March 18, 2016

1000 Places: The Bourbon Trail

Once Bryan got accepted to the University of Tennessee and we knew we'd be moving to Knoxville, we both had the desire to really explore this area of the US while we were here. We wanted to take advantage of having the Great Smoky Mountains in our backyard, and we wanted to make a point to visit places that would be much closer to us than they had ever been before. After moving into our apartment at the end of the 2014 summer, the Bourbon Trail was just across the Kentucky border, and the time was now to plan for this fun experience.

It was another year before we finally booked our hotel in Lexington to take on part one of our Bourbon Trail adventure and then an additional six months before finishing up in Louisville. After perusing the official website for the Bourbon Trail, we figured the best plan of attack would be to split the trail into two different weekends - one weekend for Lexington and the other for Louisville. And I've got to say, if you live a reasonable distance from Kentucky, weekend trips to do the Bourbon Trail are definitely the way to go. In total, Bryan and I took four days to hit each distillery, and we added on a fifth day at the end so we could pick up our completion t-shirts at the Louisville Visitors Center. (And to avoid driving home directly after our last distillery.)

Here's our itinerary for each of our Bourbon Trail weekends.

Left Knoxville early Saturday morning
Four Roses 
Lunch Break
Wild Turkey
Woodford Reserve
Town Branch
Drive home

Left Knoxville early Saturday morning
Maker's Mark
Lunch Break
Heaven Hill
Jim Beam
Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
Lunch Break
Evan Williams
Pick up completion t-shirt
Drive home

I feel it appropriate to mention that Bryan and I visited the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory while we were in Louisville. The distilleries open later on Sundays, so we had a free morning that we agreed would be best spent exploring a little more that Louisville had to offer rather than staying at our hotel. I totally recommend visiting the museum and factory, especially if you're into baseball. The factory tour is only 30 minutes, but you get to see where and how these famous bats are made, which is a neat site. We really enjoyed it.

All in all, I think we had a great plan for the Bourbon Trail. However, there is one thing I would change. We had originally planned to do Wild Turkey at 1 pm giving us plenty of time to get to Woodford Reserve for the last tour. Unfortunately, Wild Turkey was a pretty popular spot on the day of our visit, and despite getting there in plenty of time for the 1 pm tour, we had to wait until 2 pm because the 1 pm was already full. I'm not sure if this is a normal thing at Wild Turkey or if we just got unlucky due to a large group or organized tour getting there before us, but either way, it definitely threw a wrench in our schedule.

With our Wild Turkey delay, we then got to Woodford Reserve an hour later than we had hoped, and by that time, all of the full tours at Woodford were sold out. We ended up doing a "porch tasting" instead, which is exactly as it sounds. It's a 30 minute tasting on the Woodford Reserve welcome center's porch with a "tour" via finger-pointing by our guide. (I still really enjoyed Woodford Reserve though. Overall, it was probably my favorite distillery, and I'd love to go back. I'll discuss this more in my individual post for the distillery.)

If I'm comparing our two weekends, I'd have to say Louisville was the better half if only because we were able to register for tour times online ahead of time, so we didn't have to worry about having a Wild Turkey repeat. We were able to properly plan, and signing up for time slots took the "fingers crossed" factor out of the equation. We also didn't have to worry about rushing to our next distillery in order to get there before our desired tour was sold out. Basically, Louisville just ran a lot smoother than Lexington.

Over the next few weeks I'll be blogging about each individual distillery and linking to those posts below. Each location offered a unique perspective into the world of bourbon making, and I feel like I'd be doing a disservice if I neglected to give more in-depth attention to the differences that make the Bourbon Trail such an informative and enjoyable experience.

Bulleit || Evan Williams || Four Roses
Heaven Hill || Jim Beam || Maker's Mark
Town Branch || Wild Turkey || Woodford Reserve

39/1000 places

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