Love bourbon? Come with me on my Kentucky Bourbon Trail Tour (plus my favorite off-trail distillery)! The Bourbon Trail is easy to navigate and a fantastic getaway for bourbon lovers!
What is the Kentucky Bourbon Trail?
If you, like me, enjoy tours of vineyards, distilleries, and breweries — listen up!
Most people know that the winery clusters in California, Italy, and France make for spectacular vineyard-hopping getaways.
But wine isn't the only beverage that has outstanding geographic regions!
Did you realize that several major bourbon distilleries in Kentucky are also clustered together?
These distilleries make up the Kentucky Bourbon Trail!
Kentucky's native limestone rock makes bourbon production easier, and 95% of all bourbon is made in Kentucky.
A Kentucky Bourbon Trail Tour
As of 2023, the Bourbon Trail has EIGHTEEN official stops.
Here are some tips to help you plan a visit through nine distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and one that's off-trail!
What else is nearby? While you're visiting Kentucky, make sure to go hiking at Natural Bridge near Lexington! If you're exploring during early summer, check out Woodstock Lavender Company near Somerset.
Bourbon Trail Tours: Are They Expensive?
Tours, as of May 2022, run in the $15 to $30 range per person. Specialty tours and tastings cost more.
If you're on a tight budget, I recommend visiting Buffalo Trace. They're off the official trail, but they had a fantastic tour.
How Long Do the Bourbon Tours Take?
Most tours are around an hour and tend to run on a set schedule.
Online reservations are highly recommended (and sometimes required).
How Many Distilleries Can I Tour in One Day?
Plan on doing 1-3 distilleries per day, since most of them require some driving to get to.
What's the Best Time + Day for a Kentucky Bourbon Trail Tour?
The best bourbon tours I've had, with smaller crowds, have been on weekdays. Especially the first tour of the day.
Whatever you do, remember that the first weekend in May is Derby Weekend.
If you plan your trip then, be prepared for major crowds.
Book your hotel FAR in advance, and call the distilleries ahead to find out what their touring schedule is for that weekend.
Keep in mind that most distilleries ARE NOT IN PRODUCTION during July and August because it's simply too hot for the distilling process.
If you tour in those months you may not get to see as much of the bourbon-making process.
How Much Bourbon Will I Get to Taste on a Tour?
It depends on the distillery, but somewhere from 3 to 6 tastings.
Kentucky law limits the amount they can give out.
Some of the tours give you loot in addition to the tastings.
You might get a bourbon ball candy, a souvenir glass, or even a bourbon bottle label.
Do I Have to Be 21 to Go on a Bourbon Trail Tour?
U.S. law says you have to be 21 to drink alcohol, so any tastings obviously require you to be old enough to drink.
Many distilleries do still allow underage people to tour, sometimes at a cheaper price. (They just aren't allowed to drink anything!)
Their websites will let you know for sure when you're booking a tour.
1. Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co./Town Branch (Lexington)
$12 per person tour and tasting.
The Town Branch distillery is small, but it's one of my favorite tasting experiences.
The short tour includes not only the distillery but also Lexington Brewing Co. across the street, where they make Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale.
The tour includes four tokens that let you choose which drinks you want to sample, from both distillery and brewery drinks.
I’ve visited this distillery three times, and it’s still one of my favorites!
This is a nice stop if you’d like to shake up your bourbon experience with some local brews.
2. Woodford Reserve (Versailles)
$32 per person tour and tasting; $25 per person for tasting only; specialty tours and tastings available.
Woodford Reserve is like the country club on this distillery tour.
The distillery grounds are gorgeous, with limestone buildings and lush green countryside.
The tour takes you through the large distilling area and the rickhouses (where they store the bourbon barrels).
At the end of our tour, we enjoyed four tastings and a bourbon ball.
3. Wild Turkey (Lawrenceburg)
$11 per person.
Note: As of summer 2023, The Wild Turkey Visitor Center is temporarily closed for renovations. Tours and tastings are suspended, but you can still make purchases at the Station Master’s House gift shop.
The Wild Turkey Distillery is surrounded by beautiful Kentucky countryside.
The tour includes four samples, and we went home with an extremely high-quality, heavy-bottomed tasting glass.
As for the tour itself, we had bad timing – a Saturday afternoon in August, just as university students came back into town.
Our tour group was huge, and the tour guide was pretty soft-spoken with a broken microphone.
I’d definitely recommend heading to this extra-popular spot on a weekday morning.
I’ll be back, Wild Turkey!
4. Four Roses Distillery (Lawrenceburg)
$22 per person tour and tasting; $16 for tasting only.
The Four Roses Distillery, unlike most Bourbon Trail stops, doesn’t actually age ANY of their bourbon at this location.
This location distills the grains, and then they’re aged at the Four Roses Warehouse. So you'll see the distilling vats, but not any rickhouses or aging barrels.
We were able to sample three bourbons and keep the tasting glass.
Four Roses Warehouse
$22 per person tour and tasting; $16 per person for tasting only.
The Four Roses warehouse is where Four Roses ages all their bourbon.
It’s located near the Jim Beam distillery.
We opted for a 30-minute tasting here, which included three bourbons and the tasting glass. It was short, sweet, and a nice side trip while we waited for our Jim Beam tour.
5. Maker's Mark (Loretto)
$22 per person tour and tasting; specialty tours available.
Our tour included a walk-through of the large distillery area, a chance to taste the mash of fermenting grains, a view of the production line, a bottle label, four tastings, and a chance to hand-dip a bourbon bottle in their signature red wax.
Quick Tips: This is one of the most popular spots on the Bourbon Trail – if you can go on a weekday morning, I’d recommend it. I also recommend checking the Maker’s Mark website for directions, because our GPS took us the wrong way.
6. Heaven Hill (Bardstown)
Tasting $18; specialty tastings available.
Heaven Hill does not have an on-site distillery, but you can learn about the history of Heaven Hill, see the on-site rickhouse, and (obviously) have a bourbon tasting.
On a recent visit, we decided to go for the connoisseur experience. It included a brief video "tour" (about 5 minutes long), five tastings and a bourbon ball.
This stop was really just a tasting and not a full tour, and we were only there about 30 minutes.
7. Jim Beam (Clermont)
$22 per person tour and tasting; $12 per person for tasting only.
The Jim Beam Distillery was one of the most well-run, informative tours on the trail.
If it's been a while since you've visited, know that Jim Beam has opened an expanded visitor center, with new tasting rooms and a restaurant!
The tour included their distillery and rickhouses, a chance to taste the mash of fermenting grains, and a chance to smell or taste undiluted bourbon straight from the barrel.
We could also clean an empty bourbon bottle (by washing it with bourbon, of course), set it on the bottling line, and then add the wax seal, if purchasing a bottle.
Jim Beam definitely had the most tasting options— including their classic bourbons, single barrel bourbons, and flavored whiskeys.
The tasting glass is included in the tour price.
Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse
Jim Beam also has a tasting room in downtown Louisville.
For $8, you get a shot glass to keep, and four bourbon tastings. It’s only a short walk from the Evan Williams distillery.
8. Bulleit (Shelbyville)
$22 per person tour and tasting; $18 per person for tasting only; specialty workshops available.
We went to the Bulleit Distillery on a Monday morning, and had a tiny tour group and a fantastic tour!
The most enjoyable part (other than sampling four bourbons) was listening to the guide tell us about the history of the bourbon industry.
I’d highly recommend this tour!
9. Evan Williams (Louisville)
$18 per person tour and tasting; specialty tours available.
Evan Williams provides the most unique Bourbon Trail tour I’ve been on.
There’s no large distillery on site, and you only get a brief glimpse of the small artisan distillery. Even so, it's an enjoyable, incredibly interesting tour.
The entire tour felt like walking through an interactive play, with rooms turned into reproductions of old Evan Williams buildings and historical Louisville. A lot of the tour was via videos shown as the guide led you from room to room.
The tasting included three bourbons and a bourbon ball.
The Speakeasy experience was sold out when we got there, but seemed similar to the Heaven Hill connoisseur tour (which makes sense, because Heaven Hill is the parent company for Evan Williams).
You’ll see a lot of the same bourbons available to buy at both locations.
New Distilleries on the Bourbon Trail
So much for the nine original distilleries on the Bourbon Trail!
Before we get to my favorite off-trail experience, here's a round-up of the newest distilleries that have been added to the official trail in the past few years.
$20 tour and tasting at Fort Nelson Distillery, specialty tours available.
$25 tour and tasting; specialty tastings and classes available.
Old Forester (Louisville)
$32 tour and tasting; specialty tour available.
Rabbit Hole Distillery (Louisville)
$25 tour and tasting.
Angels Envy (Louisville)
$25 tour and tasting; specialty tours and tastings available.
Bardstown Bourbon Company (Bardstown)
$15 tour and tasting; specialty tours, tastings and classes available.
Lux Row Distillers (Bardstown)
$15 tour and tasting; specialty tour and tasting available.
Wilderness Trail (Danville)
$15 tour and tasting.
Green River (Owensboro)
$20 tour and tasting; $12 tasting; specialty tour and tasting available.
10. Off-Trail: Buffalo Trace (Frankfort)
While I was researching the Bourbon Trail, one distillery kept popping up – the Buffalo Trace Distillery. It wasn’t on the trail, but it did look exciting!
I contacted Buffalo Trace, and they had me over for a tour and for one of their über fancy Craftsman Dinners.
It’s in an incredibly nice area downtown, perfect for strolling and visiting local shops.
All the tours at Buffalo Trace are – get this – FREE!
And of course, you get to sample a few spirits, and Buffalo Trace’s version of Irish cream. (Faaaabulous!)
Complementary tours and tastings in this day and age almost seem too good to be true — but it IS true, and that's why the Buffalo Trace calendar books up ridiculously quickly when a new month's worth of tours are released. If you're not able to snag a spot, you can go on the waitlist.
What Tours Does Buffalo Trace Offer?
Buffalo Trace has THE BEST tour variety of any other distillery we visited.
They have a standard Trace tour, a Hard Hat tour, an Expansion tour, a Historic Landmark tour, and the Old Taylor tour.
We did the Old Taylor tour, which included a tour of the archaeological ruins of an old bourbon distillery! It was – without question – the most unique distillery tour I’ve been on!
I will be back, Buffalo Trace! I’ve got my eye on the hard hat tour!
What about you? Have you been on a Kentucky Bourbon Trail Tour? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!
Want to see EVEN MORE bourbon? Browse all of my bourbon recipes!