When I think of Kentucky, two things immediately spring to my mind — horses and bourbon. If you are seeking the latter while visiting the Bluegrass State, head to the city of Lawrenceburg.
Along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, this small Central Kentucky city is home to two well-known bourbon distillers — Wild Turkey and Four Roses — with storied histories, daily distillery tours and for visitors age 21 and older, bourbon tastings.
The only American-created spirit, 95 percent of bourbon is made in Kentucky, which I learned while visiting Wild Turkey’s distillery in the fall of 2013, just after its new visitor center opened.
The modern barn-like structure features a wall exhibiting the brand’s history from its early beginnings in the mid-1800s to today’s lineup of bourbon, rye whiskey and American Honey, a honey-bourbon liqueur that tastes of honey, caramel and citrus. Wild Turkey’s visitor center also has a retail space, a lofted tasting room that overlooks the scenic countryside and turkey-shaped rocking chairs crafted from bourbon barrels.
During the tour of Four Roses’ distillery, which was constructed in 1910 in Spanish mission-style architecture and is on the National Register of Historic Places, visitors will learn the charming story behind the Four Roses name and see firsthand how bourbon is made. Visitors can even taste the corn mash, which I discovered doesn’t taste bad, but also doesn’t taste very good.
After the tour, visitors will taste single barrel and small batch bourbons, noting flavors of spice and sweetness in the taste and aroma. The bourbons can be purchased at the gift shop to make Manhattans and Mint Juleps back home.
While visiting these distilleries, get your souvenir Kentucky Bourbon Trail Passport stamped. Once stamps from all nine distilleries — including Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark and Woodford Reserve — have been collected, you can earn an official Kentucky Bourbon Trail T-shirt. You’ll find the free passports in the visitor center of each distillery.
About 25 miles from downtown Lexington and about 60 miles from Louisville, the Lawrenceburg distilleries are an easy day trip from Kentucky’s largest cities.
Four Roses Distillery is located at 1224 Bonds Mill Road. Tours cost $5 per person and are offered on the hour from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday.
For no extra fee, Four Roses visitors can present their ticket within 60 days of their visit as admission to the company’s warehouse and bottling facility, located at 624 Lotus Road in Cox’s Creek, Ky., about a 50-minute drive from the distillery.
Located at 1417 Versailles Road, Wild Turkey also offers tours on the hour from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. From April to October, tours also run on the hour from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Tours here also cost a small admission fee, but they are free to active military with valid identification.
Please enjoy your Kentucky bourbon responsibly.