Just quick shot up I65 and you can find yourself on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in under 3 hours with the closest to Franklin being the famous Maker’s Mark. And in the days of staying closer to home, that seems just about perfect. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is the collection of the state’s distillers publicized by the Kentucky Distillers’ Association to endorse the bourbon whiskey industry. The number of
distilleries claiming to hold a spot on the famed trail can differ based on current products, opinion and taste. The Trail can be broken down into smaller unique groups like signature distillers, craft distillers or even the “original” distillers.
An ideal road trip from Middle Tennessee, there are a multitude of choices related to lodging, dinning and touring; no two trips ever have to be the same. The closest two distilleries are a little under 10 miles from each other, and based on your choice of itinerary, others can be upwards of 70 miles. How do you move between locations responsibly and truly enjoy your trip? The possibilities are almost endless and offer options for all. There are car services dedicated to the Bourbon Trail and will accommodate any size group for any length trip. Many tour groups have preplanned itineraries, transportation and food that allow you to be along for the ride without having to glance at the clock. For those more into the history and surrounding areas, you can combine the Bourbon Trail with other area attractions.
But the best place to start is by choosing where you will stay when the day is done. Are you planning which distilleries you are seeing around where you will be staying or planning on where you are staying based on which distilleries you are visiting? Either way the best way to make the most efficient (and fun) use of your time is to plan your route(s) from your lodging location. Make sure you do your research especially in this time of social distancing; know the hours of operations, costs and if reservations are needed.
Some distillers make more than one brand; Buffalo Trace makes both Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare. While others stay on-brand but make multiple recipes like Maker’s Mark and its original, Maker’s Mark 46 and their private selection. It’s worth researching the group’s favorite brands and go-to bourbons to see if you can make one stop count for more. There are some distilleries that produce more than bourbon, so those might be nice to sneak into the itinerary if you have members of the group that prefer other spirits.
Often tours can focus on specific processes like bottling and aging while others can focus on recipes and take on a more agricultural aspect of bourbon production. If you are planning on doing tours at multiple distilleries you might want to change your tour focus at each distillery; making them each more interesting. And don’t forget to allow time to enjoy yourself. The tours themselves can take anywhere
from 30 minutes to 90 minutes, based on the size of distillery and the type of tour. This road trip can be anything you want it to be; make sure you have plenty of time, fun and a designated driver.
1. Have some folks under 21? Not a problem - they can participate all they want, they just can’t taste.
2. Overwhelmed with choices? Scope out Trip Advisor or Yelp or any other review sites to see if any of the recent reviews help clarify if a specific distillery or location is for you.
3. Don’t save “the best for last.” Try and see the distillery you are most excited about first or second.
4. Make it yours (or don’t). There are tons of guides, aides and lists helping to guide your experience, but it’s only fun if you plan it to your “taste.” It could take a bit more coordination but will be well worth it.
5. Dress for the occasion (and weather). While you may not be standing out in the elements, you will encounter them.