In case you can’t tell, fellas, the Booby’s really excited about today’s post. If you like whisky (and what proper fella doesn’t?), including the bourbon variety, then you should hit Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail at least once in your lifetime.
For those of you who don’t know, the Bourbon Trail refers to the distilleries, museums, and watering holes scattered throughout the state of Kentucky, and which are just a road trip away. The distilleries are where the juice is made, of course, the museums (some of which are actually inside the distilleries) teach about the history of the state’s most famous product, and the various watering holes are the best places in the world to celebrate it over a glass.
There is no right or wrong way to do the bourbon trail. You can spend anywhere from a couple days to a couple weeks traveling through this beautiful state indulging in bourbon, distillery tours, and bourbon-related activities (see here). The Booby recommends at least four to seven days, but it’s up to you.
As for which distilleries to visit, well that’s entirely up to you. If you have a favourite variety, then start there. Make a list and hit as many as you like. The Booby highly recommends the Buffalo Trace distillery in Frankfort, but for beauty and loving upkeep there’s none better than the Maker’s Mark destination. Others, including the Four Roses and Woodford Reserve also receive terrific reviews. Unfortunately, Jim Beam recently suffered a devastating fire at one of its warehouses, but thankfully the distillery was unaffected and remains open for visits and tours as of the time of this writing.
As far as your home base is concerned there are a number of choices you can make. Bardstown is the so-called “bourbon capital of the world” and was once voted America’s most beautiful small town. In addition to its history, from whisky-making to Stephen Foster to Jesse James, it’s a great place to call home while you explore Kentucky. And if you like the peace and quiet of a small town it’s definitely the place to be.
While in Bardstown the Booby and his lady companion stayed at the Colonel’s Cottage Inns. These cottages are actually former slave houses, located in the shadow of what was once a plantation mansion. The updated accommodations are cozy, comfortable, and well located, and are a living witness to the the area’s often tumultuous history.
Actually, driving the Bourbon Trail is half the fun. Western Kentucky features some of the most beautiful drives in the Union, with age-old, immaculately kept farms, ranches, and acreages. The East half of the state is more mountainous, rugged, and once featured a coal-mining economy, though more recently mine closures have left many places impoverished, affecting the lives of thousands of people that neither CNN nor the Oprah-watchers care about.
There are lots of stops on the Trail that one could make that feature more than just distilleries. Frankfort, Kentucky’s capital, is another attractive destination with it’s stately capital building and rocky surroundings boasting beautiful waters and thick forests. Smaller towns, like Lebanon or Woodford, will inevitably find their way onto your intinerary, too, each offering its own charms.
The city of Louisville is well worth a visit, too. It might not be the most convenient place to make your home base for the Bourbon Trail, but a night or two in the central district should be included on your itinerary nonetheless. In addition to historic hotels, like the Seelbach or the Brown Hotel (and it’s famous sandwich), there is shopping, a variety of bars, a mini “Urban Bourbon Trail”, and even a chance to ride a paddle wheeler boat on the Ohio River.
The city of Louisville takes its tourism very seriously, and it shows. From tributes to Mohammed Ali, Colonel Sanders, or the Louisville Slugger there’s lots of fun activities for touristy tourists and families. For the more subdued, however, downtown still features lots of high quality restaurants and classic taverns to enjoy a bourbon or two.
So there you have it. If you’ve had enough with the superficiality of the East and West coasts then it’s time to start exploring some of North America’s interior. Kentucky is as good a place as any to start, with the Bourbon Trail as your primary destination. Just don’t forget to enjoy several glasses of bourbon while you’re there. If you don’t much like bourbon, just keep on drinking anyway. You will soon learn to love Kentucky’s gift to the world.