3,512 miles was the total over the last 10 days. That’s how many miles it took to drive CO–>NE–>IA–>IL–>IN–>OH–>KY–>TN–>–>KY–>IL–>MO–>KS–>CO Phew!
David has wanted to do the Kentucky Bourbon Trail for years and after finding out he had a business conference in Lexington, we thought it made pretty good sense to just stay a little longer and explore all that Kentucky has to offer! I really wanted to bless David with this trip…he’s done so much for me over the last year. I wanted him to have a vacation he’d love and I’m pretty sure he loved every second! 🙂
I am not ready to fly again (it’s going to be awhile before I subject myself to that experience again! Brain surgery + pressurized airplanes = no bueno) and I had a funeral in IL to attend, so I combined the funeral with driving to Kentucky. It all lined up really well! I drove to Chicago last Tuesday,14.5 hours in one straight shot! I spent a few days in Chicago with family before heading out for a short little 6 hour drive to Lexington, where we started our Bourbon Trail experience.
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is a really fantastic thing. It’s a combo of brilliant marketing and lots of great distilleries dotted throughout the state. You get a “passport” with all the distilleries in it. Basically, you visit all the different distilleries, collecting stamps from each distillery and at the end of your trail, you can submit your completed passport for a t-shirt. Not a bad deal! It’s a great way to see some really cool bourbon distilleries and also some beautiful parts of the state!
Our tour was pretty inefficient in terms of driving route, but it kind of had to be that way due to starting in Lexington, hotel availability and working around distillery hours. There was some backtracking, but we got to take some scenic routes and see parts of the state we would have otherwise missed.
Kentucky Bourbon Trail: Day 1
We started out in Lexington, where David had his conference. We left in the morning and headed towards Louisville and visited Evan Williams and Bulliet. Evan Williams was really neat, they had a great interactive tour and put a big emphasis on the history of the area and distilling. We got caught up in a tour full of Clemson football fans, we were the only ones not wearing orange haha!
Bulleit was not my favorite…it was in a weird industrial part of town and I kinda didn’t want to get out of my car. We didn’t do a tour here, just wandered around the grounds, gift shop and took some photos.
Then we headed over to our final tour for the day, which was at Woodford Reserve. We almost missed our tour due to construction traffic, but we discovered a one-lane backroad (one of many that we drove on in Kentucky haha!) and got there just in time. Woodford was reaaaaaally busy! They have gorgeous property and seem to gear their marketing to a higher-end clientele, so the entire place was full of golfers and fancy ladies, not what you’d typically picture for a bourbon crowd!
We stayed at a really cool inn called the Woodford Inn in Versailles, KY. It is an historic inn that also has a restaurant attached. We had a great meal and a wonderful night’s sleep. The neighborhood nearby was having a “block party” which we explored after dinner. You haven’t lived unless you’ve been to a Kentucky block party, let me tell you 🙂
Kentucky Bourbon Trail: Day 2
We deviated off of the trail in the morning to hit up one of David’s favorite places, Buffalo Trace. We got there early in the morning and did the first tour of the day. We both agreed this was our favorite tour. It was super informative, our tour guide was awesome and they did a great tasting after (can I just say it’s weird to be tasting bourbon at 10am?).
I’m not a big fan of straight bourbon, but Buffalo Trace makes this delicious stuff called Bourbon Cream, which is just bourbon mixed with cream. They combined some with root beer and it was SO good. I had to buy some since you can’t find it out in Colorado.
Buffalo Trace’s beautiful grounds
We did a quick visit to Wild Turkey and Four Roses before heading over to Maker’s Mark. Maker’s Mark is another one of David’s favorites, so we spent a lot of time exploring and doing a tour of the distillery. They have some really beautiful areas!
They let you dip your own bottle in red wax to seal it at Maker’s Mark. David did a great job, he’s a total pro! After the tour, we drove to Bardstown, KY to stay in an adorable cottage we rented for 2 nights. The Kentucky Bourbon Fesitval was going on in town, so every single hotel was booked for the weekend. This was the only place available and we were so lucky that it turned out to be fabulous! When I booked, there were no photos of the cottage so we walked into this one totally blind and just hoped for the best. Lucky us, it was perfect!
They even included breakfast at the cottage. It came pre-stocked with fruit, pastries, juice, yogurt and other breakfast goodies. And if that wasn’t enough, there was an amazing bakery just across the street. Perfect! We visited the Kentucky Bourbon Festival while staying in Bardstown. It was quite the experience!
Kentucky Bourbon Trail: Day 3
We enjoyed some bourbon coffee (yes, it’s a real thing!) on our front porch before heading out for our third day on the trail! We started with a craft distillery, which was a really nice change! Most of the distilleries we visited were massive and had enormous productions. Craft distilleries do small batches, sometimes less than 5 barrels. They do interesting flavors and unique techniques that the larger distilleries just can’t do. Willett is just a stone’s throw away from several large distilleries. We had a great tour at Willett, they really took their time explaining their process and allowing you to explore.
(Why do I look so creepy in this picture?!)They let you taste the mash as it’s cooking! It’s like a weird sour porridge made of corn, barley and wheat or malt. Not very good. It’s amazing that they can take a bunch of this stuff and turn it into a $70 bottle of liquor.
We went from this tiny craft distillery to the 2 biggest distilleries in Kentucky, Heaven Hill and Jim Beam. We did a “connoisseur experience” tour at Heaven Hill, where we got to sample 4 of their most expensive bourbons, including a 23 year Elija Craig that sells for $300! I don’t have enough knowledge or a mature palette for bourbon, so I took a little sip of each and then passed my sample along to David who could actually appreciate what he was tasting haha!
Jim Beam had some truly beautiful grounds. I loved visiting here! They also had a really cool tasting system, with little machines that dispensed your samples out. They have a lot of history on their property, from the Beam’s first farmhouse to their first still. It was beautiful to walk through.
Kentucky Bourbon Trail: Day 4
Day four was a little less about bourbon and a little more about sightseeing and nature walking. A nice break 🙂 We headed into the Daniel Boone National Forest and Red River Gorge area, which I had read was a “must-see” when visiting Kentucky. We did 2 hikes in the morning, one to Sky Bridge and one to Rock Bridge. Sky Bridge was cool because it was a natural arch that you could walk on top of and under!
David bought me a new camera backpack for my birthday last November. It is the only backpack built specifically for female photographers! It was in production all year and it finally shipped to me at the end of August, just in time for me to try it out on our trip! LOVE it! 🙂
Rock Bridge. This was really cool! Somehow the water from the river cut through this rock, making a bridge out of the rock. I’ve seen plenty of rock arches before, but non with water flowing underneath them!
David grabbed a candid of me taking photos of a waterfall. Here’s the photo that I took:
The colors were just starting to turn. I really want to go back sometime when it’s in full swing, I’m sure it’s just beautiful! After the Red River Gorge area, we drove down south through some winding country roads until we reached Cumberland Falls. I originally wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to make this stop, but I am SO glad we did! The falls were breathtakingly beautiful and we had the entire state park to ourselves, there was absolutely no one there!
That night we stayed in the most amazing place. When I thought about visiting Kentucky, I always had a vision of staying in a little country cabin with a wrap-around porch. I searched and searched and finally found this little cabin. The pictures were blurry and terrible, but I had a hunch it was going to be a great place! As luck would have it, the property owner let us stay for free in exchange for some good photos of her place. Yay! How cute is this little place?!
Kentucky Bourbon Trail: Day 5-8
We left the cabin in the woods and began our trek towards Nashville so that we could visit David’s grandmother who lives there. We went through Bowling Green, stopped at another craft distillery called Cosair, ate lunch at an awesome place called Moriah’s and then came into Nashville. Nashville seemed so congested and crazy compared to the open country in Kentucky! We did a quick 24 hour visit in Nashville before heading back towards CO. We stopped back in Kentucky and visited another craft distillery called MB Rolland. This place was literally in the country…like in the middle of a corn field! They made more moonshine than bourbon, but we still enjoyed our time there. I found a pink lemonade moonshine that is yummmmy!
I’m wearing the t-shirt we got after turning in our completed passports, I think it’s pretty cool! A stopover in Kansas City (with a delicious dinner at Jack Stack BBQ!) and then a 9.5 hour drive back to CO and we were home! 3,512 miles, 7 days, 12 distilleries, 16 bottles of bourbon, 80+ different tastings and we made it back happier than when we left! We had a wonderful time exploring Kentucky, getting to experience the food, culture, people and natural beauty of this area. I’m certain we’ll be back again one day…