Three cities offer multiple ways to get a behind-the-scenes look at Kentucky Bourbon history, production, culture, and flavor.
Covington, Frankfort, and Bardstown are the best answer to the common question of where to stay when exploring Kentucky Bourbon Country. With easy access to 21 distilleries—most within minutes of one another and none more than a two-hour drive apart (with plenty of others in between them)—plus an almost countless array of other bourbon-centric venues, you can spend your visit enjoying authentic bourbon experiences rather than sitting in your car anticipating them. Whether you’ve got three nights, nine, or plan to stay however long it takes to visit every distillery and bourbon-centric place you can find, we’ll keep you busy.
Whether you prefer to explore by foot or while riding around, whether you want to explore on your own or would rather have a guide, dozens of intriguing tour options are available that provide additional insights into bourbon’s backstory, greatest hits, and current playlists. We’ve rounded up a few of the possibilities.
Kentucky Bourbon Distillery Tours
Bourbon lovers from connoisseurs to newbies can learn a lot on a distillery tour. Most distilleries host tours and tastings; while themes vary, on most every tour you can expect to learn the history of the founding family and brand, glean insights into mash bill recipes and production techniques used, see the equipment that transforms grain to liquid, visit rickhouses to see aging barrels, and sip the results at a tasting bar. At key points, you’ll hear stills clanging and chugging, sniff sweet and sour mash, get a pleasant whiff of the evaporate known as the Angel’s Share, and taste America’s Native Spirit.
Reservations are recommended for distillery tours; typically, you can check available dates/times and book your reservation on the distillery’s website.
Covington offers five distilleries as part of The B-Line, Northern Kentucky’s unique bourbon tour:
- Boone County Distilling Co., which honors bourbon history and proclaims it’s “made by ghosts” of distillers who paved the way, offers a guided tasting (from $9) and a one-hour grain to glass experience (from $14) Tuesdays through Sundays at its distillery in Independence.
- Neeley Family Distillery, a small family-owned operation in Sparta, offers guided 1.5-hour tours and tastings for $20 every Monday-Saturday at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. and on Sundays at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. If you don’t have time to tour, tastings are available at each half hour for $15 per person.
- The Old Pogue Distillery, where fifth and sixth generation Pogue family members produce bourbon using time-honored family recipes, offers tours that typically last 40-60 minutes on select dates that include the chance to taste bourbon and rye inside the historic family home. You can also visit the nearby Old Pogue Experience in downtown Maysville at The Kentucky Gateway Museum and enjoy tasting Old Pogue bourbon and rye for $5 each.
- New Riff Distilling, where traditions meet innovation in Newport, offers a bonded tour through the distillery’s nooks and crannies for $20, a barrel proof tour and tasting through the warehouses for $35, a grain to glass tour and tasting with New Riff’s co-founder Jay Erisman for $45, and a blend experience to create your own bottle of bourbon for $90.
- Second Sight Spirits, where artisan distillers aim to present local products in new ways, offers a distillery tour and tasting from $14 and a “séance” evening of drag, burlesque, and cocktails from $10. The distillery is located in Ludlow.
Beyond The B-Line, Covington offers easy access to additional distilleries:
- Bird Distillery in Augusta honors history with its aged and un-aged whiskeys. It’s also home to Baker-Bird Winery, the oldest wine cellar in the U.S.! Current visiting hours are 1 to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
- And Pensive Distilling Co., in Newport produces and bottles spirits on site and operates as a distillery, bar, and restaurant. It offers 45-minute tours on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from Noon to 8 p.m. and Sundays from Noon to 2 p.m. Tours include single barrel bourbon samples along with stories of Newport’s bootlegging history. The tours are free, you just need to book at least one hour in advance.
Frankfort is home to four distilleries:
- Buffalo Trace, the world’s most award-winning distillery and the nation’s oldest continuously-operating distillery, offers several distinct one-hour tours, all complimentary, with at least one option available every day of the week. The Trace tour steps inside the bottling hall, the expansion tour explores the growing behind-the-scenes production areas, the bourbon barrel tour journeys from distillery to dump room, the arboretum and botanical gardens tour showcases seasonal plantings surrounding a historic 1934 residence, the Old Taylor tour (aka “Bourbon Pompeii”) reveals the founder’s personal history as well as his original facilities, recently discovered and excavated. The hard hat tour and National Historic Landmark tour are both currently on hiatus during construction and expansion projects but will be available in future. Short on time? You can also skip tours and head straight to a complimentary tasting or simply stroll the property. You can also head straight to the gift shop for all things Buffalo Trace and see what bottles are for sale—every day there are three to four different options for sale.
- Castle & Key, a new operation inside the renovated Old Taylor Distillery that holds over 100 years of distilling history, hosts a one-hour distillery experience that explores the property indoors and out for $30. Tours are offered every 30 minutes from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Thursdays through Sundays.
- Glenns Creek Distilling, an artisan producer inside the former Old Crow Distillery, offers a one-hour visitor experience for $15 that includes select samplings of bourbons and other specialty spirits. You can also book a private hour with the distiller for $300 for the chance to sip a collection of spirits as well as taste some experimental products (which is why this is also known as the ‘guinea pig tour.’)
- Whiskey Thief Distilling Co., a small craft distillery on a 122-acre farm, offers a 45-minute uncut and unfiltered tour of the still house with a sampling of up to five bourbons and/or whiskeys straight from the barrel for $35. Taste something you love? You can fill your own bottle at an additional cost.
Just a short drive from Frankfort are five more distilleries:
- Bulleit Distilling Co., a new stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, offers several tours at its facility in Shelbyville. The one-hour Frontier Whiskey tour is a full tour and tasting for $22. Short on time? Opt for the 30-minute tasting that promises to unlock your senses. Compare three different single barrel samples in a private tasting room for $40. Learn how to make a smoked old fashioned at home for $40 or how to infuse bourbon for $45. You can also ‘whet your palette’ with a paint-n-sip workshop for $45. After the tour you can stay to sip cocktails, play board games, or even create a custom bottle label at the design kiosk.
- Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg, the only bourbon distillery that combines five proprietary yeast strains with two separate mash bills to produce ten distinct bourbons, welcomes visitors for tours Wednesdays through Sundays. A new one-hour single barrel flight tasting experience showcases four bourbons for $45; the 1.25-hour distillery legacy tour explores the distillery and grounds with a guided tasting flight for $22; a taste of history is a guided flight without a tour from $16. Special seasonal events are also sometimes offered.
- Jeptha Creed in Shelbyville uses old fashioned methods to craft spirits for modern tastes using locally-grown and -sourced ingredients to the extent possible. The one-hour bourbon experience offers a look inside the barrel barns and includes a personalized tasting straight from the barrel for $45; tours are offered every two hours from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and Noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays. A mixology class offers instruction on how to make two cocktails for $35 with a souvenir rocks glass; on Fridays and Saturdays the vodka class is at 2 p.m. and the bourbon class is at 4 p.m. The free 30-minute spirits tasting features quarter-ounce pours of three different bourbons and original moonshine; it’s offered Thursdays through Saturdays on the hour from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from Noon to 4 p.m.
- Wild Turkey in Lawrenceburg, where master distillers have stayed true to a tradition from before Prohibition, offers tours at the Wild Turkey Visitors Center that will resume once some renovations are complete. In the meantime, visit the historic Station Master’s House gift shop on Wednesdays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from Noon to 4 p.m. for tastings. To inquire about tours, email email@example.com.
- Woodford Reserve in Versailles, a National Historic Landmark where bourbon production began in 1812, runs a 70-minute ‘path to flavor’ tour and tasting for $32 that is currently taking reservations three months in advance. The ‘spectacle for the senses’ tasting is a 30-minute guided tasting for $25. The ‘VIP master distiller tour’ offers a behind-the-scenes two-hour experience for $500. The 70-minute ‘innovation inspired’ tour and tasting showcases four spirits for $125 and includes a branded rocks glass; it’s offered on Saturdays at 11 a.m. Reservations for all tours must be made online.
Bardstown offers easy access to 11 distillery experiences that offer public tours:
- Bardstown Bourbon Company, a modern distillery on 100 acres of farmland bringing a Napa Valley experience to Bardstown, hosts a compelling array of tours and experiences: The one-hour distillate to barrel tour and tasting follows the production process to a barrel tasting for $15. The rickhouse experience features barrel thieving for $30. Fill your own bottle during a VIP experience inside the Vintage Library for $295. Delve into product development with a component tasting for $225. The Shaken & Stirred cocktail class is a fun way to perfect the art of making two different cocktails for $55. Taste whiskey history with an exclusive flight in the vintage whiskey library for $250. Learn to blend bourbon for $55. Test your skills in a blind tasting for $55. Go behind the scenes with head distiller Nick Smith for $58.30. Bourbon & Bites takes a modern look at food and spirit pairing for $50. Enjoy an in-depth facility tour with Bourbon Hall of Fame Master Distiller Steve Nally for $95. Book your reservation online to choose among available dates on the calendar.
- Four Roses Warehouse & Bottling Facility, in nearby Cox’s Creek, invites visitors to tour the scenic facility nestled in the quiet countryside. See firsthand how Four Roses' award-winning bourbon is aged and bottled. Slow down with a guided tasting and take home a signature tasting glass as a memento. For up-to-date details, call 502.543.2264.
- Heaven Hill, the nation’s largest family-owned spirits producer, recently completed a massive $19-million expansion of its Visitor Center including a 90-minute interactive “You Do Bourbon” elevated tasting that includes personalizing a bottle that you can take home for $40 plus the cost of the personalized bottle. During the 45-minute mashbill experience learn about five acclaimed whiskeys for $18. The 45-minute whiskey connoisseur experience features at least four of Heaven Hill’s premium or limited release spirits for $25. Special events are also offered throughout the year; check the online calendar when booking your reservation. Short on time? Head straight to the Five Brothers Bar to sample single pour, a flight of American whiskeys, or a creative cocktail on Thursdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m.
- Jim Beam American Stillhouse in Clermont has been crafting bourbon since 1795 through eight generations. See how its bourbon is made on a guided 90-minute tour for $22. The ‘meet the family’ tasting is a 20-minute experience for $12. Learn to make bourbon cocktails in a 30-minute class for $30. The 45-minute ‘Basil Hayden Culinary Tasting Experience’ in the new Kitchen Table Restaurant pairs whiskey and small bites for $50. The ‘Behind the Beam’ four-hour experience includes a private distillery tour, tasting straight from the barrel, and the chance to sit down with Fred and Freddie Noe for a premium bourbon tasting in the historic Beam home for $250.
- Limestone Branch, a seventh-generation Beam craft distillery, welcomes visitors daily. A 30-minute tasting is $10. The one-hour distillery tour and tasting is $12. The one-hour Yellowstone Select experience shares history, the distillery production floor, and an educational tasting for $25. On select Friday and Saturday evenings live musical entertainment is staged for 1.5 hours.
- Log Still, a 300-acre campus with an amphitheater, event space, cottages, and tasting room that’s open Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. One-hour distillery tours and tastings of core products are offered for $15. Want to linger? The on-site bar is open Thursdays through Saturdays from 5 to 11 p.m.
- Lux Row Distillers boasts six-barrel warehouses, a visitor center, and tasting room anchored by an impressive 43-foot custom copper still. The one-hour production tour offers a behind-the-scenes look at the bourbon-making process from start to finish for $15. The 45-minute premium tasting includes some barrel thieving for $25. The 1.5-hour immersive cocktail making course and tour teaches how to make two cocktails from scratch with fresh ingredients for $50.
- Maker’s Mark, where bottles have been hand-dipped since 1953, hosts 1.25-hour distillery tours for $22, a one-hour cocktail workshop for $75, a behind-the-scenes two-hour immersion for $55, a 2.5-hour deep dive into the American oak tree and its crucial role in bourbon-making for $220, plus periodic seasonal workshops like the one-hour mulled wine and wreath-making experience for $110 or 90-minute holiday toast for $40.
- Preservation Distillery + Farm, Nelson County’s first official craft bourbon operation and only 100-percent pot still distillery, offers an educational distillery tour that lasts about an hour for $24. The Overproof Tour & Tasting Experience for $45 includes a full distillery tour and tasting flight of five products, all from the vintage barrel collection and all cask strength over 100 proof. The gift shop typically stocks at least one bourbon so rare it’s not available for tasting.
- Willett, makers of bourbons and ryes and operating since 1937, invites visitors to make tour reservations up to 90 days in advance. A 30-minute sensory whiskey education and tasting experience is $18. A one-hour guided walking tour of the distilling process from grains to barrels is $25. The visitor center is open Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The Bar at Willett is open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. for cocktails and creative bites; reservations are required.
Beyond distilleries, more bourbon-centric tour options abound in Covington, Frankfort, and Bardstown.
Burn calories as they’re consumed with Riverside Food Tours. Walk through some of Covington’s tastiest neighborhoods. The Roebling Bridge Tour includes visits to five restaurants, a beer tasting, and a local market. The Mainstrasse Tour strolls through a German Village with stops for food, beer, and wine. Both tours are priced from $65.
American Legacy Tours’ Newport Gangster Tour wanders some of the streets near Covington where the mob once ruled. Learn how the town gave rise to the modern gaming industry. Starting at the Gangsters Dueling Piano Bar, the tour covers a flat .75-mile route that’s wheelchair/stroller accessible. $29.
Frankfort offers two self-guided walking tour routes. The Historic Frankfort Walking Tour maps 40 noteworthy properties. Stop by the Visitor Center to pick up a free guide. The Frankfort Public Arts Tour showcases the capital city’s architecture, stained glass windows, murals, statues, and other eye-appealing works. Pick up a free guide at the Visitor Center or find it at FrankfortPublicArt.com.
Bardstown Digital Walking Tours present themed self-guided routes via a smartphone app. Tour themes include historic architecture, the Civil War, crime, and the one-mile Whiskey Walks & Bourbon Talks (which offers both detailed and abbreviated options).
The self-guided Historic Walking Tour of Downtown Bardstown features 48 sites of interest, including Old Talbott Tavern, a local “watering hole” that first opened in 1779! Pick up a map at the Welcome Center or download the pdf.
Sail the Ohio River with BB Riverboats between the skylines of Covington, Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio. Relax on an evening dinner cruise, music & sunset sightseeing cruise, or Dixieland Jazz brunch cruise. Lunch and a variety of sightseeing cruises offer fun on the river. All signature cruises include a fully stocked bar and food buffet. Prices vary starting at $29.
Cincy Brew Bus offers a five-hour bourbon tasting and distillery tour that stops at New Riff Distilling for a tour and tasting, Second Sights Spirits for a tour and tasting, The Littlefield bar for a bourbon flight, then at the Bourbon Haus 1841 historic bourbon bar. $75 for drinkers and $40 for non-drinkers.
Bourbon Paddle Tours in Frankfort navigate the Kentucky River through Lock and Dam No. 4 then dock at Buffalo Trace for a distillery tour and tasting. This four-hour guided adventure offers views that can only be seen from the river and special access to an area of Buffalo Trace typically off limits to the public. Book an available date on Canoe Kentucky’s calendar; additional trips for groups of eight can also be booked Fridays through Sundays from June through October by special request.
Ride the nation’s only boat-based bourbon tour with Kentucky River Tours in Frankfort and discover the Kentucky River’s role on bourbon history. Among the tour options, the 50-minute Kentucky River Bourbon History Tour discusses six riverfront distilleries for $25. The four-hour Old Taylor tour, offered in partnership with Buffalo Trace, showcases the distillery’s archeological dig into bourbon history for $70. The 2.5-hour ‘river tour & taste’ combines history lessons with a private tasting at Buffalo Trace for $50. ‘Bourbon and boats’ is a 2.5-hour experience delving into the history of the Old Hermitage Distillery and includes a stop at Bourbon on Main in downtown Frankfort for $80. ‘Spirits of Frankfort’ is an after-dark ride into local legends and lore for $30. Custom private tours available, too. Book online or call 502-219-3318. Tours are offered April through October.
Kentucky Bourbon Insider Tours is one way to have a designated driver while touring Bardstown. Book a private tour day and ride between at least three distilleries of your choice. Prices vary based on tour route, day of week, number of passengers, and type of vehicle selected. Traveling solo? Treat yourself to a $1,000 ride in a Maserati.
Ride a horse-drawn carriage through the back streets of Bardstown with Around The Town Carriage as a guide offers insights into local history with peeks at bourbon taverns and other sites of interest. $50 per couple, $20 each additional person.
My Old Kentucky Dinner Train departs Bardstown and operates year-round on varied schedules. The 2.5-hour bourbon excursions include a four-course meal, bourbon tasting hosted by a master distiller, and souvenir rocks glass for $127. Lunch and dinner excursions, murder mystery dinners, and seasonal themes are also offered.
WhiskMe Transportation (aka Bourbon City Taxi) is Bardstown’s premier taxi service. Whether you need a ride to/from one stop or a driver to escort you to multiple distilleries, call 502.331.2704 for reservations or book online so you can just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Ride between distilleries with Bourbontown Tours, which specializes in custom, private tours for small groups, or CopperTop Tours, which aims for lighthearted private tours. Demand for these tours is high, so we recommend that you book at least three months in advance.
Prohibition Bourbon Bar in Newport has the cozy vibe of a small Prohibition-era speakeasy, but don’t be fooled by its size: This gem of a bar tucked inside Newberry Bros. Coffee boasts the world’s largest collection of bourbon at 6,412 different labels and counting! Build your own tasting flight of four half-ounce pours, opt for a recommended flight, or better yet let co-owner Peter Newberry choose a mystery lineup. Prices are $9+ depending on selections.
Revival Vintage Spirits & Bottle Shop is a one-of-a-kind mecca for bourbon lovers and collectors located in downtown Covington. You can taste vintage bourbons from every decade going back as far as 100 years. The astonishing collection of rare and vintage bottles is available for purchase and tasting. Flights of four half-ounce pours are $20+ depending on selections.
Rebecca Ruth Candy Factory Tours & Museum in Frankfort is the birthplace of the famed Kentucky Bourbon Balls. Delve into the story during a 20-minute production tour ($6/adult; $4/child) and then dive into sweet deliciousness at the retail counter, Tours are offered Mondays through Saturdays at 10:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2 p.m., and 2:30 p.m. Note that candy production runs Mondays through Thursdays. For tour inquiries, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Kentucky Gentlemen Cigars in historic downtown Frankfort you can customize your own blend of special cigar varieties all over the world and/or take your pick among cigars flavored with Blanton’s, Buffalo Trace, and other spirits.
Sip a flight of bourbons at Capital Cellars, which stocks an unparalleled selection of specialty, hard-to-find and unique bourbons in historic downtown Frankfort.
My Old Kentucky Home State Park offers a 1792 Guided Bourbon Tasting. See why Jim Murray’s Whiskey Bible named Barton 1792 the “2020 World Whiskey of the Year.” Explore the tastes of four rare selections plus enjoy a cocktail made with 1792 Single Barrel Bourbon.
Kentucky Cooperage, in Lebanon near the Limestone Branch distillery, offers a behind-the-scenes tour of the barrel-making process. You’ll feel the heat of the fire and smell the oak as it’s charred during the 45-minute tour. Tours are $10 (free with military ID) offered Mondays through Fridays at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., and 1 p.m. Closed shoes required and cameras not allowed.
The B-Line is Northern Kentucky’s DIY Bourbon Trail. It is currently comprised of five craft distilleries—all of which are also on The Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour—plus eight bourbon bars—all of which have been named The Best Bourbon Bars in America by The Bourbon Review—and six bourbon-centric restaurants. All 19 stops are located throughout Covington, Newport, Independence, Sparta, Augusta, and Maysville in Northern Kentucky. Some stops are within walking distance of one another, others are a short drive away. To do The B-Line with a bonus download the free Line Guide (aka digital pass) to earn a free gift.
Head to the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History at Spalding Hall to dig into the history of American whiskey from pre-colonial days through the 1960s. Among the items on display see Abraham Lincoln’s liquor license, unique advertising posters, prescriptions used to purchase bourbon and other spirits during Prohibition, moonshine stills, novelty whiskey containers, rare antiques, and more.
All tour prices are per adult age 21+ and do not include taxes, fees, or gratuities. Availability may vary and prices may change at vendor’s discretion. Whenever available, advance reservations are recommended.