Getting Schooled in Bourbon

We were shocked at how much we loved Louisville! We could easily see us putting a pin on the map here for a second/vacation home in the future. Liz can’t and won’t do ice, snow, and super cold weather so spring, summer and fall it is. The city offered great food, interesting breweries, diverse neighborhoods, and great bourbon! We even extended our stay to enjoy both Lake Jericho (where we parked), and the city.

We wanted to try as many distilleries as possible while we were in Kentucky, they do produce 95% of the world’s bourbon after all. If there was anywhere to learn, try, and grow our appreciation for bourbon making it was here. We started our “education” in Bardstown, the Bourbon Capital of the World. It’s central location to several distilleries makes it the perfect place to stay if you want to hit the Bourbon trail. We started at Barton’s Distillery. We arrived just in time to catch the Bushel to Bottle tour (free of cost), which takes you to additional areas on the grounds than the typical tour. We got the see the fermentation, distillation and the bottling processes. For Dennis and I, this was a GREAT first tour. Knowing hardly anything about bourbon or the process to make it, this tour did a great job showing us exactly how bourbon is made, what makes it unique, and so much more. We got try white dog, the corn mash in each stage of the fermentation process, and see difference in chars oak barrels can have. Of course the tour finished with a tasting. Shane and Dennis loved this part because they got the extra from us. I tried a sip at each tasting, but don’t love bourbon, and Elise is pregnant so bourbon tasting was out.

After we went to Willet Distillery which is a “craft distillery” meaning they fill a small number of barrels per week (Willet is filling about 40 barrels per week, Jim Beam for example fills thousands per week). We got there after their last tour ended but were able to still get a tasting. Their tasting room and gift shop is in a newly remodeled building and it showed, there wasn’t much to the decor but it felt open and was nice inside. It wouldn’t be a place you could hang out, but the bourbon sure was good. Both Shane and Dennis loved the bourbon here. Dennis even found a new favorite. We did get the suggestion from a bourbon lover on a tour with us not to buy the bottles at the actual distillery as it’s often marked up. We ended up picking up a bottle at a local liquor store for about $5 less than they were selling at Willet.

The last place distillery we tried to go to that day was Heaven Hill, but again we arrived to late for a tour or a tasting this time. While wished we could have sat in their private tasting room and enjoyed some of their several bourbon varieties, we were still glad we came. They have a small gift shop/museum that goes into great detail on the history of bourbon in Kentucky. If you’re going to do Bourbon Tours make sure you start early, most tours and tastings end by 4:00 pm some stop even earlier than that. It also doesn’t hurt to have pre-purchased tickets to a time and date that works for you. If you go on a weekend it’s likely the tours will be sold out.

We also went to Angel’s Envy Distillery in downtown Louisville. It’s a newer distillery who opened it’s doors in 2012. It’s a beautiful facility and felt very clean, open, and modern. While we loved the distillery and highly recommend visiting, it was nice to see an older, dirtier distillery like Barton’s or Willet as well. They too did a great job explaining the distillation process – although it was a faster paced tour, so our prior knowledge from Barton’s helped greatly. They walked us through the fermentation tanks, distillation tank, bottling and processing plant then brought us into a gorgeous tasting room. This was probably our favorite part simply because of the beauty and their pairing notes. We like having a guide to help us identify some of the flavors we may be tasting.

After the tour and tasting you have access to the Angel’s Envy bar which serves up delectable cocktails with of course, Angel’s Envy Bourbon. The bar was beautiful and the drinks were creative and delicious. We met a great couple at the bar that were from Chicago and gave us recommendations for our visit (that was our next big stop).

We loved learning more about Bourbon and getting to explore the flavors and varieties. We definitely could have spent more time at other distilleries and know we’ll be back. If you’ve done the bourbon trail what was your favorite distillery so we can put it on the map for next time? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!