The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is a collection of eighteen bourbon distilleries located in and around Louisville. If you want to tour all eighteen distilleries, you need a minimum of seven days.
However, there is a lot more to do in this part of Kentucky than just tour bourbon distilleries. Enjoy the nightlife in Louisville, drive through scenic bluegrass Kentucky, watch a horse race at Churchill Downs, visit the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, or spend the night in a historic tavern.
Whether you just have a few days or an entire week, we have some great ideas for how you can plan your time. In this article, learn how to plan your Kentucky Bourbon Trail itinerary, with suggestions on where to stay and what else to add in as you tour the trail.
Quick Facts about the Kentucky Bourbon Trail
There are eighteen distilleries on the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Each of these bourbon distilleries must be a member of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, which requires paying a fee. There are many distilleries you can visit in Kentucky that are not part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. One of these is the very famous Buffalo Trace Distillery (which we include on this itinerary).
For the most part, the distilleries are located in and around Louisville, Lexington, and Bardstown. Green River is the outlier, located almost two hours west of Louisville, in a small town named Owensboro.
There is also the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour. On this tour, you visit micro-distilleries and this takes an additional week to visit all of these distilleries. In this article, we focus on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, not the Craft Tour, although you can add these distilleries into your trip if you like the idea of visiting smaller distilleries.
For most people, a mix of tours and tastings is the best way to experience the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Most tours teach you the same process about bourbon distilling, with a few differences at each distillery. It gets to be repetitive. Fortunately, the distilleries are getting more creative with their activities, and some are now offering cocktail classes, food pairings, and in-depth behind-the-scenes tours.
Map of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail
Below is a map of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. The red markers are the seventeen distilleries on the trail. The blue markers are restaurant recommendations, Buffalo Trace Distillery, and other notable experiences to add into your Kentucky Bourbon Trail itinerary.
How to Use This Map: Click the icons on the map to get more information about each point of interest. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.
About this Kentucky Bourbon Trail Itinerary
This itinerary is organized into seven different daily itineraries. Pick your favorites and group them together to form your itinerary, whether you have 2, 3, or more days.
Near the end of this article, I will give you suggestions on how to group these days together in order to have the best experience.
You will also notice that on some days I have included more than just distillery tours. Day after day, distillery tours can get to be monotonous. So, it’s nice to break up distillery visits with other experiences. There are some other very cool things to do in this part of Kentucky and I didn’t want to leave those out.
Where to Stay?
If you are only planning a quick visit to Kentucky (3 to 4 days tops), I recommend choosing one place and making this your home base. Louisville is the most logical choice, with its relatively central location, abundance of hotels and restaurants, and easy access to the airport. However, if you like the idea of getting outside of the city, Bardstown also makes a nice option.
If you are planning a week-long trip, then I recommend in staying in two to three places. This will minimize your driving and let you stay in the small towns in Kentucky.
At the end of this article, we list specific hotel and B&B recommendations for Louisville, Bardstown, and Lexington.
Main Street, Louisville
Kentucky Bourbon Trail Itinerary
#1 Louisville: Intro to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail
This day includes three must-visit distilleries on Whiskey Row with suggestions for Louisville’s best eats. If you only have one day on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, the combination of these three tours hits the most important steps in the distilling process.
Most of this day is walkable. To get to Evan Williams and/or to get back to your hotel, consider driving or using Uber (we used Uber while in Louisville and kept our car parked at our hotel).
Morning: Evan Williams Experience. On this immersive tour, travel back in time to 1783, when bourbon distilling got its start. This is the best historical lesson about the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and a great place to get an overview of how bourbon came to be.
Lunch: DISH on Market or Doc Crow’s Southern Smokehouse and Raw Bar
Afternoon: Take a tour at Old Forester Distillery. Old Forester is the only bourbon to be continually sold by the same company before, during, and after prohibition. Their first bottled bourbon dates back to 1870.
This is a must-see tour. The tour is very well done and you get to see a few things that many tours do not include. The tour includes a walk through their cooperage, where you get to see how the barrels are made. You also get to see the bottling line in action. Make sure you do this Tuesday through Saturday before 5 pm, when the cooperage and the bottling line are in operation.
After touring Old Forester, it’s a short walk to Angel’s Envy.
Angel’s Envy. Angel’s Envy puts a twist on whiskey distilling. This distillery features bourbon finished in port wine barrels and rye whiskey finished in rum barrels.
Angel’s Envy offers two tours. Their signature tour is a one-hour tour of the distillery. The Inside the Barrel Tour focuses on the finishes of their bourbon and whiskey. This tour not only includes an in-depth tasting of their products but you also get to taste unfinished Rye whiskey directly out of the barrel.
I recommend taking the Inside the Barrel Tour. Tasting whiskey right out of the barrel is a unique experience and not offered at many distilleries.
Dinner: Mayan Café. It’s a short walk to the Mayan Café. This is one of our favorite restaurants in Louisville. Dine on Central American food prepared by the chef who grew up on the Yucatan Peninsula.
Jack Fry’s and the Brown Hotel Lobby Bar are also great options. To get here, drive or use Uber.
For more restaurant recommendations, check out our article Best Eats in Louisville.
#2 Louisville: Distilleries + Museums
This day includes the remaining distilleries in Louisville with the option to add on one or two museums.
Optional: Breakfast at Toast on Main. This is our favorite breakfast spot in Louisville. From here, it’s a short walk to the Rabbit Hole Distillery.
Morning: Rabbit Hole. This ultra-modern distillery is located in Nulu (New Louisville). This is a beautiful distillery. Tours last one hour and end with a tasting.
Lunch: Walk, drive or Uber to the Mussel & Burger Bar, another one of our favorite restaurants in Louisville.
Afternoon: Louisville Slugger Museum and/or the Muhammed Ali Center. Take a quick break from bourbon tasting and take your pick from these two amazing museums. If you move fast, you have enough time to visit both in the afternoon.
Evening: Michter’s Distillery. Take a late afternoon or early evening tour of Michter’s Distillery. The 1 hour Discovery Tour ends with a tasting, and a chance to mix your own cocktail, at their bar on the second floor.
Dinner: Proof on Main. Walk across the street to Proof on Main. If you are still craving more bourbon, this restaurant is famous for their cocktails and bourbon and whiskey flights.
For more ideas of what to do in Louisville, read our article about the best things to do in Louisville.
#3 Green River and Stitzel-Weller Distillery
This is the biggest driving day on this Kentucky Bourbon Trail itinerary. Green River sits out in Owensboro, almost a two-hour drive from Louisville. However, there are few places to visit out this way, if you are interested.
Morning: Stitzel-Weller Distillery. This distillery is located in Shively, very close to downtown Louisville. Take the first tour of the day to give yourself enough time to get to Green River.
Afternoon: Green River. The distilling process at Green River is very innovative and a visit here is worthwhile if you want to learn about a unique way to distill bourbon. The bourbon and whiskey at Green River spend less time in the barrel than at most distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. However, the spirits are further refined with their patented TerrePURE process. This is an ultrasonic process that removes impurities and improves the quality and taste, speeding up the refining process without spending years in the barrel.
Note: Green River is located in the Central Time Zone. Louisville and the rest of the bourbon trail are located in the Eastern Time Zone.
As you drive back to Louisville, you have the option to stop at the Lincoln Boyhood Home and National Museum and/or Santa Claus, Indiana. Santa Claus is a small town filled with Christmas-themed hotels, shops, restaurants, and even an amusement park.
PRO TRAVEL TIP: When planning your Kentucky Bourbon Trail itinerary, check the distilleries’ websites for updated hours and tour availability. Hours vary by day of the week, with more tour times on Fridays and Saturdays. Some distilleries are closed Sunday, Monday or Tuesday. I give links to each distillery in these daily itineraries.
#4 Best of Bardstown
Say goodbye to Louisville and head south to Bardstown. After touring the three distilleries, you can either return to Louisville or spend the night in Bardstown.
In no particular order, the three distilleries to visit in Bardstown are Lux Row, Bardstown Bourbon, and Heaven Hill. Your timing depends on which experiences you choose to have at each distillery.
Bardstown Bourbon. Our favorite experience on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail was the cocktail class at Bardstown Bourbon. During this one-hour class, we mixed two cocktails: the Kentucky Mule and the Sazerac. It was educational, lots of fun, and a great way to “tour” another distillery without taking a tour. This cocktail class is only offered once a day, so if you like this idea, plan your other distillery visits around this class.
If you don’t want to take a cocktail class, Bardstown Bourbon also offers a one hour tour that starts with a tasting and ends with tasting straight out of the bourbon barrel. They also offer seasonal classes and tours, so make sure you check their website to see what they are offering during your visit.
Lux Row. We loved everything we tasted on this tour (as did many other people we spoke to who were also touring the trail). One of the highlights of this tour, other than the tasting, was standing inside of their rickhouse. At Lux Row, the first few rows of the rickhouse are removed, forming a small “lobby.” Standing here, you get to appreciate just how many barrels sit on the shelves of a rickhouse. And the smell is amazing!
Heaven Hill. Heaven Hill is one of the biggest bourbon distilleries, producing Evan Williams and Elijah Craig.
For lunch and/or dinner, we recommend Bottle & Bond, the restaurant at Bardstown Bourbon. The food is delicious!! The Old Talbott Tavern, located in Bardstown, is also a great pick. It is said to be the oldest western stagecoach stop in America and legend has it that Jesse James left behind bullet holes in the tavern.
#5 Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam, & the Kentucky Cooperage
Spend the day visiting two big names in bourbon and a tour of a cooperage.
Morning: Maker’s Mark. Maker’s Mark is a must-visit on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. This was our favorite tour 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.
For lunch, dine at Star Hill Provisions at Maker’s Mark or Ragetti’s Italian Food in Lebanon.
Kentucky Cooperage. Monday through Friday, tours are offered at the Kentucky Cooperage (1 pm is the latest tour time). The barrel making process is a key element in bourbon distilling, and this is the best place to learn all about it, since many distilleries get their barrels here.
Jim Beam. Jim Beam has two locations on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail: the American Stillhouse, which is located in Clermont, and the Urban Stillhouse, which is located in downtown Louisville. You can take a tour and get a stamp in your passport at either location. We visited both but prefer the American Stillhouse. This is a beautiful property with a lot of tour and tasting options.
Optional Detour: Abraham Lincoln Birthplace. Abraham Lincoln was born in a one room log cabin in Hodgenville, Kentucky in 1809. A memorial now stands at his birthplace. Inside of the memorial is a symbolic log cabin, a historic replica of the one that Abraham Lincoln first lived in. It is not the actual log cabin of Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace. If you have an interest in Abraham Lincoln or American history, this is a worthwhile visit.
Sleep in Louisville or Bardstown.
#6 Woodford Reserve, Wild Turkey, Four Roses & Wilderness Trail
Woodford Reserve, Wild Turkey and Four Roses are clustered together near Lexington. Wilderness Trail sits a bit farther away, in Danville. Louisville, Bardstown, and Lexington make a great home base for this day (and day number 7 below).
Woodford Reserve. 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.
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.
Four Roses. Four Roses distillery was built in 1910 and features Spanish Mission-Style architecture, a rarity in Kentucky. 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.
Wilderness Trail is the newest member on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. We have not visited this distillery yet but have been drinking their bourbon for quite some time. For tour information, visit the Wilderness trail website.
#7 Bulleit, Buffalo Trace, and Town Branch
Visit the final two distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, plus one notable bourbon distillery that is not part of the official trail, Buffalo Trace.
Bulleit Distilling Company. Built in 2017 and open to visitors in 2019, this brand-new distillery features modern, state-of-the-art technology. This Bulleit facility offers a handful of different tours, tastings and cocktail classes. We opted to take the 30 minute Unlocking the Senses tasting, where we sample four Bulleit whiskeys.
Buffalo Trace. Buffalo Trace, located in Frankfort, is one of the most famous bourbon distilleries in Kentucky. Surprisingly, it is not part of the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Why not? Rather than paying the fee to join the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, they prefer to offer free tours and tastings to their visitors.
A visit to Buffalo Trace is definitely worthwhile when you are in the area, even if it is not officially on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Many people state that the Buffalo Trace tour is their favorite in Kentucky.
Lexington Brewing Company. Located in Lexington, this bourbon distillery also produces beer. Lexington Brewing Company offers a wide variety of tours as well as a mixology class.
Tonight, sleep in Louisville, Bardstown, or Lexington.
Putting This All Together
Kentucky Bourbon Trail in 1 Day: Follow day #1, where you get a great overview of the distilling process and get to visit three distilleries in Louisville. Sleep in Louisville.
Kentucky Bourbon Trail in 2 Days: Follow days #1 and #2. If you like the idea of getting out of Louisville for the day, I recommend day #1 plus day #4 (the Best of Bardstown) or day #5 (Maker’s Mark and the Kentucky Cooperage). Sleep in Louisville.
Kentucky Bourbon Trail in 3 Days: Follow days #1 and #2. Take your pick from day #4 (the Best of Bardstown), day #5 (Maker’s Mark and the Kentucky Cooperage), or day #6 (Woodford Reserve, Wild Turkey, Four Roses, and maybe Wilderness Trail). Sleep in Louisville.
Kentucky Bourbon Trail in 4 Days: Follow days #1 and #2. Sleep in Louisville. Follow day #4 and #5, sleeping in either Bardstown or Louisville.
Kentucky Bourbon Trail in 5 Days: Follow our Kentucky Bourbon Trail itinerary for four days, and add on day #6 (Woodford Reserve, Wild Turkey, and Four Roses).
Kentucky Bourbon Trail in 6 Days: Follow our itinerary for 5 days and add on day #7 (Bulleit, Buffalo Trace, and Lexington Brewing Company).
Kentucky Bourbon Trail in 7 Days: This is our day by day itinerary listed above, in the same order, with suggestions on where to stay.
- Day 1: Intro to Louisville (Evan Williams, Old Forester, and Angel’s Envy); sleep in Louisville.
- Day 2: Louisville and Museums (Rabbit Hole, Louisville Slugger Museum, Muhammed Ali Center, and Michter’s); sleep in Louisville.
- Day 3: Stitzel Weller Distillery and OZ Tyler. Sleep in Bardstown.
- Day 4: Best of Bardstown (Lux Row, Bardstown Bourbon, and Heaven Hill). Sleep in Bardstown.
- Day 5: Maker’s Mark, the Kentucky Cooperage, and Jim Beam. Sleep in Bardstown.
- Day 6: Wilderness Trail, Four Roses, Wild Turkey, and Woodford Reserve (this is done in the opposite order from what is listed above, since you will drive from Bardstown to Lexington along this route). Sleep in Lexington.
- Day 7: Town Branch, Buffalo Trace, and Bulleit. Sleep in Louisville.
Bonus! Three Days in Louisville
If you have three days in Louisville, follow our day #1 and day #2 itineraries above. On the third day, watch the horse races at Churchill Downs. It is a very fun thing to do and it was one of our highlights on our first trip to Kentucky.
Races do not run year-round. Check the Churchill Downs website for the race schedule before you go.
LUXURY: The Brown Hotel. This is Louisville’s landmark hotel. It has received accolades from Conde Nast Traveler, Southern Living, and Travel & Leisure. In 2008, it was Historic Hotels of America’s top pick. If you want to stay in a historical, luxurious hotel in Louisville, your hotel search can end right here. Even if you don’t plan on staying here, a drink in the Lobby Bar is a must-do while in Louisville.
UPSCALE: 21c Museum Hotel. Artsy, unique, contemporary…this is another top pick in Louisville. It’s centrally located, so you can walk to many of the sights and distilleries on Whiskey Row. This hotel’s onsite restaurant, Proof on Main, is one of Louisville’s best restaurants and bars. There is even an art museum located inside of the hotel. Plus, it’s easy to find. Just look for the giant, golden David statue out front and you know that you are in the right place.
MIDRANGE: Homewood Suites. If you want a hotel with an awesome location and one that gets great reviews, the Homewood Suites is one to consider. It’s located right around the corner from 21c Museum Hotel, so you can walk to many sights in downtown Louisville. Tim and I stayed here on our most recent visit to Louisville and we had a very nice experience here.
BUDGET: Holiday Inn Express and Suites Downtown Louisville. This hotel also gets great reviews and has an excellent location. If you are looking for a highly rated hotel and don’t want to spend a lot of money, this is a great option. Tim and I stayed here on our first visit to Louisville in 2016.
HISTORIC: Talbott Tavern and Inn. This inn has been welcoming guests since 1779. Andrew Jackson, Henry Harrison, and King Louis Phillippe have all stayed here. It is even rumored to be haunted by the ghost of Jesse James.
HISTORIC: Jailer’s Inn Bed & Breakfast. The Old Nelson County Jail housed prisoners from 1797 until 1987. Now, you can stay in a colonial style room in this very same building.
BUDGET: Hampton Inn Bardstown. This budget hotel gets good reviews and is conveniently located in Bardstown.
UPSCALE: 21c Museum Hotel Lexington. This is more than just a hotel, it is also an art museum. Rooms are modern and trendy and there is an onsite restaurant.
MIDRANGE: Staybridge Suites Lexington. Located just outside of Lexington, stay in a suite or one-bedroom apartment, perfect if you like having extra space or a kitchenette.
BUDGET: Glo Best Western Lexington. This hotel gets excellent reviews on Booking.com. Prior guests rave about cleanliness, comfort, and location.
More Information on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and Louisville
If you have any questions about this Kentucky Bourbon Trail itinerary, let us know in the comment section below.
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