Now well-versed in malting, mashing, fermenting, and distilling, I moved onto the second day of my Bourbon Trail tour ready to hit the distillery tours (and tasting sessions) at some of the best bourbon makers in the country: Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam, and one of the distilleries on the Craft Bourbon trail—Limestone Branch. And if a belly full of bourbon wasn’t enough, we rounded it out with a mini-pub crawl through Louisville. (Don’t worry, the best stops are included below!)
Touring the Kentucky Bourbon Trail
Stop Five: Touring the Maker’s Mark Distillery
The weather in Kentucky on our second day was so perfect, it’s hard not to be biased. That said, I think Maker Mark was my favorite distillery experience of the trip. This may be because I’m in advertising, and was fascinated by their brand story, which they tell excellently as you wander the property. (I mean, just check out the details in the shutters, below!) Maker’s was also the only tour that took us into the bottling area. While it wasn’t in operation because of the weekend, we did get to see where they dip each bottle of Maker’s Mark into a vat of red wax, creating the trademark seal. By far the best part of Maker’s was dipping my own bottle at the end of the tour. In fact, you can dip anything you purchase at the gift shop in red wax. We saw a few baseball hats, glassware, flasks, and a ton of different bottles go into the vat.
The Maker’s property is also really beautiful—a creek (named “Whisky Creek” of course) runs through it, the buildings are painted a rich brown with vibrant red shutters, and the whole feel of the place was very cozy and welcoming. Their visitor’s center did a great job telling the Maker’s story, with Harry Potter-esque talking portraits that gave you a preview of the personalities that shaped the brand.
Address: 3350 Burkes Spring Rd, Loretto, KY 40037 [Full disclosure: this place was a DRIVE and a half, so prepare lots of time. On the plus side, there was some beautiful scenery along the way.]
Stop Six: Trying craft bourbon at Limestone Branch Distillery
Limestone Branch is technically on the Craft Bourbon trail, but we wound up only tasting their White Lightnings on our visit. White Lightning, White Dog, Moonshine…they were used interchangeably during our trip to describe the high proof liquid that is first distilled before it gets aged in the barrels and comes out as bourbon whiskey. It smells delicious, but boy will it put some hair on your chest! Limestone Branch had softened that shudder-inducing taste by infusing their ‘shines with a variety of fruits and flavors—my favorites being the ones based on Moon Pies, another Southern treat. The chocolate one was to die for, perfect for a dessert drink. They also had a jalapeno moonshine, which our guide assured us is delicious in Bloody Marys. It tasted delicious as-is, too—so good, in fact, that a bottle of it came home with us. Limestone Branch is really small, but if you’ve made the drive out to Maker’s, it’s only a few miles away and certainly worth the stop.
Address: 1280 Veterans Memorial Hwy, Lebanon, KY 40033
Stop Seven: Jim Beam Distillery Tasting and Tour
The Jim Beam distillery was the last stop on our tour—we, unfortunately, didn’t make the full passport this time. Even more unfortunately, we missed the tour due to the length of the drive from Limestone Branch to Jim. We did get to do the tasting, though, in their modern tasting barn. Their property was also really fun—a series of little barns each designated to a different purpose. They are their own cooperage too, so one barn was dedicated to making barrels. Pretty neat. The tasting was pretty unique—just imagine a vending machine that pours bourbon and you’ll get a pretty good idea. Jim Beam makes and distributes the higher-shelf Knob Creek, which is absolutely delicious and their special edition Jim Beam Single Barrel is must-have for any bourbon lover’s bar. We rounded out our self-guided tour at their on-premise BBQ shack, Fred’s Smokehouse, for some brisket sliders and mac n’ cheese.
Address: 526 Happy Hollow Rd, Clermont, KY 40110
Price: FREE (for tasting)
Stop Eight: Louisville Bar Crawl
Rounding out the day, a quick run through Louisville to get a taste of the scene. My three favorites below!
Troll Under the Bridge: Great beer selection, lots of TVs to catch the March Madness madness, neat history
Sidebar: Swanky atmosphere, delicious bourbon cocktails, cool theme (a sidebar is when lawyers approach the judge to conference in the courtroom)
Bluegrass Brewing Company: Local brewing company, amazing food (we ate dinner there—their burgers were amazing), chill vibe
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