In an effort to commemorate and promote Kentucky’s bourbon industry, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association (KDA) established the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in 1999, a road trip-style experience for bourbon connoisseurs to visit some of the Bluegrass State’s most well-known bourbon distilleries.
The trail is composed of nine distilleries that offer exciting informational tours for visitors. While some stop at just a few of the locations, if a bourbon fan’s hoping to make it to all nine, that’ll require a bit of planning as some of the distilleries are as far as 70 miles apart.
To help you make the most of your experience on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, check out some of our tips below.
1. Figure Out Your Route
This might sound simple enough, but creating a tight itinerary will help to ensure that enough time is given to each destination without feeling too rushed. The trail’s creators suggest allotting at least three days to complete a full circuit of the historic distilleries. While there’s no right or wrong way to visit the destinations, we recommend starting the adventure in Louisville, dipping southeast toward Springfield and ending in Lexington.
2. Take Advantage Of the Small Towns
Though stopping by all nine locations in one trip is guaranteed to keep visitors busy, distilleries aren’t the only things worth seeing on the trail. No matter the route, bourbon enthusiasts will pass through several quaint Kentucky towns. Bardstown, for example, is home to the world famous Kentucky Bourbon Festival and was recently named one of the most beautiful small towns in America.
3. Snag a Kentucky Bourbon Trail Passport and Keep Track of Your Stamps
At your first distillery, you’ll obtain a passport listing all nine locations on the trail. At the end of each tour, visitors will receive a stamp marking that they’ve visited the establishment. The passport isn’t just a novelty item—if a tourist is able to snag all nine stamps, they’ll get an official Kentucky Bourbon Trail T-shirt!
4. Check Out Specialty Tours
One of the great things about the trail is that each distillery experience is totally different from the next. While they’ll all offer tours of their facilities and explain their specific distilling processes, several of the establishments also have specialty tours. The Behind The Beam Experience at the Jim Beam Distillery, for example, offers visitors the chance to learn about the historic company from the founder’s great-grandson — Fred Noe — over a private tour and a special smokehouse dinner.
5. Make A Pit Stop At Keeneland
While a trip on the KBT is obviously about the bourbon, that doesn’t mean tourists can’t also indulge in another one of the Bluegrass State’s favorite past times: horse racing. Before going to the Wild Turkey distillery outside of Lawrenceburg, visit Keeneland, one of the world’s most gorgeous horse racing tracks. Stop by between 6 and 10 am any weekday to watch the jockeys practice on the track for free.