Making a stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail

July 25, 2014

in Travels

Kentucky bourbon trail Heaven Hill distillery barrel.


Kentucky bourbon trail Barrels of bourbon aging in the rickhouse.


Kentucky bourbon trail Bourbon ready for the tasting.


Kentucky bourbon trail Our tour guide Billy Joe explains the finer points of tasting bourbon.


In the midst of the rolling fields, horse farms and limestone of Lexington, Kentucky, lies the Bourbon Trail. While I grew up taking trips to this part of the US,  it’s been a long time since I’ve been there. I wanted to go and reconnect with my “roots” as my mother is from just south of there and also to see the landscape and sample the local food and drink.

While some of the distilleries have been around for a long time, the concept of a “bourbon trail” is a more recent phenomenon and there are many new additions.  So I was curious to check out that Kentucky product too. (As a kid, I was more interested in the horses and the legend of Daniel Boone than the bourbon.)

With my parents, I went to the Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center in Bardstown where Evan Williams, Elijah Craig and Larceny bourbon are produced. According to our tour guide Billy Joe, this area has all the ingredients necessary for making bourbon: corn, pure limestone springs, white oak for the barrels and a combination of hot summers and cool winters to age the sour mash.

I did not know much about making bourbon beyond the fact that it was made with corn, so I felt like I learned a lot from the tour. We got to see a working rickhouse where we were surrounded by 20,000 barrels of aging bourbon. In an open rick warehouse, the windows open and close to help age the bourbon. And the best  bourbon is above the fifth floor as it gets hotter and thus apparently ages better there.

At the end of the tour, we got to sample three of the bourbons. As Billy Joe said:  “Now you can taste a bit of heaven.”  Spending time in “heaven” was not at all a bad way to spend an afternoon.


Kentucky bourbon trail Elijah Craig bourbon.


bourbon trail And two more Kentucky bourbons from Heaven Hill.


Kentucky bourbon trail No bull, just bourbon.


Kentucky bourbon trail The rickhouses used to age the barrels of bourbon.

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