Last week I got the opportunity to travel with friends on Bruce Ashford’s tour bus, Central Kentucky Tours, with the Kentucky Educational Television film crew as they filmed an episode of Kentucky Life, hosted by Doug Flynn. (Flynn was born and raised in Kentucky AND is a former Cincinnati Reds baseball player; He was on the team that won the World Series in 1976.)
Our first stop was the Independent Stave Cooperage in Lebanon, Kentucky. Fascinating! This company supplies just about all the white oak charred (must have a charred barrel for bourbon, but you knew that!) barrels for Kentucky’s distilleries. It is very physical, hot work with precise quality controls in place as well as an intriguing organized system of barrel making. They waste nothing! I can’t say enough how interesting this tour is—you gotta go!
Next up, Makers Mark Distillery, just down the road from Stave Cooperage. The history, the landscape, the quality of the tour guides, not to mention the quality of the bourbon, make this a great place to visit. Somehow the powers that be have been able to mix the new with the old which gives the distillery an exciting feel, you never know what you are going to find in the next building. Don’t miss the Chihuly piece—gorgeous, and reason enough that you gotta tour this distillery!
While still in Lebanon, KY, our group then toured one of the craft bourbon distilleries, Limestone Branch. Our tour group enjoyed another beautiful bluegrass setting and landscape. This distillery has the distinction of being owned and operated by Steve and Paul Beam. Yes, that Beam of bourbon history and lore! We were very fortunate to have Steve as our tour guide AFTER a fantastic showman, another Steve, gave us the history of the Beams and the bourbons. He was comical, knowledgeable and worth the price of admission. You gotta go!
For the final leg of our bourbon country tour, the group drove back to Danville, KY to visit Wilderness Trail Distillery. This distillery is surrounded by farmland and the Kentucky knobs, capturing a beautiful and peaceful atmosphere. This is a somewhat new distillery founded by two chemical engineers whose love of bourbon and knowledge of the science behind the fermenting process made starting this distillery for them a no brainer! The lab is the first thing you see on this tour with many chemists hard at work.
I highly recommend these distilleries, their bourbon, their tour guides, and their unique perspectives on the bourbon process. Each, as all the Kentucky distilleries do, offers a distinct history of bourbon. I suggest you visit them all!
And the best way to visit these distilleries is Central Kentucky Tours, www.centralkentuckytours.com, which picks you and your group up here at the Inn, and is staffed with knowledgeable drivers who love to share bits of Kentucky and bourbon history, and point out interesting sites along the way which makes the day so enjoyable. In my opinion, this is the best way to tour bourbon country.
You just gotta go!!!!