Why simply raise a glass when you can elevate your entire vacation? Visit Covington, Frankfort, and Bardstown, Kentucky, to experience bourbon tastings that go well beyond the standard sip. Drench your palate and blow your mind at these stops along Kentucky’s authentic bourbon road trip.
Prohibition Bourbon Bar 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. “Tasting totally blind allows you to appreciate what you’re drinking without influence of all the marketing hype,” he says. “It’s the best way to discover what you really like.” Prices are $9+ depending on selections.
Get There: 530 Washington Ave. in Newport; 859.261.9463.
Revival Vintage Spirits & Bottle Shop is a one-of-a-kind mecca for bourbon lovers and collectors. Its astonishing collection of rare and vintage bottles is available for tasting and purchase: Come sample from and stock up on bottles that will realize your bourbon-tasting fantasies, earn you some legit bragging rights, and wow your online fans. “We’re pouring tastings at prices that would be 10 to 20 times higher anywhere else,” says Brad Bonds, co-founder and curator. “This is my passion. I want old alcohol to be accessible to everyone.” Flights of four half-ounce pours are $20+ depending on selections.
Get There: 5 E. 8th St. in Covington; 859.479.2676—moving to a new, bigger location Fall 2022
Tousey House Tavern, which celebrates its 200th anniversary in 2022, is a homey space bursting with gracious Southern hospitality. Sit in any of the cozy dining rooms—one has a hand-painted mural from 1822—or on the spacious outdoor patio to savor bourbon alongside Southern dishes like fried chicken and Kentucky hot brown. Tasting flights have been recently updated to showcase different flavor profiles, producers, ages, and/or styles. Of course, if you’d prefer to build your own flight of four half-ounce pours that’s an option, too. “Our goal is to give you the best experience possible,” says Eric Morehead, general manager. “Our list of about 120 bourbons includes classics, highly allocated bourbons, antique bourbons, and surprises.”
Get There: 5963 N. Jefferson St. in Burlington; 859.586.9900
Buffalo Trace, the nation’s longest-running and most award-winning distillery, offers eight different tours covering diverse topics like history, ghosts, architecture, and gardens. All tours are free and all include the same tasting experience—if so inclined, you can skip a tour and head straight to the complimentary tasting. The range of the product line is showcased: Wheatley Vodka, Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Eagle Rare Bourbon, Bourbon Cream, and Freddie’s Root Beer are always included, while an additional bourbon pour varies daily. “There’s a one in four chance you’ll taste Blanton’s, E.H. Taylor, Weller Special Reserve, or Sazerac Rye,” says Matt Higgins, visitor services general manager. While tasting you’ll learn distillery history, product information, and interesting facts. A Rebecca Ruth bourbon ball is also included, a sweet pairing that’s especially fitting since bourbon balls were created by that Frankfort-based candy company.
Get There: 113 Great Buffalo Trace in Frankfort; 502.783.1000
Kentucky River Tours, the nation’s only boat-based bourbon tour company, offers nine different themed tours as well as custom private tours. Among the options, the two-hour Bourbon & Boats experience includes a river tour and a premium bourbon tasting for $80. The four-hour Bourbon Pompeii tour, offered in partnership with Buffalo Trace, showcases the distillery’s archeological dig into bourbon history for $70. Every tour is ultimately a unique way to discover Kentucky River’s role in bourbon history.
Get There: 701 Wilkinson Blvd. in River View Park in Frankfort; 502.219.3318.
Three Boys Farm Distillery, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2022, is located on a 127-acre working farm growing the corn and other grains used in its pot-still single distillation process. The 30-minute Whiskey Thief Tour includes the opportunity to taste five different bourbons straight out of the barrels. Tickets are $25 per person and include keepsake tasting glass. Love a particular sample? Fill a bottle yourself using a whiskey thief right there in the barn for an additional charge that varies based on size of bottle and bourbon you select. Want to taste more? Head to the gift shop to sample flavored whiskeys and rums.
Get There: 283 Crab Orchard Rd. in Frankfort; 502.552.1001
Preservation Distillery + Farm is Nelson County’s first official craft bourbon operation and only pot still distillery. Tours and tastings cover product history, production methods, and fascinating tips. The most gob-smacking option is the Overproof Tour & Tasting Experience ($45/person) which includes a full distillery tour and tasting flight of five products, all from the vintage barrel collection and all cask strength over 100 proof. Featured vintage bourbons like Very Olde St. Nick and Rare Perfection are available in the gift shop and the tour’s tasting list changes as products sell out. The gift shop typically also stocks at least one bourbon so rare it’s not available for tasting.
Get There: 426 Sutherland Rd. in Bardstown; 502.348.7779
Lux Row Distillers, one of Bardstown’s newest distilleries, is capable of producing 3 million gallons of spirit each year. Multiple tours showcase its six barrel warehouse and 43-foot custom copper still, but the Premium Tasting really impresses palates. Offered Tuesdays through Saturdays, the 30-minute $25 guided tasting features a rotating lineup of four quarter-ounce pours of top shelf brands, exclusive single barrels, and the limited release 12-year double barrel bourbon that ranks as Lux Row’s most premium product. Chocolate pairings sweeten the experience.
Get There: 1 Lux Row in Bardstown; 502.337.7420
Bardstown Bourbon Company is a state-of-the-art distillery set on 100 acres of rolling farmland. Among its many compelling tours and experiences, Taste of Whiskey History is most jaw-dropping. Hosted in the vintage whiskey library that houses over 400 bourbons and ryes dating back to 1892, the guided tasting features an exclusive flight of three one-ounce vintage pours. “It’s a deep dive into history,” says Dan Callaway, vice president hospitality and product development. “We’re a modern distillery in the Bourbon Capital of the World and tasting whiskey history is part of understanding where we come from. You never know what will pop up—a pour from 1909, 1969, 1970s? The library is filled with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, some of the best bourbons ever made.” Tickets are $250 per person to sample whiskeys that routinely sell for thousands of dollars an ounce.
Get There: 1500 Parkway Dr. in Bardstown; 502.694.7212
Reservations recommended for each of these mind-blowing bourbon tasting experiences. Must be 21 to participate. Always enjoy your bourbon like a true Kentuckian, responsibly.