Well, this year’s tour (my second) was very educational. I learned a little something from each of the distilleries I visited. But, the most important thing I learned was to plan the tours. We went to Four Roses first, then to Wild Turkey and back to the hotel in Bardstown on day one. Day two, we went to Buffalo Trace, Woodford Reserve and Makers Mark. We should have hit Makers Mark on day one, and maybe Heaven Hill, then day two hit Woodford, Buffalo Trace, Wild Turkey and Four Roses. Any way, live and learn, I’ll know next year.
Four Roses: This tour is a great one. I enjoyed it last year and this year was just as good. A tasting of the two premium Bourbons were offered. Four Roses is among my favorite Bourbons.
Wild Turkey: I was warned this was not a good tour, which is absolutely NOT true. My guess is the person who told me this, confused this tour with Jim Beam (see below). It is a great tour, and one, which will be on next year’s itinerary for certain.
Dinner at Old Talbott Tavern rounded out the day. It was a wee bit pricey, but tasty. Their bourbon selection was quite impressive. Then back to the hotel to take pain meds and muscle relaxers to settle my bad hip/back down. Let me tell you, if you have problems walking, these tours will take their toll.
Woodford Reserve: Excellent tour! This is easily the most beautiful of the distilleries. They do many things the old fashion way, which gives it a certain charm. I enjoyed the tour, but their bourbon isn’t on my list of favorites. There was a tasting at the end.
Buffalo Trace: This was my first year to visit, and I will go back next year. I thoroughly enjoyed the personal touch they can afford to give because of their small size. A tasting was offered at the end of the tour. The Buffalo Trace Bourbon is okay, but not to my liking, surprisingly the Vodka was excellent (who would’ve thought…). I wish you could pick up more of their fine products at the distillery, but other than that the tour was my second favorite of the week, which leads me to the crown of the tour…
Makers Mark: What can I say? MM remains my favorite bourbon and my favorite tour. The newly revamped “gift shop” is awesome. The tour really rocks, but I found there is a LOT of variation of tours depending on who takes you on the tour. There were things I mentioned to my friend, which they never mentioned on the tour. They now offer a tasting at the end, which is a change from last year. I really enjoyed getting to dip my own bottle.
Dinner at Bearnos, the pizza was excellent, but the service and ambient music sucked, which put a bad flavor to the visit. We had to chase down the bartender to get our check. Next year, if I go back, I will get the pie to go.
Back to the hotel for drugs and a cigar. A shot of Elijah Craig 18 year old helped to ease the pain of the day.
Off to Jim Beam, not much of a tour, a quick movie and they point out the way for your self-guided tour. They seem to want you to know more about the barrels than the bourbon going into them. They did offer a tasting at the end, which did prompt m to score a bottle of Bookers.
The final stop is Heaven Hills. Once again, not much of a tour, you start with a movie, then a walk to the barrelhouse. This is another tour that is greatly influenced by the tour guide you draw. Last year, the guide gave an account of the fire in great detail, this year; I had to draw out what little info we got for the sake of my traveling companion. The Heritage Center makes this a trip worth taking. I enjoyed it this year, as I did last year. There was a tasting at the end, and this is the only tour that emphasizes the importance of adding a little water to the bourbon.
After Heaven Hills, a quick meal at Kurtz then back to Alabama. Overall, I had a great vacation. There are a few observations I would like to make. Three different distilleries claimed to be the oldest continuously running distillery in Kentucky. Also, the history of the charred barrels is presented as an accidental fire at one distillery, while at another it was reported to be a way of removing the taste of a previously shipped item (fish was mentioned). Between now and next years trip, I will pick up a few books and read them, and I am certain this will add to the enjoyment of the tours.