Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center
For a historical context of Bourbon and lesson in proper tasting, look no further than the Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center. White aging warehouses as far as the eye can see provide a fitting backdrop for the state-of-the-art visitor’s center that opened to the public in 2004. In partnership with the city, the center provides convenient trolley rides up the hill to the facility to and from downtown.
During a tour, visitors are treated to an interactive education about Bourbon’s development and its early pioneers, including the distillery’s own brand namesakes Evan Williams and Elijah Craig. Visitors end the tour experience in the Parker Beam Tasting Room, a dome-shaped room that resembles a Bourbon barrel, where they receive instructions on how to properly taste and differentiate Bourbons. To sweeten the deal, tourists leave with a famous Rebecca Ruth Bourbon ball made from Evan Williams. (1311 Gilkey Run Rd.; www.bourbonheritagecenter.com)
Barton 1792 Distillery
Located within city limits, Barton 1792 Distillery dedicates 192 acres of Bardstown territory to the distilling and aging of its fine Bourbons in 28 black warehouses. The distillery sources water from the Tom Moore Spring, which has supplied limestone-rich water since the distillery’s establishment in 1879. Bourbon enthusiasts travel far and wide to gather in Bardstown and toast the distillery’s 1792 Ridgemont Reserve every September during the Kentucky Bourbon Festival.
One of the most comprehensive tours offered on the Bourbon trail, visitors walk through warehouses built as early as the 1940s and see how Bourbon transitions from raw American grain to finished product. The Barton 1792 distillery is also home to the world’s largest Bourbon barrel. In 2011, the distillery opened its new visitor’s center, where guided tours are still offered free-of-charge. (300 Barton Rd.; www.1792bourbon.com)
Continuing a tradition that started after the Civil War in Bardstown, the Willett family revitalized and reopened
their namesake distillery in 2012. The distillery was built beside a lake atop the town’s sloping hills, providing the dynamic wind conditions perfect for aging bourbon. Inside a chiseled stone exterior of this humble distillery rests the family’s prized copper pot still.
With small batch gems like Rowan’s Creek and the single barrel Willett Pot Still Reserve, which comes in a bottle resembling a copper pot still, the Willett Distillery is a must-see location on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour. The family still uses mash bills written by original founder Thompson Willett. During a grounds tour of this inviting craft distillery, visitors will appreciate the care and consideration the family takes for every bottle they sell. (1869 Loretto Rd.; www.kentuckybourbonwhiskey.com)
Maker’s Mark Distillery
A short 20-mile ride outside of Bardstown will bring visitors to Loretto, KY., the home of Maker’s Mark Distillery. One of the most recognizable Bourbon brands across the world, Maker’s Mark draws “Ambassadors” to the area to hand dip their personal bottle in hot red wax. Your tour of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail is incomplete without a stop at this iconic distillery. (3350 Burkes Spring Rd., Loretto; www.makersmark.com)