We left Columbus Saturday morning, headed down US-62, and crossed the Ohio River on the Augusta ferry. Arriving in Louisville around 3pm, we quickly realized that the short hours of the distilleries were going to stifle our big plans just a bit. The only one open late enough for us to visit was the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, in downtown Louisville. We hit the Visitors Center on our way, and made it in time for the last tour of the day.
The Bourbon Experience was more of a touristy, history of the brand and how Bourbon is made tour, rather than a large scale distillery tour. It did end with a few tastings, and was a good time. If you've done other distillery tours already (especially the parent company, Heaven Hill), then this one may not be worth your time. Since it was our first tour, we enjoyed it thoroughly.
From here we began our task of earning our Urban Bourbon Trail T-shirts and certificates. To do this, you must visit at least 6 bourbon bars in Louisville. Not a difficult task, but also not cheap... for me at least. I suppose, if you were so inclined, you could simply ask for a stamp from the bars without ordering drinks, or perhaps only ordering a cheap beer of some sort. But I felt, in the land of Bourbon, on a Bourbon Trail trip, I wanted to drink the drink of the land. I tried one or two different featured bourbon cocktails at each stop. In Louisville, this generally meant about $10 per drink. In most bars, beer was over $5 a glass anyway; we weren't in hole-in-the-wall bars here.
Speaking of the bars. I'm not exactly sure how to put this next part. But Louisville was... well... let's just say, we didn't fit in, anywhere we went, in Louisville. Every place we entered was either too fancy, or, too trendy. I'm fairly confident, in all the bars we went to, we were always the only ones in T-shirts and/or non-skin-tight jeans. One after another, it was white table cloths and a fancy (old) band, or freaking hipster havens. Nothing wrong with either per say, but it would've been nice to have found one bar that, the next day, we wanted to go back to. Also... all the bar tenders were dudes. Again, nothing exactly wrong with this... but, well, nothing right with this either. DOWN WITH DUDE BARTENDERS!
Where was I? Eventually we had dinner. I tried the Hot Brown, a famous Louisville plate. It was delicious, and small. I could've eaten two, easily. We all left dinner hungry, not good when we're spending the night out drinking hard liquor.
We finished our Urban Bourbon Trail goal and headed back to the apartment. We picked up a case of beer on the way back, and ordered 2 large pizzas when we got there. The pizza was amazing, as was the sleep. It was a long day.
Day two, we're up early for some reason, but moving very slow. The plan was to hit a bunch of distilleries, but a priority was the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort. It's unfortunately not on the official Bourbon Trail, but absolutely worth the visit. The tour is free(!!!) and fantastic. If you're ever in the area of Frankfort or Lexington, this should be a must do! After the long ride to the distillery and the lengthy tour, we were once again stuck without enough time to get to another distillery before they all closed up (mid-afternoon). We decided we could make it back to Louisville in time to catch the last tour of the Louisville Slugger Factory. We made it by about 5 minutes. The tour was enjoyable, even for non-baseball-loving folks.
We weren't so excited about hitting all the bars this evening, so we walked to a brewery-restaurant not far from our apartment. We ordered the flights, to try all of their beers. As is fairly typical, I didn't find a new favorite beer, but I enjoy trying local and new beers, so it was a good time. As is not typical, we left, once again, wishing we got more to eat. Another case of beer and 2 large pizzas was in order for the evening.
The next day we headed south to visit the Jim Beam distillery. This place was huge, and the tour was very hands-on. The monster assembly lines were incredible. The tastings were done with fancy electronic cards and dispensing machines. They had around 20 products to choose from, but you were only allowed two tastes, with no option to add more. Unfortunate, I would have gladly paid a few more bucks to try a couple others that sounded interesting.
On our way home we passed right by Wild Turkey, but it was late afternoon so they were already closed. The rest of the ride home was uneventful, and we got back around 9pm.
On this trip, I learned that I don't mind Bourbon one bit. It's not my beverage of choice, but I can certainly drink it. I do think it all tastes just about the same though. There is a bit of a difference between wheat based and rye based bourbon, but reading these descriptions about "hints of vanilla and toffee in this one" always had me laughing.
Kentucky Bourbon Trail Ride Planning Page