Boozing & Cruising On The Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Man, oh man do we have a lot catching up to do. It’s September and we’re just getting around to talking about our adventures way back in May. I suppose that’s a good thing, it means we’ve been busy in the best of ways, but all the same I think we owe the internet world and apology for the crazy dealy! At any rate, here we are so let’s talk Bourbon!

Jim Beam Barrel Aging HouseFair warning this is going to be a long one, so if you’re interested in skipping over and heading straight to the info about visiting either Maker’s Mark or Jim Beam’s Stillhouse scroll on down.

I love Bourbon and I love horses. So it seemed natural when my 29th birthday ( can we just all agree to not question that number 🙂 ) rolled around to request a long anticipated trip to Kentucky.

Browsing around, it probably seems like we drink a lot. Hilariously enough, we don’t. But when we do drink, we like the good stuff. Don’t get me wrong, you could easily catch me on a beach in the summer sipping a classic PBR but for the most part we tend to be pretty discerning when in comes to our liquid courage of choice.

Touring the Jim Beam DistilleryBirthdays + Bourbon = One Super Happy Girl

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail sounds relatively straight forward until you stop and take a look at the map of all, and I mean all the amazing stillhouses and tasting rooms. There are lots of distilleries to choose from, spread out over a fairly large area. Even for the true enthusiast making a pilgrimage to each and every one of the distilleries would be quite the feat. For us, more than one day of bourbon tasting back to back wasn’t in the cards and since we were driving ourselves we decided to keep it simple and chose two stops along the same route.  If you’re looking forward to fully experiencing the Bourbon trail worry free, be smart and let someone else do the driving. Transportation included tours can be found here.

Maker’s Mark

We started my boozy bourbon filled birthday at Maker’s Mark. Every single thing about this distillery was stunning, including the drive there. The countryside outside of Louisville, was bursting with the bright greens in of early spring, and rolling hills were coated in just the right amount of low lying fog to make the area look like it was straight out of a fairytale.

Maker's Mark Bourbon Distillery On The Kentucky Bourbon TrailI’ve never been to Disneyland but everyone always talks about how from it’s customer service, it’s cleanliness and aesthetic to it’s perfectly executed events its top notch, and that is exactly what our time at Maker’s Mark made me think- ladies and gents if there is a Disneyland for Bourbon lovers this my friends is it!

All tours are first come first serve, and are  insanely reasonable at $14 per person ($10 for retired military and veterans, free for active duty and anyone under 21), and take about an hour in total.

Making Bourbon, Fermenting Grains At Makers MarkIf only there was smell-o-vision! The fermenting room was incredible!

The distillery tours at Maker’s Mark, takes you through the working distillery- oh the amazing smells of fermenting grains, gives you a good bit of humor and history about the making of Kentucky Bourbon and in particular Maker’s Mark, a visit to the barreling facility and world’s 1st and only limestone whisky cellar where their famous 46 is housed, and wraps up in the bottling facility and tasting room where you get a great lesson on the ins and outs of bourbon tasting. There is of course the obligatory gift shop stop at the very end, but with the coolest twist; visitors over 21 can wax dip their own bottle of Maker’s Mark to take home with them. We birthday splurged and I dipped a brand new bottle of 46, I think I see a future career!

The Limestone Whiskey Cellar At Makers MarkThe Highlight Of Our Tour At Maker’s Mark: The Limestone Whisky Cellar
The Tasting Room At Makers MarkThe Tasting Room At Maker’s Mark

At Maker’s Mark the experience doesn’t end when you leave the stillhouse. Maker’s also offers an ambassadors program– free to sign up and no strings attached; the coolest perk of the program is that once registered your name goes onto a plaque placed on a barrel and once aged, Maker’s will forward you an invitation to come a enjoy a bottle of bourbon straight out of your very own barrel. Not to mention they’ll send you some neat swag in the meantime!

Jim Beam

After we wrapped up our time at Maker’s we didn’t really have a plan for the rest of the day- surprise, surprise. We had a long list of distilleries we wanted to visit but all the tours seemed to already be sold out, as luck would have it though Jim Beam was both on the way back to Louisville and had one last tour time open for the day.

Entrance to the Jim Beam Stillhouse In Clermont, KY

The distillery at Jim Beam is different than Maker’s Mark in every possible way. While Maker’s is more rolling farm facility and old world charm, Jim Beam puts on an air of modern industrialism in the coolest way possible.  While they definitely don’t shirk tradition, the distillery has a more rebellious vibe about it.

The Barreling Porch At Jim Beam

Jim Beam offers two tour experiences for its visitors one is a traditional visit to their Stillhouse in Clermont, KY ( where we visited), the other is a Bourbon experience in their downtown Louisville location. Both tours can be booked online and are $14 per person $10 for anyone under 21. Tours last an average of 90 minutes, and similarly to a visit to Maker’s Mark visitors are guided through the distilling process from raw grain to sweet smooth whiskey.  The main difference we garnered between these two tours ( aside from presentation) was the tasting.

Outside The Tasting Room At Jim BeamThe Tasting Room At Jim Beam

Jim Beam hosts a large tasting room where tours are gathered at the end of their programs and each person is handed an individual swipe card good for 4 tastings. Visitors are given a brief lesson on the varieties available for sampling and then set free with their glasses to swipe their cards, on vending machine style booze dispensers- it was pretty darn cool. The contrast here is that the tasting at Maker’s was more of an integral part of the experience and a full on lesson on their bourbons. We enjoyed both for different reasons, we loved the learning aspect of the Maker’s tasting but the freedom to sip the spirits of your choice at Jim Beam was equally cool.

Bottles of Jim Beam BourbonBourbons All Lined Up And Ready For Tasting At Jim Beam

It’s hard to imagine that we could have taken up an entire day and only visited two of over a dozen distilleries on the Bourbon Trail, but to truly enjoy everything that each of these amazing facilities have to offer, just like you would with a quality bourbon, it’s all about savoring the experience. The good news is with so many stilhouses left unexplored we have plenty of reasons to go back!

Next up, 5 fast facts that we learned about Bourbon on my boozy birthday weekend!

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