12 Kentucky Distilleries All Bourbon Lovers Should Visit
Editor's Note: Those who choose to travel are strongly encouraged to check local government restrictions, rules, and safety measures related to COVID-19 and take personal comfort levels and health conditions into consideration before departure.
Over 95% of the world's bourbon comes from nearly 70 distilleries in Kentucky's Bourbon Country. All of the big bourbon names are here — Jim Beam, Woodford Reserve, Maker's Mark, and Wild Turkey, among others — and there's good reason for that. Kentucky's natural environment and weather are perfect for bourbon distilling, so when European immigrants (who knew how to distill spirits) settled in Kentucky in the 1700s, it was a match made in whiskey heaven. Now, hundreds of years later, people can visit the state to experience the top Kentucky distilleries — several of which have been crafting spirits for generations — along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, a route with over 37 distilleries offering tastings and tours.
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Kentucky distillery tours, tastings, and experiences show visitors how spirits are made, so you'll walk away with some knowledge, a more refined palate, and probably a few bottles to take home. Those looking for a well-rounded whiskey experience should start their journey at the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center in Louisville. Here, visitors can learn more about bourbon history and plot their distillery stops (if you don't already know which ones you want to visit). Make Louisville your home base for a multiday trip along the trail — the city is home to its own Urban Bourbon Trail made up of the best bourbon bars around. The bars on this route have to serve at least 50 kinds of bourbon and host a bourbon event every month, so you're sure to leave Kentucky with a new appreciation for the brown spirit.
Here are 12 Kentucky distilleries all bourbon fans should visit — and don't worry, some even offer gin or vodka for those hoping for a little variety in their tastings.
Tour and tasting offerings, along with distillery hours of operation, may change due to the coronavirus pandemic, so be sure to check ahead before you plan your trip. Currently, experiences are limited and many tours have been postponed until further notice, but visitors can still buy bottles or even enjoy tastings at several of these distilleries.
Wild Turkey, Lawrenceburg
With an award-winning visitor center, a tasting room with an incredible view of the Kentucky River, and a gift shop selling souvenirs and Wild Turkey bourbon (of course), this is the perfect place to learn how this brand's popular spirits are made. You might even spot Hall of Fame distillers Jimmy and Eddie Russell hard at work.
Bulleit Distilling Co., Shelbyville
Bulleit Distilling Co. opened its state-of-the-art distillery to visitors in 2019. It's a relatively new addition to the Kentucky distillery scene, but the bourbon is based in family tradition dating back to the 1800s. Taste your way through the brand's whiskeys and learn about its history during an interactive, multisensory experience.
Jim Beam, Clermont
With one of the most recognizable names in Kentucky bourbon, Jim Beam is a must-experience for many visitors. Take a tour of the brand's birthplace in Clermont — the Jim Beam American Stillhouse is set to reopen in spring 2021 with an improved visitor experience.
Maker's Mark Distillery, Loretto
Another iconic bourbon brand known for its red wax-dipped bottles, the Maker's Mark Distillery in Loretto offers tours of the National Historic Landmark, so guests can learn about the history of the brand and its makers. Visitors can even hand-dip their own bottle in the classic red wax for a fitting souvenir.
Woodford Reserve Distillery, Versailles
Visit Woodford Reserve's historic distillery in Versailles for tours and tastings, so you can learn more about the creation of this brand's bourbon. The distillery is actually a National Historic Landmark — according to Woodford Reserve, the "art of making fine bourbon first took place on the site" in 1812.
Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort
This family-owned distillery has traditions dating back to the late 1700s, and it's a National Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Take a tour to learn more about the fascinating history of bourbon production, and taste their spirits — the distillery produces bourbon, rye, and vodka.
Four Roses Distillery, Lawrenceburg
Take a tour or enjoy a guided tasting at this Lawrenceburg distillery. This unique Spanish Mission-style distillery was built in 1910, and it's also listed on the National Register of Historic Places, so you can enjoy a history lesson while learning about Four Roses' unique recipes.
Angel's Envy Distillery, Louisville
Located on Louisville's Whiskey Row, this distillery offers unique tours and tasting experiences, including a Bottle Your Own Tour, which gives visitors the chance to bring home a bottle that they filled themselves.
Castle & Key Distillery, Frankfort
Ranked the best distillery in the United States, Castle & Key offers tours, tastings, and more in a restored, historic distillery. Grab a drink at Counter 17 ( you can switch things up by trying their gin or vodka), and go for a stroll along the botanical trail.
Bardstown Bourbon Company, Bardstown
This innovative distillery, located in a small town south of Louisville, has several interesting experiences, ranging from immersive tastings to classic cocktail classes. There's even an on-site restaurant with craft cocktails and gourmet eats.
Green River Distilling Co., Owensboro
Learn how whiskey goes from grain to barrel and taste the spirits with the experts at Green River Distilling Co. in Owensboro. After your tour, grab a drink at the cocktail lounge.
Heaven Hill Distillery, Bardstown
Founded in 1935, Heaven Hill Distillery maintains more than 1.6 million barrels aging in 58 warehouses in Kentucky for a portfolio of brands. Go for a tour for a behind-the-scenes look at the whiskey production, or enjoy a tasting at the Bourbon Heritage Center.