Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Best Distilleries to Visit on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Julie United States 16 Comments

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is hot right now! Bourbon is booming and during the past several years bourbon sales have been increasing exponentially. With the increasing popularity of bourbon, tourism is up in Kentucky. What better way to learn about and sample bourbon than on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail?

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is a collection of ten whiskey distilleries. All of these distilleries offer tours and tastings. On the tours, learn how bourbon is produced, hear about the history of the distillery, and end with a bourbon tasting. It’s a fun, interactive glimpse into this important piece of Kentucky history and it is a great way to spend a weekend.

See them all or pick your favorites. Take the tour or just do a tasting. There is no right way to see the Kentucky Bourbon Trail as long as you have a good time.

We visited nine distilleries during a November weekend in Kentucky (the 10th distillery, Angel’s Envy, was added after our visit to Kentucky). Here is what you can expect at the distilleries.

Distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Evan Williams Bourbon Experience

The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience is located in Louisville, right on historic “Whiskey Row.” Its location makes it the perfect place to start your tour if you are staying in Louisville.

Evan Williams offers the most technically advanced tour, complete with videos, immersive exhibits, and a walk through “old Louisville.” Travel back in time to 1783, to the very early days of Louisville, where you will learn about the early history of bourbon and this area of Kentucky. A visit to Evan Williams is educational and entertaining. At the end, sample three different bourbon whiskeys in one of their cozy tasting rooms.

Bulleit Frontier Whiskey

Also known as the Stitzel-Weller Distillery, this distillery is located in Louisville. Bulleit has been in operation since 1935 but just opened to the public in 2014. They specialize in high-rye bourbon whiskey. The facility has a historic look and feel to it. Tours are offered Wednesday through Sunday between 10 am and 3 pm. They do not offer a tasting unless you join the one hour tour.

  • Where: 3860 Fitzgerald Road, 5 miles from downtown Louisville
  • Tour Price: $12
  • Website: bulleitexperience.com

Bulleit Frontier Whiskey

Bulleit

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey produces one of the most popular bourbons in the US and one of the best selling bourbons in the world. Tour the distillery, see the hundreds of barrels inside of the rickhouses, and maybe meet legendary Jimmy Russell while you are here. Jimmy, the master distiller at Wild Turkey, is the world’s longest tenured active master distiller. We met him while on tour, a friendly, down-to-earth man enthusiastic about producing great bourbon whiskey.

Wild Turkey Distillery Tour

Wild Turkey got its name during a hunting trip in 1940. The executive of Wild Turkey shared his bourbon with his friends…while hunting wild turkey.

Definitely do this tasting! For those who are not bourbon drinkers, a sample of American Honey may be something to tickle your tastebuds. We hear it’s great on pancakes so we brought some home to test out that theory!

Wild Turkey Bourbon

Four Roses

Four Roses distillery was built in 1910 and features Spanish Mission-Style architecture, a rarity in Kentucky. Take a tour here to learn the very interesting history of Four Roses. During the mid-20th century, Four Roses was the top selling bourbon in Japan but it could not be purchased in the US, even though it was being produced in Kentucky.

While we were here, there was a lot of onsite construction so Four Roses offered shortened tours. We opted to pay for a tasting rather than take the tour. While you are doing your tasting, ask to see the poster of Four Roses in Times Square. You probably never noticed that Four Roses was captured in this very historic photo.

Four Roses

Four Roses Distillery

Town Branch

Also known as Alltech Brewing & Distilling Company, this bourbon distillery also produces beer. They offer one hour and fifteen minute tours where you can learn about their bourbon and beer production, ending with a tasting. The only way to do a tasting is to take a tour. Or you can just visit their gift shop, which is what we did.

We did not get the same friendly, welcoming vibe at Town Branch like we did at other distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. The man working the gift shop was distracted and aloof. Plus, being located in Lexington, it was a bit of a drive from the other distilleries. If we skipped one place on the Bourbon Trail, it would be Town Branch.

Town Branch

Woodford Reserve

Woodford is the oldest and smallest distillery on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. To get here, it is a gorgeous drive through horse farms and rolling, bluegrass Kentucky hills. This is a distillery to put high on your list.

Woodford Reserve has a historic, upscale feel to it. It is a National Historic Landmark property and they offer several different tours depending on your level of interest. You can elect to skip the tour and just do a tasting instead. We passed on the tour at Woodford and I regret it. However, the tasting was awesome.

Tim and I had a private tasting out on the deck overlooking the historic buildings of Woodford Reserve. We sampled two of Woodford’s bourbons and both were excellent, some of our favorites on the whole Bourbon Trail. The setting and the delicious bourbon made this our favorite tasting experience.

Woodford Reserve Bourbon Tasting

Tours at Woodford are the most expensive on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, starting at $14. In fact, we spent $8 just to do a tasting, and that included only two bourbons. But it was worth it…you have to try the Woodford Reserve Double Oaked bourbon. Yum!

Woodford Reserve Tour

Jim Beam American Stillhouse

Come as a friend, leave as family…this is the motto behind Kentucky’s largest bourbon producer. The Beam family is the most influential family in the history of bourbon making. They have been in the business for over 200 years and helped establish several other bourbon distilleries.

Jim Beam Stillhouse

The Jim Beam American Stillhouse is the location of the Jim Beam Distillery. On their 90 minute tour, the longest tour on the Bourbon Trail, learn the entire process of the production of bourbon, ending with a tasting. This is a very popular tour so their website states that a reservation is required at least two days before your visit.

Jim Beam also offers a shorter, 45 minute tour called Bourbon 101, where you get a brief lesson of Beam history and the distilling process with a tasting at the end. Reservations are not currently required for this tour. Or you can simply purchase a drink at the Bourbon Bar and skip the tour. This is exactly what we did.

Many people rave about the Jim Beam tour and tasting. During the tasting, you get to choose from a variety of whiskeys from self-dispensing machines. Like Wild Turkey, Jim Beam offers flavored whiskey  which may appeal to some visitors.

Jim Beam tasting

Tim at Jim Beam

Jim Beam also has an Urban Stillhouse located in downtown Louisville, located on 4th Street Live. A bourbon educational experience and tasting is offered here. You can get your Jim Beam stamp in your Kentucky Bourbon Passport at either location.

  • Where: Clermont
  • Tour Price: Distillery Tour $14, Bourbon 101 $10
  • Website: jimbeam.com

Maker’s Mark

For an amazing experience, make sure you visit Maker’s Mark. This was our favorite tour on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail for several reasons. The tour gives a fabulous insight to the making of bourbon, the property is gorgeous, the history behind Maker’s Mark is intriguing, and the bourbon is delicious.

If you visit one distillery on the Bourbon Trail, make sure it is Maker’s Mark.

Makers Mark Bourbon Trail

To get to Maker’s Mark you will drive through rural Kentucky. One lane roads snake through the hills and farms, and Tim and I were wondering if we were going to the right place! Seemingly in the middle of nowhere is the beautiful property of Maker’s Mark.

We took the first tour at 9 am on a chilly Saturday morning. For one hour we walked through the property, learned the history behind the making of Maker’s Mark, tasted the sour mash right out of the distilling vats, and ended with a tasting. The entire tour was fascinating, entertaining, and dare I say inspiring?

In the gift shop, you can personally hand-dip a Maker’s Mark bottle of bourbon in red wax. This makes the perfect souvenir to bring home.

Makers Mark wax dipping

Maker’s Mark offers a Distillery tour (which we took) and several specialty tours tours, such as a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on at the distillery and one that offers a class on mixing drinks with bourbon.

  • Where: Loretto
  • Tour Price: $14 for the Distillery Tour
  • Website: makersmark.com

Makers Mark copper barrels

Makers Mark Tour

Makers Mark tasting

Makers Mark Christmas

Heaven Hill

The Old Heaven Hill Springs Distillery opened in 1934, just after the end of Prohibition. Since that time, the company has expanded to overseeing a range of bourbon labels, such as Elijah Craig and Evan Williams. In 1996, the distillery in Bardstown burned to the ground and has not been rebuilt. The rick houses at the Bardstown location are used to store the Evan Williams bourbon that is distilled in Louisville.

There are two tours that include tastings, the Mashbill Tour and the Connoisseur Experience. Since there is no longer an active distillery, we opted not to take the tour. Instead, we explored the onsite Heritage Center, which is a great place to get an overview on the history of bourbon in Kentucky.

Heaven Hill

Heaven Hill Bourbon

Angel’s Envy

Angel’s Envy was added to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in February 2017. This distillery features whiskey aged in Port Wine barrels. The distillery is located right on Main Street in Louisville.

Tours are by reservation only. Angel’s Envy is closed on Tuesday.

  • Where: 500 E Main Street, Louisville
  • Tour Price: $20
  • Website: angelsenvy.com

Kentucky Bourbon Trail Passport

At your first distillery, pick up a Kentucky Bourbon Trail Passport. All ten distilleries are listed inside, with space for your own notes and a stamp from each distillery. If you collect all ten stamps you can redeem your passport for a Kentucky Bourbon Trail T-shirt. What’s not to love? You get to sip bourbon at ten different distilleries and then get a T-shirt to proudly show off your accomplishment!

Kentucky Bourbon Trail passport

Our Recommendations

We spent two days on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. During our time, we did not take a tour at every distillery, however, we did visit all of them (except for Angel’s Envy, which was not part of the official Bourbon Trail during our visit). Ten tours is a lot to fit into one weekend, and honestly, they do get repetitive, as most tours teach you how bourbon is produced. By the time you get to the 9th distillery, you may begin to think you could be a master distiller!!

In order to take a tour at all ten distilleries you will need three days. For most people, a mix of tours and tastings is the ideal visit, which can be done in two very busy days if planned appropriately.

With limited time, especially if you have no desire to take a tour at all ten distilleries, here are our must-see distilleries.

  • Best All Around Experience: Maker’s Mark
  • Best Tasting Experience: Woodford Reserve
  • Best Chance to meet the Master Distiller: Wild Turkey
  • Best Tour for Families: Evan Williams Bourbon Experience
  • Best Bourbon Whiskey: Come tour the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and find out for yourself!

For even more information, read our guide about the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, filled with information about how to have the best experience, and ideas for more activities in the local area.


Complete your trip to Louisville, Kentucky with these 2 articles:

12 Best Things to do in Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville Restaurants: The Best Eats in Town


Kentucky Bourbon Trail best distilleries

Comments 16

  1. I am planning a trip for my boyfriend and wanted to know are the distilleries within walking distance of each other? Also which hotels are close to the distillery or would you have an actual address of one that is in the center of them all so that I could look up hotels. We would just be going for 2 days so I’d like to make the most of the trip.

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello Wanda. Unfortunately, the distilleries are not within walking distance of one another. Most of them are spread out over Kentucky, mainly between Louisville and Lexington. There are several distilleries in Louisville, but even then, you will need a car to get to some of them (for example, Bulleit is located a bit outside of the city center). We stayed in Louisville but Lexington also makes a nice home base. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out our guide to the bourbon trail because it has a lot of practical info like itineraries and where to stay. Cheers, Julie

  2. Hi- I am planning a visit to Kentucky Bourbon Trail for my husband’s birthday in Aug 2019. Is this is a good time for this trip, as i know many distilleries are not distilling during that time. Is 3 days enough time for this trip? Can we also cover Mammoth Cave?
    I love your blog, photography and life of your wanderlust Family.
    Thanks,

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello Deb. Yes, 3 days is enough for the Bourbon Trail (that is how much time we spent). If you want to add on Mammoth Cave, you probably need a chunk of 6 hours, to allow for travel time to and from Louisville plus time for the tour. So, you could tour Mammoth Cave in the morning and then do a little bit of the bourbon trail, or Louisville, that afternoon. Just check distillery hours. In August, it will be warm, and you’re right, I don’t think the distilleries will be running, but it is still worth it. It’s a really fun way to spend 3 days, especially if your husband likes bourbon. Since it is summer, it is worth booking your tours in advance, especially Makers Mark, just to save you time waiting for tours and to avoid missing out if a tour becomes sold out for the day. Cheers, Julie

  3. Julie,
    We are going in May and want to stay in Louisville. Which hotel would you recommend? Our ultimate goal is to trailer our motorcycles from Virginia and use them as our primary mode of transportation to the distilleries. What do you think? Parking rates seem a bit high. Thanks Your blog is great

    1. Post
      Author

      I’m glad you like our blog. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Suites in downtown Louisville. They offer parking and you could contact them to get their rates. This hotel has a great location within walking distance of the main sites in Louisville as well as some great restaurants. We use Booking.com to find and book our hotels, so you could also search Booking (the link I gave you is an affiliate link to Booking.com). Getting around to the distilleries by motorcycle sounds fine. Have fun! Cheers, Julie

    1. Post
      Author

      Yes, we love Buffalo Trace, especially their Bourbon Cream. But since it’s not one of the distilleries on the “official” Kentucky Bourbon Trail we did not include it in this post. But it gets a big mention in our KBT Guide. Cheers, Julie

  4. Great info! I’m heading there soon and couldn’t seem to find anything with all the things I needed in one place. Then I found this post! Thank you for taking the legwork out of this journey. Cheers! -Mike P.S. – Nice Photos

  5. Hi Julie, When I read the throwback post on this tour, I shared it with Dave and we decided to make the trip. We drove, starting in Lexington and ending in Louisville. It was a lot of fun, educational and beautiful country. We got stamps from all ten distilleries in the passport and took the actual tour in most. Even though it may seem redundant, we learned something new with each one. We liked Town Branch, it was the first one we visited and our guide was great. With 4 tasting chips each, you could split them up between the beer and the bourbon. We also checked out a couple not listed in the passport and would highly recommend touring Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort. It is the oldest, continuously running distillery in the state. And their tour and tasting is complimentary.

    1. Post
      Author

      It’s funny how two people can go at different times and have a very different experience. We did not get the same warm, welcoming vibe at Town Branch as we did at the other distilleries…I guess it’s just who you get as a guide on a given day. I am glad you had a better experience there. Tim and I loved Buffalo Trace…it was also one of our favorites (since it was not an official Kentucky Bourbon Trail distillery, we wrote about in our Bourbon Trail guide rather than in this post). Did you try the Bourbon Cream?! Delicious! Thanks for writing in! Cheers, Julie

  6. Do you have any lodging recommendations based on your visit? Especially for the area around Wild Turkey and Woodford Reserve. Thank you!

    1. Post
      Author

      Louisville was our home base and we stayed here the whole time. You could look into staying in Lexington since that is closer to those 2 distilleries. Cheers, Julie

    1. Post
      Author

      We got this map (along with the passports) at the first distillery we visited. They are available at all of the distilleries on the Bourbon Trail. – Julie

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