You haven’t enjoyed a true taste of America until you’ve tried bourbon. Big, rich and bold; it embodies its title as America’s ‘native spirit’ completely—so it comes as no surprise to us that Kentucky produces 95% of the world’s supplies. Hitting the Bourbon Trail on a road-trip to Kentucky’s top distilleries will take you past the beautiful forests, sloping meadows and limestone-filtered waterways that make this state a bourbon-making mecca. But they’re not the only distilleries out there. From the big names to the boutique, here’s a few of our favourite bourbon pit stops.
No bourbon pilgrimage is complete without a drop of Woodford. It’s one of America’s oldest working distilleries and a National Historic Landmark, so the perfect choice for history-buffs and Bourbon Trail newbies. Tour the historic facilities and sample their iconic Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, or grab your own personalised micro-batch to take and mature at home—the ultimate Kentucky keepsake.
If you prefer your bourbon in small batches then family-run Knob Creek is one of the many boutique distilleries along the trail that’s renowned for its small craft productions. The recipes to their Knob Creek Original have been proudly handed down for centuries, giving you a taster of ‘real’ pre-prohibition bourbon. Still not convinced? They also rank as ‘best bourbon’ in a number of drinks awards.
The Beam family are a Kentucky bourbon dynasty and began making the dark stuff when the state was still just a wild frontier. They still use the same ‘Sour Mash Process’ and mature their straight bourbon for four years in oak barrels to create their mellow and smooth flavour now loved the world-over.
Louisville has as long-storied bourbon heritage and now boasts its very own Urban Bourbon Trail. Evan Williams opened their artisanal distillery on the town’s Whiskey Row in 2014, and its immersive Bourbon Experience has everything a bourbon enthusiast desires: guided tours, premium tastings and the opportunity to create your own personalised bottle.
LIMESTONE BRANCH DISTILLERY
Nestled in the heart of Kentucky’s bourbon country is this quaint artisanal distillery. What it may lack in size compared to its counterparts, it more than makes up for with authentic Kentucky character. It’s run by a pair of brothers who clearly share a deep passion for the dark stuff. They’re very particular about the ingredients that go into their one-barrel batches, including only locally-sourced limestone water. The award-winning T.J. Pottinger moonshine is clearly a labour of love.
The stunning drive through the Kentucky countryside to Wild Turkey’s distilling home is all part of the experience at this, one of the state’s most renowned distilleries. Another family affair story, at its head is Jimmy Russell: the world’s longest-tenured active master distiller, and known to some as the Buddha of Bourbon. Inside the glass-clad visitor centre you’ll get to taste a fabulous bourbon line-up overlooking views of the Kentucky River, whose waters are a key ingredient.