Kentucky is known for a lot of things. Thoroughbred horses. Fried Chicken. Abraham Lincoln. Cassius Clay. The Kentucky Derby. And sweet, sweet bourbon.
Although the popular myth that bourbon has to be made in Kentucky is not true, it might as well be. More than 95% of the world’s bourbon comes from Kentucky. In fact, we have more barrels of bourbon aging here in the Commonwealth (nearly five million) than we have Kentucky residents! Kentucky bourbon is so good for the same reason that our horses are so good: the low-iron, high-calcium water that is filtered through our ubiquitous limestone.
So, if it is not being made in Kentucky, what makes bourbon bourbon? According to US law (27 C.F.R. S5.22), bourbon has to meet several requirements. It must be:
Knowing a few random facts about bourbon is nice, but it does not tell the whole story. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail, stretching across the central Bluegrass State, offers opportunities to tour the distilleries to learn about bourbon’s history, watch the production process, breath in a portion of the Angel’s Share and, if you’re over 21, even try out a few sips of the amber-colored treasure.
Forming a triangle with Louisville, Loretto and Lexington at the points, the Bourbon Trail features eight different bourbon makers for you to visit. As if the knowledge, experience and samples were not enough to get you on the trail, the participants incentivize it even more by turning it into a sort of game. Pick up your Bourbon Trail passport, visit all the stops to collect your stamps and you get a prize (a Kentucky Bourbon Trail t-shirt).
The latest addition to the Bourbon Trail is Louisville’s own Evan Williams Bourbon Experience. Located in downtown Louisville at 528 West Main Street (Louisville, KY 40202), EWBE opens Monday through Saturday at 10AM and on Sunday at 1PM. The last tour of the day starts at 4PM daily so that everyone can be out by the 5PM closing time. As has been the trend along the Bourbon Trail, the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience does charge admission to take the tour. The pricetag here will set you back $12 if you’re 21+, $9 for ages 10-20 and free for kids under 10. Active duty military gets in at a discounted rate of $9.
From the EWBE page:
“The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience is a multi-million dollar artisanal distillery, immersive tourism experience and retail location which celebrates the legacy of Evan Williams, Kentucky’s first distiller and namesake of Heaven Hill Distilleries flagship Bourbon brand. It is located along downtown Louisville’s historic “Whiskey Row” and across the street from the riverfront location where Evan Williams’ distillery stood in the late 18th century.”
Whether you are a bourbon enthusiast or afficianado or just want to learn more, taking a trip down the Kentucky Bourbon Trail (even if it is just a single stop here in downtown Derby City) is a great way to spend an afternoon.
Tell us about your Bourbon Trail experience in the comments below.