednesday to Saturday – 9:30 AM – 3:30 PM
  • Sunday – 12:15 PM – 2:45 PM

Tour Price: $22

Part of the Kentucky bourbon trail is the tour to Jim Beam Distillery (James B. Beam Distilling Co.). Like most distilleries in Kentucky, Jim Beam offers several interactive tours for guests.

In Beam Made Bourbon Distillery Tour, guests will walk through the bourbon production with the barrel tour and then taste bourbon whiskey. 

10. Maker’s Mark Distillery

Address: 3350 Burks Spring Rd, Loretto, KY 40037

Best Time To Visit:  January to March

  • Monday to Saturday – 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Sunday – 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

If you want outdoor distillery tours, you can check out Maker’s Mark distillery, consisting of ¼ mile of walking.

Maker’s Mark distillery is a National Historic Landmark, so it can be your favorite tour because it is picture-perfect.

However, you have to get online reservations at Maker’s Mark to experience this state-of-the-art landmark. 

Be toured around a few production buildings for crafting bourbon, and the tour will end with a bourbon tasting of Maker’s Mark bourbon. 

11. Mitcher’s Fort Nelson Distillery

Address : Michter’s Fort Nelson Distillery, 801 West Main Street, Louisville, KY 40202

  • Wednesday to Saturday – 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
  • Sunday – 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Tour Price: $20

Mitcher’s Fort Nelson Distillery in downtown Louisville is the home of one of the great-tasting bourbons, Mitcher’s Fort.

Make sure to drop by the distillery when taking the bourbon trail because you will learn the extra steps in the brand’s production process- from barreling to the bottling line. 

Read : Some Bourbons You Can Only Get In Kentucky

12. Old Forester Distillery

Address: 119 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202

Tour Price: $32

Old Forester Distillery is one of the oldest Kentucky distilleries you can find in the bourbon country, so take their legacy tour.

Be guided from fermentation to tasting four expressions. The bourbon distilleries like Old Forester ensure that your trip will be worthwhile. 

13. Rabbit Hole

Address: 711 E Jefferson St, Louisville, KY 40202

Best Time To Visit:  December to February

  • Tuesday to Saturday- 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Tour Price: $25

Rabbit Hole Distillery is a state-of-the-art distillery in Louisville that hubs culture and food at their on-site restaurant.

The immersive one-hour tour starts with a dram of Cavehill, whiskey-making process, and an overlooking lounge where you can taste four award-winning spirits from the distillery. 

14. Wild Turkey

Address: 1525 Tyrone Rd, Lawrenceburg, KY 40342

  • Thursday to Saturday – 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Tour Price: $10

Discover and experience Wild Turkey bourbon’s complex and perfected process and walk through the memory lane in their Wild Turkey bourbon tour.

The distillery sits on top of the Kentucky River, and like other bourbon brands, it will end with a tasting of their sample goods, so relax and enjoy! 

15. Woodford Reserve Distillery

Address: 7785 McCracken Pike, Versailles, KY 40383

  • Tuesday to Saturday – 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Sunday – 12:00 NN – 4:30 PM

The Woodford Reserve Distillery bourbon tour is a guided experience where you can learn and explore Woodford Reserve history and how they produce premium bourbons.

The Woodford Reserve tour concludes with tasting the award-winning craft bourbon, but you have to book three months in advance because they only allow 16 guests per tour. 

What is the best way to do a bourbon tour?

The best way to do a bourbon tour is by doing a mix of tours, tasting, and interactive activities.

While most tours offer tasting and tours, few distilleries offer cocktail-making classes and in-depth behind-the-scenes tours. 

What is the best time to do the Bourbon tour?

The best time to do the Bourbon tour is from the end of November to March. The weather is favorable to hold a tour, plus there are least tourists this month, so it is less crowded.

You will enjoy the unique tours without worrying about the weather and the crowd. 

In Conclusion 

The best bourbon tour in Kentucky is the Angel’s Envy Distillery because, aside from the conventional bourbon tour that involves history and tasting, they offer interactive activities. The tour starts at the distillery store, then in the heart of the production process, and ends at the finishing room for tasting. 

Also, you can experience a hands-on bottling of a 750 ml bourbon for a separate fee and get to bring it home with a commemorative case and display stand. Imagine how fun it would be to learn the bourbon process [ 1 ] and get home with your own spirit that you bottled! 

  • https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/food-science/bourbon-whiskey

Lydia Martin

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Plan My Trip

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There’s something for everyone—tours, tastings, big-city nightlife, quaint country towns, Bourbon-themed restaurants and historic accommodations. Remember there is no wrong way to Build Your Own Bourbon Trail™, as long as you enjoy it responsibly.

Need help? Start at the Kentucky Bourbon Trail ® Welcome Center in downtown Louisville and they can assist you in planning your trip.

With 37 distilleries, it’s hard to pick just one favorite. Some are as close as eight miles and others are as far as 70 miles apart. Average tour time is 90 minutes.

Get an aerial view and create your own personal itinerary to ensure enough time is given to each destination without feeling too rushed.

A wide variety of transportation options ensures a safe and comfortable journey, every time.

Locals know best. Here’s the ultimate list of Bourbon adventures to help you maximize every moment of your trip.

Our signature distilleries make the world’s best Bourbon. But that’s not all they do. Get ready to mix and mingle.

Use One of Our Step-By-Step Trip Planners

Bourbon pouring into a tumbler, the text Lawrenceburg: The Heart of Bourbon Country, and the Lawrenceburg logo

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  • Bourbon Distilleries
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Ready to Book a Public Tour?

Use our easy online booking tool to find tours visiting your favorite Kentucky bourbon distilleries.

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Your all-inclusive ticket to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail®

We plan your day in Bourbon Country from start to finish – transporting you to Kentucky bourbon distilleries and grabbing a local lunch along the way (except Sundays). Your Mint Julep guide will lead the day with fun facts and bourbon history, filling in the blanks between each stop. They will take care of all the details – from tour timing to distillery admissions and more. You just sit back and enjoy your fully-guided bourbon tour!

Group on Bourbon Tasting Tour at Jeptha Creed Distillery

Interested in Multi-Day Bourbon Tour?

Two-day and three-day bourbon tour packages are available through a Custom Bourbon Tour booking. When booking a custom bourbon tour, you will work with an Experience Coordinator to pick your favorite distilleries to make your own bourbon trail itinerary. For help with your booking, call 502-583-1433 or fill out the Request Tour form . 

Rabbit Hole Distillery Logo

Thursday Bourbon Tour

Rabbit Hole, Buffalo Trace, Bulleit

This Thursday bourbon tour includes guided transportation, 3 distillery stops for tours and tastings. Distilleries include: a tour & tasting and tasting at Rabbit Hole, a local lunch, a premium tasting at Buffalo Trace, and bourbon tour and tasting at Bulleit Bourbon.

Departs from the Omni Hotel in Downtown Louisville Departs at 8:45 a.m. Returns at 6:15 p.m.

Woodford Reserve Logo

Friday Bourbon Tour

Woodford Reserve, J. Mattingly, Angel's Envy

This Friday bourbon tour includes guided transportation, 3 distillery stops for tours and tastings, and a local lunch. Guests will enjoy a tour and tasting at Woodford Reserve, a tasting at J. Mattingly, and a tour and tasting at Angel's Envy.

Departs from the Omni Hotel in Downtown Louisville Departs at 7:30 a.m. Returns at 4:15 p.m.

lux row distillers logo

Lux Row Heaven Hill, James B. Beam

This Friday bourbon tour includes guided transportation, 3 distillery stops for tours and tastings, and a local lunch. Guests will enjoy a tour and tasting at Lux Row, a Connoisseur tasting at Heaven Hill, and a tour with tastings at James B. Beam Distilling Co..

Departs from the Omni Hotel in Downtown Louisville Departs at 8:15 a.m. Returns at 5:00 p.m.

Makers Mark logo

Saturday Bourbon Tour

Maker's Mark, Heaven Hill, Bardstown Bourbon Co.

This Saturday bourbon tour includes guided transportation, 3 distillery stops for tours and tastings, and a local lunch. Guests will enjoy a tour and tasting at Bardstown Bourbon Co., a Connoisseur tasting at Heaven Hill, and a tour with tastings at Maker's Mark distillery.

Departs from the Omni Hotel in Downtown Louisville Depart at 8:15 a.m. Returns at 5:30 p.m.

Stitzel-Weller Distillery Logo

Stitzel-Weller, Angel's Envy KY Artisan/Jefferson's Reserve

This Saturday bourbon tour includes guided transportation, 3 distillery stops for tours and tastings, and a local lunch. Guests will start the day with a tasting at Stitzel-Weller, enjoy a tour and tasting at Angel's Envy after lunch, and a tour and tasting at KY Artisan/Jefferson's Reserve.

Departs from the Omni Hotel in Downtown Louisville Depart at 9:15 a.m. Returns at 5:30 p.m.

Sunday Brunch & Bourbon Tour

Local Brunch, Kentucky Artisan/Jefferson's Reserve, Buffalo Trace

Your Sunday brunch experience includes guided transportation, a local brunch that includes 1 breakfast cocktail at The Cafe in Louisville, a tour with tastings at KY Artisan/Jefferson's Reserve and a tasting at Buffalo Trace distillery.

Departs from the Omni Hotel in Downtown Louisville Departs at 10:15 a.m. Returns at 5:45 p.m.

Reviews from Guests

  • I can’t recommend Mint Julep enough, it is the only way to do the Bourbon Trail right. Mint Julep was fantastic to work with from the beginning. We had great support and communication in the planning, suggestions, and guidance taking into account all our preferences for creating a custom trip for our group. The experience was seamless and easy due to all the hard work and organization by the Mint Julep team. This was my fourth time on the Bourbon Trail and this was by far the best. Our driver was knowledgeable and proficient of course, but just as important fit our groups’ personality really well. I can’t recommend Mint Julep enough, it is the only way to do the Bourbon Trail right. Richard B. 11/01/2023
  • I highly recommend Mint Julep Tours to maximize your Bourbon Trail adventure. This was our second time on a Mint Julep tour. As expected, it was fantastic! From the promptness of the pickup, cleanliness and comfort of the vehicles, to the knowledge of all things Bourbon, we had a remarkable experience. I highly recommend Mint Julep Tours to maximize your Bourbon Trail adventure. Jim M. 5/20/2023
  • This was the perfect way to tour the Bourbon Trail! The three distilleries we went to were unique from each other which provided a diverse tasting experience. Diane was a wonderful tour guide and Nelson was a great driver! I would highly recommend Mint Julep to anyone visiting Louisville. Thanks for a great day on the Bourbon Trail! Mary M. 8/13/2023
  • A great day touring the Bourbon Trail Our guide Morgan was superb! His knowledge of the area was immense and his attention to us was incredible! A great day touring the Bourbon Trail with him! Laurinda P. 4/09/2020
  • We enjoyed getting to know & talk bourbon with others on the tour! We were in Louisville for a few days for the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon and did the Sunday Brunch & Bourbon Tour that took us to a local restaurant for brunch and 2 distilleries. Check-in at the Omni was easy, and Michael, our tour guide, was friendly, funny, welcoming, and very knowledgeable. Throughout our travels, he shared details about the area, some of the history of Louisville, and the history of KY bourbon in general. Overall, this experience was a great way to relax on the day after the half marathon and the day before we left town. We enjoyed getting to know & talk bourbon with others on the tour. We would not hesitate to book another Mint Julep tour in Louisville or try one of their Nashville tours when we visit there in the near future. KW 10/16/2023

More Information

Departure information.

All public bourbon tours depart from the Mint Julep Experiences Hub inside Falls City Market in the Omni Louisville Hotel . Departure times and destinations vary. Please double-check your confirmation sheet for the exact timing. In most cases, tour availability opens 180 days in advance of the tour departure date. For help with your booking, call 502-583-1433 .

Best Time To Visit the Kentucky Bourbon Trail®?

The beauty with the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® is you can visit any time of the year, as the distilleries operate year-round. Some distilleries are closed to the public on certain days of the week, but most are open seven days a week.

What is included on a public bourbon tour?

  • Transportation: Each public bourbon tour includes transportation to all tour destinations. Public tours depart from the Falls City Market in the Omni Louisville Hotel in downtown Louisville. You’ll be in a Mint Julep Tours vehicle. All of our vehicles are sanitized after each tour— learn more about it on our Vehicle Safety Procedures page.
  • Admission & Tastings: All distillery admissions for the day and tastings at each location are included.
  • Lunch: Lunch at a local Louisville restaurant is also included. The lunch location will vary. Guests will be able to choose one option from a special menu. *Lunch is not included for the public Sunday tour. If you would like to purchase alcohol at lunch or any souvenirs or bottles to take home, that is not included.
  • *Gratuity for your Tour Leader is not included but always appreciated. Kentucky sales tax and a convenience fee will be added at checkout. Parking is not included in your ticket fee. For Louisville parking information, visit PARC Map or PARC Garage websites.

How much walking is involved on a public tour?

Each distillery tour varies but there is a fair amount of walking in Bourbon Country. We do suggest comfortable closed-toe shoes on all tours. Most distilleries are wheelchair accessible and can accommodate special circumstances. Most tours are partially outdoors.

Where is the pickup location?

All public bourbon tours and most other ticketed tours depart downtown Louisville. Tours depart from the Mint Julep Hub in the Omni Louisville Hotel. Please check-in at least 15 minutes before your departure time. Your tour leader will check you in, give you a wristband, and lead you to the bus as a group.

Book a Custom Bourbon Tour with Private VIP Transportation

Build a Bourbon Trail itinerary that takes you to all your favorite places in Bourbon Country, Horse Country and more! A Custom Tour can be tailored to your interests, schedule and tastes. Popular custom experiences include hands-on mixology classes, bottle-your-own experiences, bourbon heritage site tours, bourbon-infused culinary experiences and so much more! Please contact us to work with an Experience Coordinator to discuss a Custom Tour itinerary for you and your group.

Learn More About Custom Tours

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Top 10 Kentucky Bourbon Trail Tours

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graphic reading "bourbon trail tour, a guide to visiting 10 Kentucky Distilleries."

Love bourbon?  Come with me on my Kentucky Bourbon Trail Tour (plus my favorite off-trail distillery)!  The Bourbon Trail is easy to navigate and a fantastic getaway for bourbon lovers!

top bourbon distillery tours

If you're a bourbon-fan, make sure to check out these posts too: The BEST Bourbon Recipes and How to Drink Bourbon: A Beginner's Guide

What Is the Kentucky Bourbon Trail?

If you, like me, enjoy tours of vineyards, distilleries, and breweries — listen up!

Most people know that the winery clusters in California, Italy, and France make for spectacular vineyard-hopping getaways.

But wine isn't the only beverage that has outstanding geographic regions! Major bourbon distilleries are also clustered together. These form the Kentucky Bourbon Trail , which has been growing by leaps and bounds in popularity recently.

Kentucky's native limestone rock makes bourbon production easier, and 95% of all bourbon is made in Kentucky.

A Kentucky Bourbon Trail Tour

As of 2024, the Bourbon Trail has EIGHTEEN official stops.

There are dozens more small distilleries on the " Craft Tour ," including Whiskey Thief , James E. Pepper , and Log Still .

Here are some tips to help you plan a visit through nine distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and one that's off-trail!

What else is nearby?  While you're visiting Kentucky, make sure to go hiking at Natural Bridge near Lexington! If you're exploring during early summer, check out Woodstock Lavender Company near Somerset.

Bourbon Trail Tours: Are They Expensive?

Tours, as of early 2024, run in the $15 to $30 range per person. Specialty tours and tastings cost more.

If you're on a tight budget, I recommend visiting Buffalo Trace . They're off the official trail, but they had a fantastic tour.

How Long Do the Bourbon Tours Take?

Most tours are around an hour and tend to run on a set schedule.

Online reservations are highly recommended (and sometimes required).

Long row of bourbon barrels stacked inside rickhouse.

How Many Distilleries Can I Tour in One Day?

Plan on doing 1-3 distilleries per day, since most of them require some driving to get to.

What's the Best Time + Day for a Kentucky Bourbon Trail Tour?

The best bourbon tours I've had, with smaller crowds, have been on weekdays. Especially the first tour of the day .

Whatever you do, remember that the first weekend in May is Derby Weekend .

If you plan your trip then, be prepared for major crowds . Book your hotel FAR in advance, and call the distilleries ahead to find out what their touring schedule is for that weekend.

Keep in mind that distilleries can get quite warm in some sections, and so a mid-summer tour could potentially be a bit uncomfortable if you're sensitive to heat.

How Much Bourbon Will I Get to Taste on a Tour?

It depends on the distillery, but somewhere from 3 to 6 tastings. Kentucky law limits the amount they can give out.

Some of the tours give you loot in addition to the tastings.

You might get a bourbon ball candy , a souvenir glass , or even a bourbon bottle label .

Five bourbon glasses with sample pours.

Do I Have to Be 21 to Go on a Bourbon Trail Tour?

U.S. law says you have to be 21 to drink alcohol, so any tastings obviously require you to be old enough to drink.

Many distilleries do still allow underage people to tour, sometimes at a cheaper price. (They just aren't allowed to drink anything!)

Their websites will let you know for sure when you're booking a tour.

1. Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co./Town Branch (Lexington)

$13.78 per person tour and tasting.

Large stills at Town Branch Distillery.

The Town Branch distillery is small, but it's one of my favorite tasting experiences .

The short tour includes not only the distillery but also Lexington Brewing Co. across the street, where they make  Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale.

The tour includes four tokens that let you choose which drinks you want to sample, from both distillery and brewery drinks.

I’ve visited this distillery three times, and it’s still one of my favorites!

This is a nice stop if you’d like to shake up your bourbon experience with some  local brews .

2. Woodford Reserve (Versailles)

$32 per person tour and tasting ; $25 per person for tasting only ; specialty tours and tastings available.

Room full of copper mash cookers.

Woodford Reserve is like the country club on this distillery tour.

The distillery grounds are gorgeous, with  limestone buildings and lush green countryside .

The tour takes you through the large distilling area and the  rickhouses  (where they store the bourbon barrels).

At the end of our tour, we enjoyed four tastings and a bourbon ball. For a more detailed look at the tour, see our full guide to Woodford Reserve .

3. Wild Turkey (Lawrenceburg)

$11 per person.

Navigating the Kentucky Bourbon Trail- Tips and Advice

Note: As of early 2024, The Wild Turkey Visitor Center is temporarily closed for renovations. Tours and tastings are suspended, but y ou can still make purchases at the Station Master’s House gift shop.

The Wild Turkey Distillery is surrounded by beautiful Kentucky countryside.

The tour includes  four samples , and we went home with an extremely  high-quality, heavy-bottomed tasting glass .

As for the tour itself, we had bad timing – a Saturday afternoon in August, just as university students came back into town.

Our tour group was huge, and the tour guide was pretty soft-spoken with a broken microphone.

I’d definitely recommend heading to this extra-popular spot on a weekday morning.

I’ll be back, Wild Turkey!

4. Four Roses Distillery (Lawrenceburg)

$22 per person tour and tasting; $16 for tasting only. 

Navigating the Kentucky Bourbon Trail- Tips and Advice

The Four Roses Distillery , unlike most Bourbon Trail stops, doesn’t actually age ANY of their bourbon at this location.

This location distills the grains, and then they’re aged at the Four Roses Warehouse.  So you'll see the distilling vats, but not any rickhouses or aging barrels.

We were able to sample  three bourbons and keep the tasting glass .

Four Roses Warehouse

$22 per person tour and tasting; $16 per person for tasting only.

The Four Roses warehouse is where Four Roses ages all their bourbon.

It’s located near the Jim Beam distillery.

We opted for a 30-minute tasting here, which included three bourbons and the tasting glass.  It was short, sweet, and a nice side trip while we waited for our Jim Beam tour.

5. Maker's Mark (Loretto)

$26 per person tour and tasting; specialty tours available.

Metal barrel sculpture saying "Maker's 46" in front of distillery building.

In my opinion, Maker’s Mark was  one of the best tours of the actual distilling process . Here is a more in-depth post on the tour .

Our tour included a walk-through of the large distillery area, a chance to  taste the mash of fermenting grains , a view of the production line, a bottle label, four tastings, and a chance to  hand-dip a bourbon bottle in their signature red wax .

Quick Tips: This is one of the most popular spots on the Bourbon Trail – if you can go on a weekday morning, I’d recommend it.  I also recommend checking the Maker’s Mark website for directions, because our GPS took us the wrong way.

6. Heaven Hill (Bardstown)

Tasting $18; specialty tastings available.

Heaven Hill does not have an on-site distillery, but you can learn about the history of Heaven Hill, see the on-site rickhouse, and (obviously) have a bourbon tasting.

On a recent visit , we decided to go for the  connoisseur  experience. It included a brief video "tour", five tastings and a bourbon ball.

This stop was really just a tasting and not a full tour, and we were only there about 30 minutes.

7. Jim Beam (Clermont)

$28 per person tour and tasting; specialty tastings available.

The Jim Beam Distillery was one of the most well-run, informative tours on the trail.

If it's been a while since you've visited, know that Jim Beam has opened an expanded visitor center, with new tasting rooms and a restaurant!

The tour included their distillery and rickhouses, a chance to  taste the mash of fermenting grains , and a chance to  smell or taste undiluted bourbon straight from the barrel .

We could also clean an empty bourbon bottle (by washing it with bourbon, of course) , set it on the bottling line, and then add the wax seal, if purchasing a bottle.

Jim Beam definitely had  the most tasting options — including their classic bourbons, single barrel bourbons, and flavored whiskeys.

The  tasting glass  is included in the tour price.

8. Bulleit (Shelbyville)

$25 per person tour and tasting; $20 per person for tasting only ; specialty workshops available.

We went to the Bulleit Distillery on a Monday morning, and had a tiny tour group and a fantastic tour!

The most enjoyable part (other than sampling four bourbons) was listening to the guide tell us about the history of the bourbon industry .

I’d highly recommend this tour!

9. Evan Williams (Louisville)

$18 per person tour and tasting; specialty tours available.

Evan Williams provides the  most unique Bourbon Trail tour I’ve been on .

There’s no large distillery on site, and you only get a brief glimpse of the small artisan distillery.  Even so, it's an enjoyable, incredibly interesting tour.

The entire tour felt like walking through an  interactive play, with rooms turned into reproductions of old Evan Williams buildings and historical Louisville .  A lot of the tour was via videos shown as the guide led you from room to room.

The tasting included  three bourbons and a bourbon ball .

The Speakeasy experience was sold out when we got there, but seemed similar to the Heaven Hill connoisseur tour (which makes sense, because Heaven Hill is the parent company for Evan Williams).

You’ll see a lot of the same bourbons available to buy at both locations.

New Distilleries on the Bourbon Trail

So much for the nine original distilleries on the Bourbon Trail!

Before we get to my favorite off-trail experience, here's a round-up of the newest distilleries that have been added to the official trail in the past few years.

Michter's (Louisville)

$25 tour and tasting at Fort Nelson Distillery, specialty tours available.

Stitzel-Weller (Louisville)

$25 tour and tasting; specialty tastings and classes available.

Old Forester (Louisville)

$32 tour and tasting; specialty tour available.

Rabbit Hole Distillery (Louisville)

$25 tour and tasting.

Angels Envy (Louisville)

$25 tour and tasting; specialty tours and tastings available.

Bardstown Bourbon Company (Bardstown)

$22 tour and tasting; specialty tours, tastings and classes available.

Specialty tastings and programs available at new Louisville tasting room.

Lux Row Distillers (Bardstown)

Complementary rickhouse tour and tasting; specialty tour and tasting available.

Wilderness Trail (Danville)

$15 tour and tasting.

Green River (Owensboro)

$20 tour and tasting; $12 tasting ; specialty tour and tasting available.

10. Off-Trail: Buffalo Trace (Frankfort)

Buffalo Trace Distillery Grounds

While I was researching the Bourbon Trail, one distillery kept popping up – the  Buffalo Trace Distillery .  It wasn’t on the trail, but it did look exciting!

I contacted Buffalo Trace, and they had me over for a tour and for one of their über fancy  Craftsman Dinners .

It’s in an incredibly nice area downtown, perfect for strolling and visiting local shops.

All the tours at Buffalo Trace are – get this – FREE!

And of course, you get to sample a few spirits, and Buffalo Trace’s version of Irish cream.  (Faaaabulous!)

Complementary tours and tastings in this day and age almost seem too good to be true — but it IS true, and that's why the Buffalo Trace calendar books up ridiculously quickly when a new month's worth of tours are released. If you're not able to snag a spot, you can go on the waitlist.

What Tours Does Buffalo Trace Offer?

Buffalo Trace has THE BEST tour variety of any other distillery we visited.

They have a standard Trace tour, a Hard Hat tour, a Historic Landmark tour, and the Old Taylor tour.

We did the Old Taylor tour, which included a tour of the archaeological ruins of an old bourbon distillery!  It was – without question – the most unique distillery tour I’ve been on!

I will be back, Buffalo Trace!   I’ve got my eye on the hard hat tour!

What about you?  Have you been on a Kentucky Bourbon Trail Tour?  What did you think?  Let me know in the comments!

Want to see EVEN MORE bourbon?  Browse all of my bourbon recipes!

↓ Bourbon Trail Basics ↓

Graphic listing the distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

More Kentucky Food + Drink Destinations

Heaven Hill Distillery with old-fashioned truck in front.

About Sarah Trenalone

Sarah is the primary creator at Champagne Tastes. She's a photographer, food writer and traveler, and is certified in Backcountry Kitchen and Backcountry Navigation from the Colorado Outward Bound School and Identifying Wild Plants from Backpacker.

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Cynthia Rusincovitch

September 14, 2016 at 3:54 am

This sounds like an amazing adventure. My hubby and I would have a blast.

November 09, 2016 at 8:25 pm

Ok, I honestly didn't even know this existed! My hubby would LOVE to do something like this (although quite a ways for us from Canada lol) Perhaps an anniversary gift!!!

champagne-tastes

November 09, 2016 at 8:26 pm

Ooo it's so fun!! It would be an amazing anniversary trip! (Actually- it's one of our top anniversary vaca spots lol)

November 10, 2016 at 1:18 pm

Ah you love Bourbon too! It's not always that I find my women friends who like bourbon. Such a cool post. <3 Such a cool trail.

November 10, 2016 at 1:48 pm

Haha yes I do!!! And thanks!

Go check it out!!

Lisa | Garlic & Zest

February 19, 2018 at 9:27 am

Sarah -- I had no idea they gave tours of the distilleries in Kentucky, but now that I know, it's a destination spot for me. My extended family is from Martinique in the Lesser Antilles and it's where the acclaimed Rhum Agricole is distilled. We were there a few years ago and did rum tours for a solid week. It was so much fun. I would love to experience this tour -- and the countryside looks beautiful!

February 19, 2018 at 9:30 am

Ooo rum tours in the islands sounds amazing! And yes!!! Come on over and tour the distilleries here- it’s so much fun! (And I’m partial but I’ll agree that the countryside is gorgeous ????????)

Dawn - Girl Heart Food

February 19, 2018 at 12:13 pm

How fun is this?? Hubby really enjoys bourbon and I do too! The prices for the tours are really reasonable too ????

February 21, 2018 at 10:33 am

Such a very informative item you did here Sarah. My husband and I love bourbon from time to time, especially Four Roses, we would love to visit the distillery. The surrounding countryside looks beautiful too, seems like a wonderful journey to make.

February 24, 2018 at 10:16 am

This has always been on my bucket list, and someday it will happen, right?! Thanks for sharing all this information, and I will be keeping it it mind for when we finally do go! Bourbon lovers unite!

March 21, 2018 at 9:48 am

Make it happen Leah!!! lol

February 25, 2018 at 6:14 am

I haven't heard of this before. It sounds fantastic. I'm with you on the hard hat tour. Exploring is probably my favorite thing to do of all time so if it requires a hard hat, I'm there. Do you go underground for that tour?

Megan Marlowe

February 25, 2018 at 8:15 pm

Holy cow, I had no idea the Kentucky bourbon trail existed. I mean I knew you could tour some distilleries but I didn't know there were several! This would be a fabulous, romantic trip for my husband and I (we love brewery tours) and we have always wanted to go to Kentucky and check out the scenery, eats and people! Thanks for planning out next vacation!

February 26, 2018 at 10:16 am

I had no idea that 95% of bourbon was produced in Kentucky! That's kind of amazing! I think these kinds of tours, especially being able to see behind-the-scenes, are a great experience and so fascinating to learn about. Especially since the bourbon production must have significantly shaped the culture of the surrounding area! Love the pictures you shared!

February 27, 2018 at 9:15 am

I have wanted to do this for SO long! This is such a fantastic guide and I'll definitely be referencing it when I finally plan my trip. I can't believe how affordable it is, too! I assumed the tours and tastings would be much more expensive. I absolutely love that little perk at Maker's Mark where you can have your name engraved in a barrel. How fun is that?!

March 21, 2018 at 9:46 am

It's super fun! We signed up for the barrel engraving.. but I have no idea how many years I have to wait LOL

March 13, 2019 at 12:20 pm

Hi there - Handful of questions: What did you do for transportation? Did you hire a driver? Where did you stay? Any recommendations? And do you have any more recommendations on where to eat? Thanks!

March 13, 2019 at 3:42 pm

Great questions!! I'll see if I can help 😀 1- We drove. They don't give you more than maybe one shot total (if that) at any of the distilleries (the samples are pretty small, maybe 1oz). Most of the distilleries have really pretty grounds or neat gift shops, so you could always walk around in there for a little while before driving again! 2- Most of the distilleries are nearby either Louisville or Lexington. Louisville has some really cool old (but expensive) hotels, like the Galt House, the Brown, and the Seelbach. If you're on a budget, I'd look for a deal on a hotel in Lexington for part of the time, and Louisville for other half of the distilleries. 3- It depends on what you're looking for! There's a little Korean place in Lexington that I LOVE (Han Woo Ri), but there's also some cool chef dinner experiences at a few of the distilleries (I know Maker's Mark and Buffalo Trace both do them).

I hope that helped a little!! Let me know if you've got more questions 🙂

March 14, 2019 at 5:58 pm

Thanks so much! I'm planning a big group trip for Memorial Day Weekend and these tips will go a long way as I narrow down our itinerary.

March 14, 2019 at 10:13 pm

Have fun!!! Try to book distillery tours online where they let you- that’ll be a busy weekend. Let me know if you have more questions!

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A Trip Through Kentucky’s Bourbon Country

A spirited jaunt through the heart of Bluegrass State reveals its growing whiskey landscape

By Tom Wilmes

February/March 2024

A man wearing a black vest and hat golds a whiskey sour at a black-topped bar. Walls of bottles are tucked into shelves behind him.

Photo: EMILY DORIO

The parking lot of the Party Source, a massive liquor store in Newport, Kentucky, might seem an unlikely location for an award-winning craft distillery. But as my friend Will Hinkle and I pull into the lot, New Riff Distilling ’s gleaming copper still, ensconced in a sleek glass tower, commands attention. We learn during our early afternoon tour that a hundred-foot-deep well taps into a limestone-filtered aquifer beneath the distillery, which helps explain why Party Source’s former owner Ken Lewis decided to build it right here in a corner of the lot. Naturally stripped of iron and sulfides, the mineral-rich well water is ideal for cooking ground grains to ferment and distill into bourbon. Flowing from the earth at a constant fifty-eight degrees, it’s also circulated throughout the distillery as an energy-efficient means of cooling hot liquids.

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Founded in 2014 as the ongoing bourbon boom was still gaining traction, New Riff takes an innovation-within-tradition approach to its whiskey. We taste that in a pour of Bohemian Wheat, an eight-year-old bourbon made with malted, unmalted, and dark wheat in addition to the requisite corn. It’s an anomaly, yet its honeyed sweetness and bready undertones captivate with nuanced simplicity. It’s also indicative of the diversity of modern approaches Will and I aim to uncover over the next three days as we explore bourbon country from Northern Kentucky through the heart of the state.

“Distilleries today are primarily concerned with consistency, but it’s the inconsistencies of the past that make these bourbons so interesting”

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Driving up Monmouth Street to Pensive Distilling Co. + Kitchen , opened in 2021, we notice blocks of new-looking restaurants, bars, and boutiques interspersed with empty storefronts that stand out like missing teeth. After lunch at the microdistillery and restaurant (try the Strike the Gold burger, dressed with house-made bourbon barbecue sauce), we visit its second-floor speakeasy, where we learn that during Prohibition, Newport was a haven for bootleggers, gangsters, and general lawlessness. More recently, it stood as a largely blighted suburb of Cincinnati. But these days, Newport and neighboring Covington are undergoing their own bourbon-fueled booms. Will and I check in at Hotel Covington , which completed a $26 million expansion last spring, transforming a former YMCA building next door into luxe all-suite accommodations.

After a quick refresh, we walk a block to Revival Vintage Bottle Shop . Kentucky’s legislature passed a law that went into effect in 2018 allowing licensed retailers to buy and sell vintage spirits—anything that’s no longer in production today. Co-owned by Shannon Smith and Brad “Dusty” Bonds, Revival keeps at least a hundred bottles available for tasting behind the shop’s copper-topped bar, and its single-room retail space is stocked floor to ceiling. Will and I select half-ounce tasters of an I.W. Harper distilled in the 1970s ($15) and a private-label bourbon made for the Watergate Hotel in 1968 ($10), and we splurge on a 1977 Rebel Yell and a 1941 Old Timbrook (both $40). Each pour drips with personality, the flavors ranging from rich butterscotch to the woody musk of an old rickhouse. “Distilleries today are primarily concerned with consistency,” Bonds says, “but it’s the inconsistencies of the past that make these so interesting.”

Our table at the recently opened Opal Rooftop Restaurant & Bar overlooks the Ohio River and Cincinnati skyline. Over Redux cocktails (a Manhattan riff made with rye, sweet vermouth, pistachio liqueur, and a barspoon of torched maple syrup) and a dinner of wood-fired steak and dry-aged duck breast, Will and I talk about how early Kentucky distillers like Jacob Spears, an ancestor of Will’s, relied on the river to float flatboats laden with barrels downstream to drinkers in New Orleans and ports beyond. We’re both relatively sober, so with the car already parked for the evening, we enjoy a Sazerac made with a New Riff barrel pick at Hotel Covington’s hip cocktail bar before turning in.

If New Riff represents a modernist approach to bourbon, then Neeley Family Distillery , forty-five miles south in Sparta, is a proud continuation of its (often illicit) past. As we wait in the rustic visitor center for a late-morning tour, Will and I examine a detailed family tree, newspaper clippings, and a display of rifles and homemade stills that trace the family’s eleven generations of moonshiners and bootleggers, and at least one fatal family feud. Royce Neeley and his father, Roy, took the family business legit in 2015, and today the distillery uses traditional pot stills to make a variety of bourbons, rye whiskey, and ’shine from old family recipes, producing around two barrels a day. I particularly enjoy a single-barrel bourbon accurately dubbed “caramel apple” during a post-tour tasting, so I fill and label a bottle to take home.

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Roughly following the Kentucky River south, we meander through small towns and stretches of rolling countryside on our drive to Millville for lunch at the Stave . Over old-fashioneds and smoked bologna sandwiches topped with chowchow, we reminisce that not long ago, a traditional tour at Woodford Reserve (just down the road), Four Roses , or a handful of other distilleries was pretty much the extent of the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail when it was founded in 1999. Today it includes forty-six distilleries across the state and various ways to experience them.

Castle & Key , our next stop, is a prime example. E. H. Taylor Jr. built the original facility in 1887 as the Old Taylor Distillery, envisioning a destination known as much for the beauty of its grounds as its bourbon. It shut down during Prohibition, like dozens of others in the state, and lay in ruins when Castle & Key’s founders bought the property in 2014. The full tour begins by the keyhole-shaped peristyle and spring Taylor built, takes you through the clang and hiss of the stillhouse, past the crumbling foundation of Warehouse A (now planted with seasonal herbs and botanicals), and into the world’s longest rickhouse. But even visitors who haven’t booked a tour can walk the botanical trails, laid out by the Kentucky landscape designer Jon Carloftis, or sip a cocktail at the renovated Taylorton Station, where guests arriving by train once disembarked.

It’s just a short drive to Lexington’s Manchester hotel, which opened last summer in the city’s burgeoning Distillery District. A quick Uber ride takes us to Fresh Bourbon . One of Kentucky’s first Black-owned distilleries, it opened its downtown tasting room in 2022. Heavy velvet curtains draw back to reveal a brightly lit room with leather stools and a long cream-colored bar top with marbled accents and pops of gold. “We wanted to create a space inviting not only to men but also to women,” says Tia Edwards, Fresh Bourbon’s co-owner with her husband, Sean. The bourbon features a hefty addition of honey malt in its four-grain recipe, and the tasting explores its sweet and savory interplay by pairing sips with pecans, cinnamon cereal, and other nibbles before we choose from a variety of bitters to make a customized old-fashioned.

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Constitution Rare & Antique Books —a dark, club-by speakeasy—makes for a stark but no less inviting contrast. Will and I enter through a door secreted in a bookcase and sit at a small bar tucked at the front of the cozy lounge. We chat with beverage director Rusty Wright as he methodically mixes a Smoking Gun, made with a split base of Rittenhouse rye and Mellow Corn whiskey with espresso liqueur and orange and cardamom bitters, and finished with a flaming spritz of expressed orange oil. Stirring another cocktail, Wright explains that he’s feeling for a chill on the side of the Yarai mixing glass and watching for the ice to drop slightly. “Cocktails are romantic, but making them can be intimidating,” he says. “We’re here to bring an educational component to the experience.”

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We can’t resist a stop at Lexington’s Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse , with its red-velvet chairs, colossal chandeliers, and a Wildcat-blue piano perched in the middle of a massive U-shaped bar. As we sip barrel-aged Manhattans and devour large cuts of seared meat, it feels like a throwback to the bourbon-and-cigar lifestyle. But bourbon lovers today encompass a wide range of people and tastes.

I notice this the following day on a tour of Kentucky Cooperage in Lebanon, one of three such factories owned by Independent Stave Company , founded in 1912. Our group includes men and women of varying ages and backgrounds. We watch as workers shape seasoned staves of white oak into the new, charred barrels required for aging bourbon. As barrels emerge from the char tunnel, a cloud of smoke reminiscent of toasted marshmallows wafts over the group. “We don’t make the whiskey,” says tour guide Pat Daugherty, “but we do make the flavor.”

More than eleven million barrels of bourbon are currently resting in Kentucky alone, up some three million from a few years prior. As the bourbon industry continues to expand, ensuring a sustainable supply of white oak trees—which can take eighty years to reach maturity—is becoming ever more critical. We get a glimpse at efforts toward a more sustainable bourbon future at our last stop, nearby Maker’s Mark, on a new tour of its Star Hill Farm , which the distillery introduced last summer.

Founders Bill and Margie Samuels purchased the farm’s original acreage when they started the distillery in 1953, primarily to protect the water source used to make its bourbon and to stay close to the grains. Today the farm supports an interrelated ecosystem. Advocacy and experience manager Amanda Humphrey leads us through a garden with varietals like purple peas and alpine strawberries used in cocktails and dishes at the distillery’s restaurant. We pass a rock quarry where they’re growing mushrooms, and she points out clusters of bee boxes, explaining how pollinators and rotational grazing among the farm’s Wagyu cattle and sheep help to replenish the land. “You’re probably thinking to yourself, ‘What have mushroom quarries and bee boxes got to do with bourbon?’” she says. “I think the best way to describe it is that bourbon is an agricultural product. If we’re not good stewards of our land, we’re not going to be down here in two hundred years’ time making whiskey.”

We look toward a distant hillside planted with neat rows of white oak seedlings. Working with the University of Kentucky’s Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, the distillery collected more than four hundred varieties from across the tree’s range to plant the world’s largest white oak research forest. The goal is to study the trees’ growth, longevity, and resistance to drought and disease to improve the genetics of the species. We head down a short path to a majestic white oak known as the “mother tree,” estimated to be at least three hundred years old. Scientists used samples from this tree to map the white oak genome for the first time in 2021, and saplings from it are also now growing in the research forest. “We’ll all be long gone by the time this comes to fruition,” Humphrey says of the project. “It’s an investment in future generations, which I think is a beautiful thing.”

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Thirsty for More?

See Nine of the South’s Best Whiskey Bars , Seven Women Brining Bourbon into the Future , and more at G&G’s Guide to the Bourbon Boom .

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The 22 Best Things To Do In Lexington, Kentucky

Whether you go for the bourbon trail, horse country, or a city getaway, Lexington is perfectly placed.

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Explore Horse Country

Follow the bourbon trail, check out the city, where to eat, where to stay, make a rural pitstop.

Getty Images/Chris Boswell

It's easy to overlook Lexington at first, in the shadow of Louisville , which gets most of the attention thanks to the Kentucky Derby and Whiskey Row. Yet, Lexington quietly enjoys the spoils of being a thriving town set in the ecologically stunning Kentucky landscape. From  bourbon distilleries  and horse racing to breezy Bluegrass hills and a vibrant downtown, you're never short on places to explore and local businesses to duck into. Lexington is perfectly placed for a getaway with so many activities to put on your list, no matter if you go during the blooming spring, colorful autumn, or snowy winter.

 Here are the best things to do on your next trip to Lexington, Kentucky.

Tour Keeneland Race Track

Dubbed a National Historic Landmark, Keeneland has helped keep the tradition of Thoroughbred racing alive for over eight decades. Moreover, the lush grounds are expertly crafted and kept up and worth a visit on their own. Year-round, you can book a morning tour that shows the early training sessions, as well as teaches guests about the history of Keeneland and thoroughbred racing.

keeneland.com , 4201 Versailles Rd, Lexington, KY 40510

Attend the Keeneland Races

The horse-racing events in Kentucky are set apart from other sporting events due to the pomp and circumstance that surrounds them. Spectators are expected to dress to the nines—hats, ascots, and all—to sip on mint juleps and bet on quirky-named horses. At Keeneland, you can plan a visit during the Spring Meet or Fall Meet.

Visit a Retirement Home for Racehorses

At Old Friends , a retirement farm for Thoroughbreds whose careers have ended, Michael Blowen gives racehorses the best kind of Kentucky retirement. When Blowen decided to start a retirement farm for racehorses, people were skeptical. "They all thought I was nuts," he says. Today, Blowen oversees three farms that serve as the residence for 260 retired or elderly horses. You can visit the main facility at Dream Chase Farm in Georgetown, Kentucky, and get the chance to meet past champion horses.

oldfriendsequine.org , 1841 Paynes Depot Rd, Georgetown, KY 40324

Reserve a Tour at Famed Horse Farms

Prestigious operations such as  Claiborne Farm ,  Spy Coast Farm , and  Ashford Stud  (home of Triple Crown winners American Pharoah and Justify) offer a fleeting glimpse into a largely exclusive world. You're able to book public group tours ahead of time, and therefore craft your own itinerary. During the tours, expect to learn the history of often generational horse farms, meet past champion horses, and take in the scenic views.

Take Advantage of Kentucky Horse Park

Opened in 1978, the Kentucky Horse Park is the world’s only park dedicated to teaching people about horses and helping take care of and showcase the majestic animals. During most of the year, the park is home to up to 100 horses representing more than 25 different breeds. While you can explore the museum, visitor's center, and horse stalls, there is no better way to immerse yourself in horse culture than embarking on the guided 35-minute trail ride, which is suitable for first-time riders and takes you along the outskirts of the park.

kyhorsepark.com , 4089 Iron Works Pkwy, Lexington, KY 40511

Tour the Reader-Voted "South's Best Distillery"

There are 46 stops that make up the  Kentucky Bourbon Trail , but amongst the many options, make sure to plan a visit to what our readers previously voted the "South's Best:" The Woodford Reserve Distillery . The official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby, Woodford Reserve has garnered icon status since its founding in 1812, and even still uses a track system from the 1800s to roll barrels into the warehouses. Tours include bourbon tastings, and a visit to the Woodford Reserve Welcome Center comes with excellent cocktails and expert pours, as well as sweeping views from the veranda.

woodfordreserve.com , 7785 McCracken Pike, Versailles, KY 40383

Taste More Than Just Bourbon

Beyond just bourbon, there are some distilleries offering a unique range of distilled products.  Castle & Key Distillery , located half an hour from downtown Lexington in Frankfort, also offers tastings of its in-house gin and vodka that will appeal to those who don't prefer bourbon. Make sure to roam the gorgeous grounds that once housed the Old Taylor Distillery, a romantic castle built in the 1800s.

castleandkey.com , 4445 McCracken Pike, Frankfort, KY 40601

Explore More Well-Known Bourbon Legends

Fortunately, there is a distillery for practically every taste here. Heirloom distilleries such as Buffalo Trace and Maker's Mark are sure-fire delights for a bourbon lover. The  Maker’s Mark distillery is exactly what you hope a bourbon distillery will look like: a large black barn with cherry red shutters, the old homestead (now a visitors center) tucked beneath shade trees, landscaped paths, and a trickling stream named Whisky Creek. In downtown Frankfort, not far from Lexington, Buffalo Trace feels like an industrial frontier town, with most of the buildings on the 118-acre campus built before Prohibition.

Pay Visits to Small-Batch Bourbon Makers

Luckily, the industry hasn't stopped at the big names. Embark on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour to hit unique and newer small-batch labels with fresh perspectives. There are 28 stops to choose from, including Bluegrass Distillers which has a downtown Lexington location available for visits. For those hitting the road, family-run  Brough Brothers Distillery —the first Black-owned microdistillery in Kentucky—offers tasting and tours in the Park Hill area of Louisville, only a little over an hour's drive away from Lexington.

Spend an Evening in the Distillery District

The  Distillery District —housed in the Historic James E. Pepper Distillery, which had previously sat abandoned for five decades—is now the place to go to have a little tour of everything that Lexington has to offer, including working bourbon distilleries, restaurants, bars, and shops. Make a stop at the Barrel House Distillery , a craft distiller on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail; try authentic Kentucky burgoo at the Elkhorn Tavern ; and listen to music at Manchester Music Hall , which is located in the circa-1800s bourbon warehouse of Old Tarr Distillery.

lexingtondistillerydistrict.com , 1228 Manchester St, Lexington, KY 40504

If You Haven't, Try Ale-8

Ale-8-One—called Ale-8 for short—is a gingery, citrusy soft drink that tastes like a crisper, more mellowed take on ginger beer, and it's the only Kentucky-invented soft drink still being produced. The first batches were bottled in 1926, making it over 90 years old. Head to the downtown rooftop of  Belle's Cocktail House , and order a "bourbon & Ale-8."

bellesbar.com , 156 Market St, Lexington, KY 40507

Explore Downtown Lexington

Downtown Lexington has plenty of entertainment to spend a day exploring. On weekends, stop by the Lexington Farmers' Market. Peep the many murals throughout the city blocks. Head to The Square —a block of renovated Victorian-style buildings—to see the art scene at  Plymale Gallery ,  Main Cross Gallery , and the  Artist Attic . On the same block as the 21c Museum Hotel is  Bourbon on Rye , a modish take on a moody bourbon bar, where some truly well-versed bartenders will happily guide you without breaking the bank.

Enjoy Southern Cuisine at Dudley's On Short

A Lexington institution for nearly 40 years, Dudley's On Short is the perfect spot to grab a Southern-inspired upscale lunch or dinner, located in a circa-1880s bank. No meal is complete without "Dudley's Eggs," which are the perfect deviled egg bites to split. The brunch-and-lunch menu has standout shareables, including bacon beignets and smoked trout dip.

dudleysonshort.com , 259 W Short St #125, Lexington, KY 40507

Start or End Your Day at Pearl's

A bagel shop by morning and pizza-and-wine bar by evening, Pearl's in downtown Lexington is our kind of all-day café. The breakfast bagels are hand-rolled and honey-boiled, and the wood-fired pizza is delightfully poofy and charred, perfect for sharing with family and friends with a bottle of all-natural wine, which the restaurant specializes in.

pearlspizzapie.com , 133 N Limestone, Lexington, KY 40507

Indulge in Kentucky Barbecue at Blue Door Smokehouse

You'll find the best brisket in the area at Blue Door Smokehouse , hands down. Opened in 2013 by two Lexington natives, this BBQ joint doles out sandwiches and plates piled high with the smoked meats of your choice. Ask for the "Blue Door Special" to sample all the proteins in stock on any given day.

bluedoorsmokehouse.com , 226 Walton Ave, Lexington, KY 40502

Try the Latin Cuisine at Corto Lima

This Latin-inspired restaurant is run by James Beard-nominated chef Jonathan Lundy. At Corto Lima , you can expect a mix of flavor-packed dishes, such as shrimp ceviche, adobo chicken, and rock crab empanadas. Start with a batch of guacamole and a house margarita to wash it all down.

cortolima.com , 101 W Short St, Lexington, KY 40507

Grab a Slice at Missy's Pies

A local favorite since 1989, Missy's Pies offers the best homemade slices of delectable pies in town. Flavors vary according to day and season, but look out for customer-beloved options such as the chocolate-and-peanut butter "Combo" Pie, Black Bottom Banana Pie, and Coconut Cream Pie.

missyspieshop.com , 502 E High St, Lexington, KY 40502

Courtesy 21c Museum Hotel

Stay at an Award-Winning Museum Hotel

Located in downtown Lexington, the artsy  21c Museum Hotel is housed in a historic bank building. Except now, it offers such contemporary perks as a contemporary art museum and a notable in-house restaurant,  Lockbox . Explore the exhibits between comings and goings.

21cmuseumhotels.com/lexington , 167 W Main St, Lexington, KY 40507

Stay in the Distillery District

Located in Lexington's restored Distillery District walkable to the many restaurants and shops, The Manchester feels perfectly suited to the historic and soulful nature of Lexington. The interiors' supple leather and rich, earthy tones mimic the surrounding Bluegrass hills and Kentucky Bourbon Trail distilleries. The hotel offers 125 rooms with a bespoke bottle shop, lobby bar, and two in-house dining options—Appalachian-inspired Granddam—and rooftop bar Lost Palm.

themanchesterky.com , 941 Manchester St, Lexington, KY 40508

Stay at a Hip Pet-Friendly Hotel

The Elwood Hotel is adorned with a colorful mural on the front facade, and you can expect similar energy on the inside with vibrant art and decor. The 62-room boutique hotel is also welcoming to those with pets and has an in-house restaurant. Fiddletree Kitchen & Bar, located in the lobby, is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for indoor dining, as well as an outdoor terrace with firepits. 

theelwoodhotel.com , 444 Parkway Dr, Lexington, KY 40504

Stop for Lunch at Wallace Station Deli

Make a pit stop at  Wallace Station Deli  near Midway, one of well-known Kentucky chef Ouita Michel's places. The 15-minute drive to Wallace Station from the highway will take you past some of the area's showiest horse farms. Order one of the Inside Out Hot Browns (their take on a  classic Kentucky sandwich ) and a cold bottle of Ale-8.

wallacestation.com , 3854 Old Frankfort Pike, Versailles, KY 40383

Tour the Kentucky Castle

One of the more unique landmarks you'll come across while driving around Kentucky's bourbon trail and horse country region, the Kentucky Castle offers various experiences, including tours of the castle grounds, themed dinners, or farm days. You can even stay on the grounds for an extra magical trip.

thekentuckycastle.com , 230 Pisgah Pike, Versailles, KY 40383

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