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, many offer several tours with different themes. On most every tour 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 of hard work 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.
Covington offers easy access to five distilleries, all of which are 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 15-minute mini tour tasting (from $4.72) and a one-hour grain to glass experience (from $7.55) Tuesdays through Sundays.
- Neeley Family Distillery, a small family-owned operation, offers tours every hour on the hour, every day for $10.
- The Old Pogue Distillery, where fifth and sixth generation Pogues produce bourbon using time-honored family recipes, offers 45-minute tours Thursdays through Saturdays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. that include the chance to taste bourbon and rye inside the historic family home. Tastings are $5 each, limit two per adult.
- New Riff Distilling, where traditions meet innovation, offers a one-hour bonded tour through the distillery’s nooks and crannies for $10 Tuesdays through Sundays, a barrel proof tour through the warehouses every other Wednesday for $25, and a 90-minute distiller’s tour walking seminar on select Thursdays for $25.
- Second Sight Spirits, where artisan distillers aim to present local products in new ways, offers informal complimentary 20-minute tours any time between Noon and 5 p.m. as well as complimentary one-hour distillery tours on Fridays and Saturdays at 10 a.m., Noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Bardstown offers easy access to nine distilleries:
- Bardstown Bourbon Company, a modern distillery on 100 acres of farmland, hosts a roster of events including limited edition tastings of three exclusive bourbons that are only available at the distillery for $15. Tours include the master distiller experience for $55, a behind-the-scenes tour for $40, and one-hour distillery tours for $18. Reserve a date and time on the distillery’s website.
- Barton 1792, the oldest fully-operating distillery in Bardstown, offers complimentary tours and tastings daily Mondays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (the last tour departs at 3 p.m.)
- Heaven Hill, which has been family owned and operated since it was founded in 1935, offers a one-hour facility tour that includes a tasting of three whiskies for $10 and a 40-minute connoisseur experience that includes a tasting of four premium or limited release American whiskeys for $20. From March through November, it’s open Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sundays Noon to 4 p.m. with the last tour offered an hour before closing.
- Lux Row, one of Bardstown’s newest distilleries (yet with 40 years of bourbon industry experience), offers a $13 site tour that includes a 45-minute guided walk through the facility and a 15-minute bourbon tasting seminar, a $22 in-depth tour with a gift glass that includes a one-hour operations discussion plus a 30-minute educational tasting, and a $12 abbreviated tour and tasting experience that lasts just 30 minutes. Book online to choose among the available dates and times.
- Preservation Distillery, the region’s first official craft producer and the only 100-percent pot distilled facility in Nelson County, hosts one-hour distillery tours for $15 and tastings for $15 (discounted to $7.50 for veteran or active duty military personnel). Select among available dates and times when booking online.
- Willett, makers of bourbons and ryes and operating since 1937, offers a 30-minute sensory whiskey education and tasting experience for $18 and a 1.2-hour guided walking tour of the distilling process from grains to barrels for $22. Tours are available Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the hour.
- Jim Beam American Stillhouse, which has been crafting bourbon since 1795 and through eight generations, gives visitors the chance to see how its bourbon is made on a guided 90-minute tour for $14 Mondays through Saturdays 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (with a lunch break from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.) and Sundays 12:30 to 3 p.m. The Behind the Beam tour is a two-hour experience that 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 $225. Select dates available, refer to the online calendar for details.
- Limestone Branch, a seventh-generation Beam craft distillery, hosts one-hour distillery tours that include tastings from $8, 24-minute educational tastings from $5, and private, one-hour VIP tours from $25. Tours are available at the top of the hour starting at 9 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. on Sundays. The final tour each day starts at 5 p.m.
- Maker’s Mark, where bottles have been hand-dipped since 1953, hosts one-hour distillery tours for $21, 2.5-hour immersion experiences that go behind-the-scenes plus pour a progressive tasting for $50, two-hour “cocktail 101” sessions with a tour and classic cocktail-making instructions, and 1.5-hour mixology classes for $75. Reserve a date and time on the distillery’s website.
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. The Madison Avenue Tour showcases four restaurants, a coffee shop, and a brewery. All tours are $59.
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. $25.
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 one of the new guides for free. 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.
New Bardstown Digital Walking Tours present themed self-guided routes via a smartphone app. Two of the new theme tours are already available, including historic architecture and the one-mile Whiskey Walks & Bourbon Talks (which offers both detailed and abbreviated options). Crime and the Civil War themes will be added soon. 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 StoneBrook Winery sunset cruise. Lunch and “High Noon” sightseeing cruises offer fun under the sun. All signature cruises include a fully stocked bar and food buffet. Prices vary starting at $24.
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.
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. The 1.5-hour Kentucky River Bourbon History Tour discusses six riverfront distilleries for $17.95. The three-hour Bourbon Pompeii tour, offered in partnership with Buffalo Trace, showcases the distillery’s archeological dig into bourbon history for $70. Custom private tours available, too. Book online or call 502-219-3318.
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 $110.
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.
Kentucky Bourbon Insider Tours is one way to have a designated driver while touring Frankfort or Bardstown. Book a private tour day and ride between at least four distilleries of your choice. Prices vary based on tour route, day of week, and number of passengers, ranging from $219 per person with two passengers visiting four distilleries down to $69 per person with 10 riders. Traveling solo? Treat yourself to a $1,000 ride in a Maserati.
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 for $5 and then dive into sweet deliciousness at the retail counter, which is open daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tours are offered daily from 10 a.m. to Noon and 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
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.
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.
*During the Coronavirus pandemic, many venues are limiting public access and events with safety in mind. Please call to confirm visitor details in advance. We anticipate that regular operations will resume as soon as possible. In the meantime, wash your hands frequently, stay safe, and keep calm.
We're open. Let's have fun. Travel safe. Stay informed about coronavirus precautions and updates in Covington, Frankfort, and Bardstown. Hours of operation and offerings change rapidly these days, so confirm details and options before you arrive. During the pandemic, when visiting public places please wear a mask, keep your hands clean, and stand far enough away from other people that you’ll need to raise your bourbon glass in a toast rather than clink glasses.