Three Must-Visit Kentucky Distilleries

in News

Don’t miss these Bourbon makers on the Come Find Bourbon drive route.

The bourbon lovers’ shared dilemma: So many bourbons, so little time!

Kentucky’s authentic bourbon road trip tackles that issue head-on. Visit Covington, Frankfort, and Bardstown and you can pack a whole lot of bourbon-related fun into a brief getaway. Our abundant bourbon experiences make the most of valuable vacation time with short driving distances between distilleries, bars, restaurants, museums, shops, and more fun things to do. Come Find Bourbon!

If touring distilleries is a goal, great news: Our road trip offers easy access to 24 distilleries that range from large to small, historic to new, household names to emerging brands. Each one fascinates in unique ways.

Don’t have time to visit all 24 distilleries? Bummer! It’s tough to choose just three, but if that’s all you can squeeze into your schedule hit up this trio to discover totally different styles, roles in bourbon history, and a wide range of highly-rated visitor experiences. Whatever your level of bourbon knowledge, fun awaits.

Bardstown Bourbon Company is set on 100 acres of active farmland and its huge glass walls make it easy to see inside the distillery even upon approach. Since opening in 2016, it brings a Napa Valley experience to Bardstown, The Bourbon Capital of the World.

Why you must visit Bardstown Bourbon Company:

Transparency – Open educational experiences are a key value. Beyond the glass walls, the visitors center, event space, restaurant, and bar are integrated. No secrets here: Feel free to snap photos anywhere on the property. Team spirit abounds: “We’re neutral ground,” says Dan Callaway, vice president hospitality and product development. “You will see every bourbon on the bar, not just ours, because we celebrate the whole community of bourbon.”

Honesty – Bourbon history is muddled with legends and myths. “We pull all that away,” says Callaway. Come see the production up close, ask questions, and take some spirit classes if you really want to dig deep into the how-to of it all.

Immersion – “We have the best completely immersive experiences,” says Callaway. Among the options: Savor bourbon and food pairings with the executive chef. Fill your own bottle of bourbon. Take a cocktail-making class. Taste bourbon history with a guided flight of vintage spirits in the Whiskey Library.

Tours – Join a certified bourbon steward on a one-hour facility tour that includes tastings to evaluate how spirits age and includes thieving bourbon straight from a barrel. If barrel-tasting is your jam, don’t miss the tour that taps three barrels.

Spontaneity – Even if you forget to make reservations, walk-up tastings are available in the Visitor Center behind the main bar. You might also snag a spot at the bar, restaurant, or patio if seats are available.

Buffalo Trace Distillery is the most award-winning distillery in the world and the oldest continuously-operating distillery in the nation. Located near historic downtown Frankfort, Kentucky’s capital city, distilling started on the site in 1775 and has had several different names and owners throughout history, including The Sazerac Company since 1992.

Why you must visit Buffalo Trace:

History – Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark, this distillery’s roots run more than two centuries deep. From the nation’s founding through Prohibition to present day, this story has lots of interesting chapters to discover and explore.

Authenticity – “We still have a lot of original, intact examples of a distillery working before, during, and after Prohibition,” says Matt Higgins, visitor services general manager. “These components contribute to the property still in use today. We’ve maintained the outward appearance and integrity of the buildings, while also embracing technology updates to upgrade our output, enhance manufacturing, and increase production, efficiency, and capacity.” Here, old and new deliciously combine.

Growth – Some elements of this distillery are brand new. A $1.2 billion expansion is underway to add more barrel aging warehouses, another still house to double capacity, 12 more fermenters, grow the dry house operation, and much more. Most aspects will be completed this summer.

Accessibility – “We proudly reduce barriers to entry,” says Higgins. Tours and tastings are free, many are ADA accessible, and even dogs are welcome (on some but not all tours). Tour description details can help you decide which one(s) are best for your individual needs.

Tours – With over eight different tour experiences—plus the option to skip tours and head straight to a complimentary tasting, or simply stroll the property—Buffalo Trace offers something for everyone (even returning visitors). Satisfy your curiosity, whether it’s the distillery’s rich history, industrial operations from grain delivery to distillation, architecture built by E. H. Taylor Jr., barrels stacked in rick houses, stunning arboretum and gardens, gripping legends and lore, or more.

New Riff Distilling is a family-owned craft distillery that specializes in Kentucky Bourbon and Rye Whiskey. Established in 2014 and located near Covington in the Newport community, New Riff takes a bold look at bourbon-making history.

Why you must visit New Riff:

Innovation – “We’re a New Riff on an old tradition,” says Amy Tobin, director of communications. “The aim is to take spirit-making traditions in a new direction without compromising quality and craft.” Same old story? Not here! From bold design to practices like shunning chill filtration, come see sour mash in new light.

Technology – The modern distillery is situated near the Ohio River and atop an alluvial aquafer. The water used to produce New Riff spirits is sourced from a private 100-foot-deep well that naturally keeps water at 58˚F, saving energy. And that’s just the tip of the serendipity, creativity, and independence here.

People – “We have a group of very dedicated employees,” says Tobin. “The team is focused on connecting with guests and is passionate about the business. It’s a passion you can feel. People say that you can tell everybody really likes their job and that’s a good feeling to be amongst.” Tour guides have deep bourbon knowledge, are warm and welcoming, and make sure everyone from novice to expert gets something out of every tour.

Locations – You can visit the distillery (aka the East location) plus the barrel warehouses (aka West location)—which are just a short drive apart from one another and both in neighborhoods not remote country—for a first-hand look at the juxtaposition of two phases of the bourbon-making process.

Tours – Several different tours are offered, plus there’s a calendar of special events. Take your pick to match your interests, whether you want to explore hidden corners of the distillery, taste straight from the barrel, blend your own bourbon, or sip cocktails while listening to live musical performances.

Come Find Bourbon’s Free Advice: Book distillery tours and hands-on experiences in advance to be sure you’re able to participate. And plan return trips to visit the other 21 distilleries!

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