A fun way to get into the spirit of visiting Kentucky is to travel along the Bourbon Trail in Lexington, KY. Bourbon whiskey is a product of the United States and it doesn’t get any better than tasting it right here in Bourbon Country. 95 percent of bourbon is distilled, aged, and bottled in the Bluegrass State.
The trail was formed in 1999 by the Kentucky Distillers’ Association to share bourbon’s rich history and craft traditions with visitors and bourbon enthusiasts. However, bourbon distilling dates back to the 1700s when the first Kentuckians converted corn and grains into whiskey. This particular whiskey got the name “bourbon” as it was shipped from Bourbon County. During its transport, it would age in oak barrels and provide its signature flavor and color by the time it reached its final destination.
By 1964, Congress recognized bourbon as a distinctive spirit of the United States and the name, “America’s Official Native Spirit” took. Today, more than 2.5 million people have toured the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, learned about its American roots, and sampled some of Kentucky’s finest.
There are nine distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® map and the association offers a passport book to keep track of your visits. The Association does recommend about three days to visit all of them as the trail spans just over 80 miles. There are tour companies available, Mint Julep Tours and R & R Limousine, to plan your trip along the trail and provide safe transportation.
Tour lengths can vary by each distillery, but it’s recommended to budget at least an hour and a half at each distillery for the tour and time in the tasting room. There are also minimal admission fees for each tour which are priced by the distillery. Please note that anyone can tour the distilleries, but visitors must be 21 years of age to participate in the passport program and enjoy samples in the tasting room at the end of the tours.
If you’re looking to stay within Lexington, you can visit the Town Branch Bourbon (also known as Alltech Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co.) distillery in town. It’s been a member of the trail since 2012 and is a brewery and a distillery. The tour of Alltech takes approximately an hour and fifteen minutes and includes four tasting tickets. The sample room offers tastings of its five beers and three spirits. The price is $8.50 per person for the tour and tasting or $10 which includes a tasting glass. Tours are offered Monday – Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last tour at 4 p.m.) and on Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. with the last tour departing at 4 p.m.