Kentucky is to Bourbon what Napa & Sonoma are to California wine. It’s THE epicenter of American Whiskey, and most importantly, Bourbon Whiskey, this country’s only true native spirit.
And just as California’s Wine Country has its wine crawl of hundreds of famous wineries, Kentucky has its Bourbon Trails.
I say trails because there are actually three uniquely different trail types, each worth exploring.
Kentucky’s Official Bourbon Trail is the most well known and is sandwiched between its two largest cities, Louisville to the west and Lexington to the east.
Between these two cities are its current eight member distilleries, and their names you’d probably recognize because they’re global brands like Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, Wild Turkey and Four Roses. The trail is a map linking all of the distilleries, showing their relative locations with some suggested itineraries.
The 2nd Kentucky Bourbon Trail is the Craft Distillery Trail or Tour. It’s also made up of eight distilleries, but these distilleries are much smaller in physical size and in yearly output and distribution. As a matter of fact, in many cases, their products aren’t distributed outside Kentucky–some no further than the distillery itself!
Craft whiskeys and bourbons are no less special than the larger distilleries. Don’t let their smaller kettles and simpler facilities fool you. These craft distillers make some truly remarkable spirits, reminiscent of the whiskeys made generations ago before the advent of the international brands. Their master distillers are literally hands on practicing their craft. You might even see them on the production floor when you visit.
If driving through the scenic, rolling hills of the Blue Grass State, past beautiful forests, streams, historic buildings and the world-famous horse country isn’t enough of a thrill, there’s yet a third trail you can enjoy. And this one doesn’t even require a car. It’s the Urban Bourbon Trail, and it’s located mostly in downtown Louisville.
The Urban Bourbon Trail is comprised of dozens of member establishments, all of which feature Bourbon not only at the bar but also in their appetizers, entrees, and even in their desserts.
In Southeast, Michigan, you might be lucky if your local watering home stocked a dozen different brands of whiskey. Most of the members of the Urban Bourbon Trail carry over 100, some 150. Chances are even if you’ve never heard of it, they will have it anyway.
Now, unlike wine country, the Kentucky distilleries aren’t lined up and down the road like row houses. But most are within 30 minutes or so of one another. To visit all eight members of the better-known Kentucky Bourbon Trail, it’s best to plan for at least three days, especially if you want to take in some tours.
The Urban Bourbon Trail (of course) can be done on foot, so you’re only limited by how fast you can walk (or crawl) around town.
Wait! There’s more!
Besides the incentive of sampling some of the best whiskey in the world (free samples); besides gazing at some of the most beautiful countryside in America; besides the horses, the great restaurants, and all the things to do from Louisville to Lexington; the kind folks of the Urban Bourbon Trail have something they’d like to give you for free. And it’s just for playing along (as they say on the game shows).
Before you take your first sip, whenever or wherever that might be, ask for your official Bourbon Trail Passport.
Actually, there are three different passports, each with its own free gift if you visit the required number of member establishments.
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail–Get your passport stamped at all eight distilleries, and get an Official Kentucky Bourbon Trail T-Shirt.
The Kentucky Craft Tour (Trail)–Visit all eight Craft Distilleries and get a Classic Kentucky julep cup.
The Urban Bourbon Trail–This one lets you off a little easier. Get your passport stamped at just six of the many participating establishments, and you’ll:
a) Earn the rank of Official Bourbon Country Citizen and get a certificate
b) Get an Official Urban Bourbon Trail Blazer T-shirt
No matter which trail you choose, you’ll be rewarded with great memories.
Even if you’re a teetotaller or whiskey isn’t your drink, it’s still a don’t-miss experience for the history and great food alone. You don’t have to drink bourbon to get your passport stamped. The program is free, and there’s no time limit for completion. On the Urban Bourbon Trail, there IS the requirement of a purchase at each location, but it doesn’t have to be Bourbon or even alcohol.
If you’d like to see some clips from my recent Bourbon Trail trip to get a taste of what it’s all about, click below.
For even more information about these Bourbon experiences, here are some helpful links:
Kentucky Bourbon Trail
Kentucky Bourbon Craft Tour /Trail
Louisville Urban Bourbon Trail Official Travel Source