Day 1: After a long days drive we, my girlfriend and I, made it through Lexington and decided to stop at the Woodford Distillery when we saw the signs. The distillery is by far the most beautiful of all the distilleries that we visited. The ground and the buildings are very picturesque and the tour of the distillery was pretty interesting. The only thing we missed was the tasting since we showed up on Sunday. I didn't mind too much because Woodford is not my favorite bourbon. We checked into the Parkview hotel and unloaded the bike. We rode around a little around Bardstown just to get the lay of the town. We ended up at the Talbot Inn for dinner. Average food, average prices but our waitress was great and we tried a couple of bourbons with dinner (Pappy Van Winkle 23yr, FR Yellow label to name a few) and finished off the meal with a bread pudding in bourbon sauce that was fantastic. Of course we had no luck in buying anything to take back to the hotel at the local store since it was Sunday.
Day 2: The plan is to get up early and ride to Versailles and see the Buffalo Trace, Wild turkey and Four Roses Distilleries. We took advantage of the continental breakfast at the hotel and made a quick trip to Liquor World to check on prices as based on the gift shop prices at WoodFord's I figured I could get a better price at a local store. We got a late start to the distilleries due to some rain blowing through. After an hours ride to Buffalo Trace we had a nice tour of grounds. We actually got to see them rolling barrels from one of the warehouses. They even have a "Barrel Crossing" similar to a railroad crossing. They also were bottling Blanton's which we got to see. I was pretty amazed at how low tech both of the distilleries have been so far. The Woodfords pot stills, cypress fermenting vats and BT's bottling operation. The tasting at BT's was very minimal. We got to sample their organic vodka, and some of the BT and Eagle Rare. Off to Wild Turkey, we got there and knew ahead of time that the distillery for WT was closed for the summer. We got to view the distillery from a distance and when the tour was starting to head for the warehouse we decided to head for Four Roses since I really wanted to see it and we had been running late due to the weather. I will say the Wild Turkey seemed to be very impersonal. At least not as quaint as Woodford's and BT. We arrived at Four Roses just in time to catch the majority of the last tour. The tasting was pretty enjoyable and we got to sample the Yellow Label, Small Batch and Single Barrel. This was our second taste of Four Roses Yellow label since we had some while at the Talbot, we both are liking it quite a bit. There is also a list that was shared with us that showed us that Four Roses would be available in the DC area sometime in 2008! Since we hadn't eaten all day since our light breakfast we needed to eat. The Four roses gift shop clerk directed us to a little local diner with an all you can eat buffet of home cooked style food. After we got back to Bardstown we ran up to Liquor World and loaded up on bourbon. Four Roses did dominate since we can't get it back home...yet. One of the selections my girlfriend made was a Four Roses Barrel Strength 120th anniversary. We settled back in at our hotel room and sat outside, sipped this great FR Barrel Strength and I smoked a Rocky Patel OSG. What a great end to a great day.
Day 3: Today we slept in it is a vacation after all. The plan was to get breakfast on the road, then go to Maker's Mark and hit Heaven Hill on the way back. MM is an 18 mile ride on country back roads. what a beautiful leisurely ride as the weather is perfect today. MM is also a very beautiful and picturesque distillery. It ranks as number two after Woodford's. The tasting at MM is pretty good as they let you actually sample the white dog which is the raw distillate before it is barreled. The tasting of the MM bourbon was pretty informative as well as there was actually some instructing in in the aroma, tasting and finish. Hand dipping your own bottle was pretty cool too. All in all a great tour. If you only have time for one, I recommend this one. We stopped at Heaven Hill on the war back to Bardstown. HH makes my favorite, EJ 18YO. The HH Heritage Center is pretty nice and the gift shop is the best in my opinion. It is also the closest to Barsdtown. After the film and the tour of the warehouse, we were brought back into the tasting room. This is the best tasting set up of the six distilleries we have visited. We sampled the Evan Williams 10yr Single barrel and also the EJ 18yr. I was surprised to hear that the recipes for both are exactly the same, the only difference is the aging. Amazing difference in the bourbons. I will also mention that most of the distillery tours identified using various chars for their barrels. I think all were in the 3 or 4 range for char but the HH uses a number six char, which probably explains why several people here seem to think EJ 18YO has too much charcoal taste in their reviews. Though I have tasted some great bourbons on this trip I still measure everything against my favorite Elijah Craig 18yo!! We decided to finish the day at the hotel pool and forgo the Jim Beam Distillery. Tomorrow we are off to Louisville to do the "Urban Bourbon Trail", sounds like more fun to be had.