Day one of our Bourbon tour was off to a great start. We stopped at four distilleries and one historic restaurant. We put about 80 miles on the car.

markers mark grounds_watermarked

First stop was Maker’s Mark in Loretto, Kentucky or number 5 on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail map. We got there early but there were already 60 people waiting in line for the tour. The bourbon trail must be a very popular vacation for biker groups because we saw tons of Harleys in the parking lot and at most of the stops today.

Maker’s Mark is a pretty big operation. The tour guide said they bottle 1.6 billion cases (yes she said billion with a B) per year. We think it’s more like 1.6 million, but that still sounds like a lot, even if they run almost 24/7. The tour here was very educational. Walking into the room of the fermentation process, smelling the warm yeast in the air (think of bread baking), and the still pumping out spirits by the gallon was fun to watch. The owners of Makers wanted to make the sweetest bourbon on the market, therefore, instead of the 51% corn required to make bourbon, they upped it to 70%.

Grounds at Marker's Mark

Grounds at Marker’s Mark

Bottling Plant at Maker's Mark

Bottling Plant at Maker’s Mark

Maker's Mark Printing Room

Maker’s Mark Printing Room

Second stop was Limestone Branch Distillery, which is on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail “Craft Tour”. We opted not to do a tour but got to taste most of their offerings. It is made mostly of corn and sugar distilled spirits. They have several fresh fruit flavors; strawberry, cherry, blackberry and a few flavored like pumpkin and apple pie. We especially liked the straight 100 proof spirit (this is the based of everything they make), pumpkin pie and surprisingly a very good jalapeño. These were under the Sugar and Shine brand. They were approached by Chattanooga Tennessee-based Moon Pie Company and asked to develop moonpie-flavored moonshines which include vanilla, banana and chocolate.

limestone branch distillery_watermarked

Next we headed to Bardstown, KY and stopped in at Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center. This is number 3 on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail map. We had an opportunity to see a movie about the history of this family owned establishment. Turns out they have been around a very long time and own over 40 brands of spirits including many vodkas, bourbons, tequilas and even hpnotiq.

Heaven Hill Distillery Rack Houses & Bourbon Heritage Center

Heaven Hill Distillery Rack Houses & Bourbon Heritage Center

Willett Distillery

Willett Distillery

The last stop was Willett Distillery, another family owned, small production, bourbon and rye distillery in Bardstown. This is one of my personal favorites. If you go on a Sunday I suggest you email ahead to get a reservation. Here you get to see most of the process from where they cook the mash, do the fermentation, the unique, custom still and where they age all of their fine spirits. We went crazy and picked up some 20, 23 and 25-year old bourbons and a rye.

Willett Fermentation & Still

Willett Fermentation & Still

Old Talbott Tavern

Old Talbott Tavern

For dinner we went into old downtown Bardstown to eat at the famous Old Talbott Tavern and check out the Bourbon Bar. We enjoyed the fried sampler, which included fried green tomatoes, pickles and banana peppers. Then we had their signature dishes of fried chicken and Kentucky hot brown, which is an opened faced ham and turkey sandwich smothered in Mornay sauce, cheese and bacon. We also sampled their bread pudding, topped with walnuts in sweet bourbon sauce.

More to come tomorrow as we make our way towards Louisville.

Day 2: Click Here

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