Photo Credit: Rosebengal

If you're a whiskey fan, get the lowdown on the history behind bourbon-making on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, a drive that takes you to six different distilleries for tastes and samples galore. You can start the journey in either Louisville or Lexington in Kentucky, or Cincinnati, Nashville or Knoxville in Tennessee. The route takes you through the winding roads and historic towns of Bluegrass Country, hitting distilleries along the way, with each tour lasting about 90 minutes. Pick up a passport at the first distillery you visit and collect stamps from each stop to receive a commemorative t-shirt of your journey. Be sure to check opening dates and times before you set out though because most are closed on Sundays for religious reasons.

The Bourbon Trail Route

The easiest way to experience the Bourbon Trail is starting from Louisville. Take I-65 south to exit 112, where you turn left onto Kentucky 245. A mere 1.8 miles later turn on Happy Hollow Road to reach Jim Beam’s American Outpost, just 20 minutes south of Louisville. Here you can visit the birthplace, distillery and home of the first family of Bourbon. Visit the historic T. Jeremiah Beam House, the Still House exhibit and then taste two premium Bourbons.

Next turn left onto Kentucky 245, traveling 13.5 miles into Bardstown 16.5 miles away is Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center. Turn right onto U.S. 31E/ U.S. 150 and drive 1.2 miles. At the fourth stop light, the Court House Square round-about will be directly in front of you. Travel three-quarters around the round-about to U.S. 150/ U.S. 62E. At the third stop light turn right onto Kentucky 49. Travel about a mile and the Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center will be on the right side of the road. Here you can see America’s largest independent family-owned producer of Bourbon. Visit a working rickhouse and sample Bourbons in a barrel-shaped tasting room. Three types of tours are available.

Photo Credit: Aaron Landry

From Heaven Hill, drive 15 miles to the Maker’s Mark distillery by turning right onto Kentucky 49. Drive about 10 miles through the intersection on Kentucky 527 where you will see a brown landmark sign to Maker’s Mark. Turn left onto Kentucky 52 East and drive through Loretto. Maker’s Mark is about 2.3 miles from downtown Loretto. Turn left onto Burks Spring Road. The tour includes the old gristmill, the master distiller’s house, the Still House, the Fermenting Room and the barrel warehouse. After the tour, try your hand at dipping your own bottle in the world famous red wax.

Travel 1 hour and 15 minutes to Four Roses Distillery by turning left on Kentucky 52 to Lebanon for 9.5 miles. Turn left onto Kentucky 55N for 8.7 miles. Then continue on Kentucky 555/U.S. 150 for 14.6 miles. Turn right onto the Bluegrass Parkway East toward Lexington. Travel on the Bluegrass Parkway for 17 miles and exit at Exit 59B. Take U.S. 127N for 0.2 miles, then turn left onto Bonds Mill Road/Kentucky 513 for one mile. The distillery will be on the right side of the road. The distillery, built in 1910, features a unique Spanish Mission-Style architecture rarely seen in the midwest.

Next visit Wild Turkey, just eight miles away. You'll leave Four Roses and turn left and travel one mile on Bonds Mill Road/Kentucky 513, which ends at U.S. 127. Turn left and make a quick right onto Kentucky 151/U.S.127 and drive four miles. In downtown Lawrenceburg, turn right onto U.S. 62 E. Drive 2.2 miles on U.S.62 E and turn right onto Tyrone Rd/Kentucky 1510. The Wild Turkey Gift Shop and Tours will be a half-mile down on the right-hand side of the road.

17 miles from Wild Turkey is your final destination, Woodford Reserve. Turn left out of the parking lot and travel a half-mile until the road ends at U.S. 62. Turn right and drive 7.6 miles on U.S. 62. Turn left onto U.S. 60 to downtown Versailles. At the second stop light, turn left to continue on U.S.60/U.S.62. Turn left onto U.S. 60 and travel 5.5 miles. Turn left onto Grassy Springs Road/Kentucky 3360 and travel 2.6 miles. Turn right onto McCracken Pike. Woodford Reserve is less than a half-mile on the left side of the road. The distillery is the oldest and smallest distillery on the trail and was started in 1797 when Elijah Pepper began distilling in Woodford County. Here you can see the only copper pot still and triple distillation process used to handcraft Bourbon.