Here’s a surprising fact: 95 percent of the world's bourbon comes from the state of Kentucky. Stunning, right? With a statistic like that, it’s no surprise many Louisville residents have the Bourbon Trail on their bucket list of things to do. And many visitors looking to sip the trail utilize Louisville as home base for their trips.
Launched in 1999, by the Kentucky Distillers Association, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail is a unique way to learn about the art and science of making bourbon whiskey. Plus, visitors can learn about the rich history of Kentucky and how the state became known for creating a distinctively American spirit.
Distilleries on the Bourbon Trail:
- Evan Williams Bourbon Experience (downtown Louisville)
- Four Roses (Lawrenceburg, KY)
- Heaven Hill (Bardstown, KY)
- Jim Beam (Clermont, KY)
- Maker’s Mark (Loretto, KY)
- Town Branch Bourbon (Lexington, KY)
- Wild Turkey (Lawrenceburg, KY)
- Woodford Reserve (Versailles, KY)
Want to stay in the city limits? Check out the Urban Bourbon Trail.
How does the Bourbon Trail work?
Essentially, visitors use a ‘passport’ to document each stop on the trail. If you want to experience the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, individuals can pick up a printed passport at the Louisville Visitors Center located in downtown Louisville on 4th and Jefferson, pick one up at any of the participating distilleries, or download a digital passport.
Collect a stamp at each distillery and you’ll receive a commemorative t-shirt for your efforts. And, of course, you will have a wealth of Bourbon knowledge you’ve acquired along the way.
Are the distilleries close to each other?
The distilleries are in and around Louisville. Some are as close as eight miles from one another, while others are as far as 70 miles. The address and hours for each distillery are noted in the passport.
To complete your passport, a visitor to Kentucky will probably need at least three days. Of course, if you live here, you can take all the time you’d like. There is no time limit for completion. Each tour is unique and many involve historic buildings and beautiful views. Plan on a minimum of an hour and a half for each distillery.
Who is allowed to participate?
Anyone who is 21 years old or older is welcome to participate in the Kentucky Bourbon Trail experience. Individuals under 21 can go on the tours, but are not permitted to sample or stamp a passport.
How much does it cost?
There is no fee for the passport. Tour admission is free at some of the Bourbon Trail distilleries others charge an admission fee. Of course, there are also specialty tours and events that could carry additional costs. Visit the distillery webpage or call ahead to find out about costs and tour times.
History of Kentucky Bourbon:
Kentucky’s first settlers, in the 1700s, were farmers and pioneers. With crops they grew—specifically corn and other grains—they began converting parts of their harvest to whiskey, because it was easy to transport as a beverage and was quickly discovered to carry a kick.
The corn of Kentucky, paired with the limestone water and temperature fluctuations that allow a barrel to expand and contract, led Kentuckians to make bourbon whiskey. Bourbon is named after one of Kentucky’s original counties (when our fair state was still part of Virginia) and is now a distinct product of the United States.
Bourbon tourism has grown as the spirits popularity has surged. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail has been explored by close to 2.5 million visitors in the last five years; participants have come from all 50 states of our union and from 25 countries.
Finished the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and looking to learn more about Bourbon?
There is also the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour, consisting of seven craft distilleries.
- Barrel House Distilling Co. (Lexington)
- Corsair Artisan Distillery (Bowling Green)
- Limestone Branch Distillery (Lebanon)
- MB Roland Distillery (Pembroke)
- The Old Pogue Distillery (Maysville)
- Silver Trail Distillery (Hardin)
- Willett Distillery (Bardstown)
And remember there is the Urban Bourbon Trail in Louisville once you've finished your travels.