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Enjoying craft beverages on the grounds of Castle & Key Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky

Kentucky Road Trip: Bourbon and Bites in the Bluegrass State

Experience local flavors and unlock a world of possibility as you sample spirits and tour historic distilleries in Kentucky.

It’s no secret that Kentucky is bourbon country, but what exactly is bourbon? A uniquely American spirit, bourbon refers to whiskey that is distilled under certain specific conditions: It must have a mash bill (that’s the blend of fermented grains used to make it) of 51% or more corn, and it must contain no extra flavoring agents. Kentucky’s limestone bedrock and temperate climate naturally produce flavorful, high-quality bourbon, and its scenic beauty makes it an ideal vacation destination. Take a mixology class in a modern-day speakeasy, don a hard hat and traverse limestone cellars full of oak barrels and enjoy unforgettable countryside views as you sip and savor your way through Kentucky.

Top Bourbon Destinations

Sampling bourbon at the rooftop bar at Heaven Hill Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky


If you’re looking for variety, look no farther than Bardstown, known as the “Bourbon Capital of the World.” Tour Heaven Hill Distillery to explore exhibits that pay homage to bourbon’s storied history. At Bardstown Bourbon Company, enjoy craft cocktails plus locally sourced fare at Kitchen & Bar restaurant, then tour the James B. Beam Distillery, where the Beam family has been producing world-class spirits for nearly 200 years. Don’t skip out on touring and tasting at Willett Distillery, which has been family-owned-and-operated since 1936, and Lux Row Distillers, a state-of-the-art facility that’s also home to a population of lively peacocks.

Touring the Old Forester Distilling Co. in Louisville, Kentucky


To spend a day bar-hopping around Louisville, sign up for an Urban Bourbon Trail Passport and use your phone to navigate more than 40 restaurants and bars that specialize in serving Kentucky bourbons. Be sure to stop for tours at Angel’s Envy Distillery and the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience along the way. To enjoy a VIP tour and a private tasting in a rustic speakeasy, book the Heritage Experience at Peerless Distilling Company. History buffs shouldn’t miss the Old Forester Distilling Company, which crafts their storied spirits in the company’s original building from 1870.

Touring the facilities at Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky


Just an hour east of Louisville, you’ll find Frankfort, Kentucky’s original capital city. Don’t miss visiting the Castle & Key Distillery, where artisan spirits are produced in a 19th-century castle. Castle & Key hosts several seasonal events, including live music and yoga classes, on its European-inspired grounds. Frankfort is also home to Buffalo Trace Distillery, the oldest continuously operating distillery in the USA. Choose from one of six distinctive tours – from the Trace Tour, which focuses on the science of fermentation, to the Old Taylor Tour, which investigates the history of distilling equipment.

Filling bourbon barrels at the Wild Turkey Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky


A bourbon town from its founding, Lawrenceburg’s scenic downtown was built by the same bourbon magnates who established the city’s distilleries. At Four Roses Distillery, take a guided tour to admire the Spanish-style architecture and manicured grounds. Enjoy interactive installations dedicated to the distillery’s history in the Visitor Center, where you can also sample a rotating selection of spirits. Another must-visit is the Wild Turkey Distillery, which has been producing acclaimed bourbon in this location since the 1850s. Stop by the Station Master’s House to enjoy cocktails and panoramic views of the Kentucky River.

Bourbon barrels on display at Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, Kentucky


Situated on lush green farmland in Woodford County, Versailles is home to the expansive Woodford Reserve Distillery. Immerse yourself in history as you explore limestone buildings and learn about the traditional copper pot still method used only by Woodford Reserve. Check out the Welcome Center to enjoy a drink on the veranda, which offers stunning views of nearby horse farms. Sign up for a VIP Master Distiller Tour Experience; you'll join a master distiller on an extensive tour of the distillery, lab and warehouse and even take home a limited-edition bottle of bourbon offered only to tour participants.

Taking in sights along the Ohio River in Newport, Kentucky


On Kentucky’s northern border across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, Ohio, you’ll find the colorful riverfront town of Newport. A relative newcomer to the bourbon scene, Newport’s New Riff Distillery sports sleek modern facilities and state-of-the-art distilling methods that make for a truly exceptional experience. Choose from four distinct tour programs, then hop over to the Aquifer Tasting Bar to enjoy a diverse menu consisting of both classic cocktails and seasonal specials. Don’t forget to step out onto the rooftop patio to take in panoramic views of downtown Newport and spot riverboats floating by.

Exterior of the Bulleit Distilling Co. Visitor Experience building in Shelbyville, Kentucky


Shelbyville is known as the “American Saddlebred Capital of the World” for its abundance of horse farms, but don’t overlook its thriving food and drink scene. The Bulleit Distilling Company Visitor Experience offers an array of mixology workshops and spirit-tasting experiences in addition to distillery tours. Embark on the uniquely immersive Unlocking the Senses tour to experience the sights, sounds and flavors of bourbon tasting. If you’d rather kick back and take it easy, you can savor Bulleit’s offerings in the charming, rustic atmosphere of the on-site cocktail bar and retail space.

Maker's Mark Distillery overlooking the serene grounds of Star Hill Farm in Loretto, Kentucky


Visit the peaceful town of Loretto to check out Maker’s Mark Distillery. The facility’s most popular tour takes you on a journey from the grounds of Star Hill Farm to the storerooms where the world-famous bourbon is fermented and aged. As you enter the barrel warehouse, be sure to look up; glass artist Dale Chihuly created the colorful art installation titled “Spirit of the Maker” that graces the ceiling of the building. No visit is complete without a trip to the gift shop, where you can dip your own souvenir bottle of bourbon into Maker’s Mark’s iconic red wax.

A family enjoys historical exhibits at the International Museum of the Horse in Lexington, Kentucky

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