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11 Best Distilleries in Kentucky to Taste Real Bourbon

Kentucky is the birthplace of bourbon, so we’re going right down the iconic Kentucky Bourbon Trail, listing off the significant and age-old places to throw back some barrel-aged goodness. Those who come to explore will get a glimpse into the unique craftsmanship that goes into each distillery’s recipes, as well as an understanding of the deep historical roots bourbon has in Kentucky, that date back to the 18th century. Don’t forget to grab your trail passport at the first distillery stop, so you can check off all the ones you hit.

Jim Beam Distillery, Clermont Jim Beam Distillery
Credit: Jim Beam Distillery by Jim Beam Distillery

Jim Beam Distillery, Clermont

Might as well start out with what is known as America’s number one bourbon—Jim Beam. The American Stillhouse in Clermont is where it all began, so the site has seven generations of history tied to it as well. You can also hit the urban Louisville location. Although, a cool thing about the stillhouse tour is that you can pack your own bottle to take home, and can even get it engraved.

Wild Turkey Distillery, Lawrenceburg Wild Turkey Distillery
Credit: Wild Turkey Distillery by Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey Distillery, Lawrenceburg

The distiller here has been making magic happen for 64 years, and he has been doing it longer than anyone in the world. His son has fallen in line and has racked up over 30 years in the business. Together they personally assure every bottle is perfection.

Town Branch Distillery, Lexington Town Branch Distillery
Credit: Town Branch Distillery by Kentucky Ale

Town Branch Distillery, Lexington

The Lexington Brewing Company dates back to the 1700s, and Town Branch acquired it in the late 90s, merging into what is known as the “Brewstillery,” the combination of both a brewery and distillery if you didn’t already guess. This is a great quick stop spot as the tours are short and sweet. You’ll also find other neat knick-knacks and bits of historical info.

O.Z. Tyler Distillery, Owensboro O.Z. Tyler Distillery
Credit: O.Z. Tyler Distillery by O.Z. Tyler

O.Z. Tyler Distillery, Owensboro

Some say the limestone-filtered water is the secret behind this bourbon, others think it’s the modern yet traditional technique. Regardless, O.Z. Tyler is a charming stop along the trail, and you can take part of a whiskey barrel home from the gift shop, to add as a rustic decoration to your home.

Lux Row Distillers, Bardstown Lux Row Distillers
Credit: Lux Row Distillers by Lux Row

Lux Row Distillers, Bardstown

From charcoal filtered, pristine selections, to extra aged varieties, Lux Row has an impressive line up on site. They dig deep into the experience so each guest leaves educated rather than just tipsy. A tour will take you amongst the fascinating grounds where you’ll get more than a glimpse of the process and dedication. Perhaps one of the more intriguing bourbons is the David Nicholson, as the recipe for the honey butter noted concoction was developed 200 years ago.

Old Forester Distilling Co., Louisville Old Forester Distilling Co.
Credit: Old Forester Distilling Co. by Old Forester

Old Forester Distilling Co., Louisville

Located in Louisville, Old Forester has been around since before prohibition, and is touted as the “Hometown Bourbon of Bourbon’s Hometown”. The facility has been modernized and has a cool look. The tour is wonderful and you get to do more than just taste—watching a barrel get charred is pretty interesting. Probably one of the best places to come for a detailed explanation of bourbon distilling, the bartenders also have a wide range of knowledge to inform while tasting.

Four Roses Distillery, Lawrenceburg Four Roses Distillery
Credit: Four Roses Distillery by Four Roses

Four Roses Distillery, Lawrenceburg

On Salt River in Lawrenceburg, Four Roses offers a longer distillery tour which sells out quickly, and a shorter history directed familiarization tour offering a tasting of a few bourbons. What really makes the tours stand out is the personalities of the guides, whom guests say completely “make” the visit for them, along with the tasty Single Barrel Bourbon.

Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience, Shelbyville

Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience, Shelbyville

Producing an old family recipe, Bulleit makes one heck of a high rye whiskey. It’s noted to be quite bold with spicy flavor and is a great addition to a tasting trek across Kentucky. The distillery offers tours every day but Tuesday’s.

Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, Louisville Evan Williams Bourbon Experience
Credit: Evan Williams Bourbon Experience by Evan Williams Bourbon Experience

Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, Louisville

Louisville’s historic “Whiskey Row” House’s the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, and it’s a historically focused journey that ends with a tasting of three delicious whiskeys, and a sweet treat that compliments the flavors. If you feel inclined, definitely don’t leave without bourbon flavored coffee to sip on at home.

Maker’s Mark Distillery, Loretto Maker’s Mark Distillery, Loretto
Credit: Maker’s Mark Distillery, Loretto by makersmark.com

Maker’s Mark Distillery, Loretto

You won’t find Maker’s Mark Cask Strength bourbon anywhere but at the Kentucky location itself—this alone may warrant a trip to the state. The unique creation develops its flavors in seared French oak staves, and yes, it’s as good as it sounds.

Woodford Reserve Distillery, Versailles Woodford Reserve Distillery, Versailles
Credit: Woodford Reserve Distillery, Versailles by Woodford Reserve Distillery

Woodford Reserve Distillery, Versailles

This distillery is a National Historic Landmark, further enriching the experience. Craftsmen began distilling bourbon here back in 1812, and today continues with very unique methods when creating their line. Copper pot stills and triple distillation are used in the heat cycled barrelhouse, making it one of the few of its kind in the whole world. Double Double Oaked Whiskey has more of a kick than the double oaked and is noted to only be available at the Woodford Distillery.

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