Bourbon Trail, Kentucky

KY2Road trips used to mean something.  They meant freedom, and daydreaming, and sightseeing.  Today when we take a road trip, it’s often from point A to point B on some interstate crammed with other ‘road-trippers’ who have somewhere to be five minutes ago.  But if you haven’t lost the romance of road-tripping, then the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky may be just what you’re looking for.  One of the most spectacular aspects of hitting the ‘Trail’ is meandering across the rolling hills of Kentucky.  No road rage here, just thoroughbreds and winding curves.  In the dictionary, pictured next to the definition of ‘greener pastures,’ I’m certain I’ll find a snapshot of the Bourbon Trail. It’s that pretty.

My first stop was Woodford Reserve, near Lexington.  Each distillery has its own unique personality, and Woodford’s is deceptively modern.  The entrance is a lot like a luxury ski chalet, fireplace and all.  It’s the perfect place to sit and sip some of their wares.  The buildings around the distillery are all historic and beautiful.  The tours for each of the distilleries is essentially the same: mash, barrels, samples.  And let’s face it – that’s why we’re there…for the samples!  But it’s the history and the personality of the distilleries that makes them worth the trip.

After leaving Woodford, my trail-mate and I headed back to Louisville for some ‘Urban Bourbon Trail’ exploring.  We stopped at the Silver Dollar, which has one of the largest and most eclectic selections of bourbons that I’ve ever encountered.  If you’re looking of the exotic and rare, you’ll find it here.  Bring your credit card, though – exotic and rare doesn’t come cheap.  But whatever you choose, Silver Dollar knows their bourbon and you can rest assured you’ll get a good drink.

IMG_0595My drink, the Rising Outlaw, was so good I had to snap a pic of it next to the menu, so I could remember the name of it.  Many a bartender has since tried to recreate this drink for me.  I know what you’re thinking, and NO — I didn’t ask these bartenders to make me this drink.  I think they see it as a challenge or a curiosity.  These alchemists of alcohol are constantly trying to figure out what someone else is up to.  And frankly, I love that spirit of curiosity and competition.

The next day, Sunday, we drove down to Makers Mark.  It’s important to note that we were there on Sunday.  Many distilleries don’t operate at full staff on the weekend, so we didn’t get to see the bottling and dipping in process.  You can, however, still dip your own bottle in the gift shop.

Overall, the Trail is a great way to spend a day.  If you can manage to score a convertible or (even better) a café bike, that would be the best way to enjoy this road trip.  Like bourbon, this trip isn’t one to rush.  Slow down and take it all in.  barrell_2

By Kelly Koeppel