Exploring the Kentucky Bourbon Trail is one of the best ways to learn about bourbon, Kentucky history, and take scenic drives in bluegrass country, all in one trip.
No wonder it has attracted 2.5 million visitors from all over the country in the last five years.
In this article, I’ll cover pretty much everything you need to know about the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, including which distilleries to visit, when to go and where to stay.
What is the Kentucky Bourbon Trail?
The Kentucky Distillers’ Association (KDA) established the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in 1999 as a road-trip style experience with 10 major distilleries in the Louisville and Lexington areas.
Today, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail is a collection of 18 major bourbon whiskey distilleries (Heritage Distilleries) and 23 smaller and newer microdistilleries (Craft Distilleries) that will give you the ultimate experience of learning all about Kentucky bourbon: its history, technology, craftsmanship, and artistry.
Of course, all the bourbon tasting sessions are a great perk, too.
Each of the bourbon distilleries offers a completely different experience and I highly recommend you visit them all (if you have the time, of course).
What is Kentucky Bourbon?
Before you explore the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, here’s a brief explainer of some of the products you’ll encounter.
Whiskey is a broad term for an alcoholic beverage made from a fermented grain mash that is distilled and aged in oak barrels.
For a whiskey to be called bourbon, it must meet the following requirements:
- Made in the USA
- Mash must be at least 51% corn
- Mash must be distilled at 160 proof or less
- Aged in new charred oak barrels at 125 proof or less
- No additional coloring or flavoring in the mash
- Bottled at a minimum of 80 proof
Major Distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail
In general, distillery tours last approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour. You’ll get to learn some history and facts about Kentucky bourbon, view a few or all steps of bourbon production, and taste a few of their product offerings.
The Frazier History Museum houses several educational exhibits and collections that tell of Kentucky’s history and its place in national and even international history.
Perhaps this is why this was made the official starting point of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in 2018 even though it’s not a distillery.
At the welcome center, you can talk to the friendly concierges who’ll have information on the trail’s distilleries and all the best places to experience the best of Kentucky cuisine and nightlife.
You can also buy your Kentucky Bourbon Trail Passport and Field Guide here. This contains information about all the distilleries on the trail, maps, cocktail recipes, trip planning resources, and many more.
Get a stamp from every distillery that you tour, complete the stamps on the passport, and get special gifts.
Location: 829 W Main St., Louisville, KY | 502-753-1699
Hours: Mon–Sat 10am–5pm; Sun 12am–5pm
A short walk down the block from Ground Zero of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail is Michter’s Fort Nelson Distillery.
Learn about their unique process, from high-quality ingredients to chill filtering their products.
Location: 801 W Main St., Louisville, KY | 502-389-4290
Must-try Products: Kentucky Straight Bourbon, Sour Mash, 10-Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Tours: Discovery Tour ($20 per head); Founders Tour ($50 per head); Legacy Tour ($100 per head)
Hours: Wed–Sat 11am – 5pm; Sun 1pm–5pm; Mon–Tue closed
Evan Williams was the first distillery on Whiskey Row, opening way back in 1783 on the banks of the Ohio River.
Their place feels like a museum that takes you on a fascinating journey throughout time, where you’ll learn all about this area of the state and all about the history of bourbon in this Kentucky distillery.
Location: 528 W Main St., Louisville, KY | 502-272-2623
Must-try Products: Kentucky Straight Bourbon, Honey Bourbon, Single Barrel Bourbon
Tours: Traditional Tour and Tasting ($18 per head); Speakeasy Tasting Experience ($25 per head); The Ideal Bartender Experience ($35 per head)
Hours: Tue–Thu 11am – 5pm; Fri–Sat 10am–5pm; Sun, 1pm–5pm
Old Forester is the only bourbon continuously distilled by the founders before, during, and after Prohibition, with their first bourbon produced way back in 1870.
They take great pride in their process, and you get to witness all the stages when you take their tour.
Location: 119 W Main St., Louisville, KY | 502-779-2222
Must-try Products: Kentucky Straight Bourbon, 1920 Prohibition Style, 2004 Birthday Bourbon
Tours: Old Forester Tour ($32 per head); Nothing Better In The Market ($70 per head)
Hours: Tue–Sat 10am–5pm; Sun–Mon closed
Angel’s Envy specializes in finished bourbon and rye; their bourbon is finished in port wine barrels, and their rye is finished in rum casks.
Finished bourbon is a bit controversial (see the definition of bourbon above), but it doesn’t make Angel’s Envy products less exquisite.
Location: 500 E Main St., Louisville, KY | 502-779-2222
Must-try Products: Port Finished Bourbon, Rum Finished Rye, Finished Cask Strength
Tours: Signature Tour ($25 per head); Bottle Your Own Tour (temporarily unavailable; $99 per head)
Hours: Mon, Wed: 10am–5pm; Tue 12pm–5pm; Thu 10am–7pm; Fri–Sat: 10am–8pm; Sun: 12:30pm–5:30pm
Rabbit Hole Distillery is one of the most recent additions to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail; their ultra-modern facility in Nulu (New Louisville) opened in August 2018.
The husband and wife team who founded this distillery aims to innovate and elevate the art of bourbon.
Location: 711 E Jefferson St., Louisville, KY | 502-561-2000
Must-try Products: Cavehill (4-Grain Bourbon), Heigold (High Rye Bourbon), Founder’s Collection: Boxergrail (Cask Strength Rye Whiskey)
Tours: Distillery Tour ($25 per head)
Hours: Tue–Sat 10am–5pm; Sun–Mon closed
Stitzel–Weller Distillery has had a long history, even closing for 22 years before gaining new life in 2014.
Today, they are home to three brands of bourbon, all exceptional in their own unique way.
Location: 3860 Fitzgerald Road, Louisville, KY | 502-810-3800
Must-try Products: Blade And Bow Bourbon, I.W. Harper 15-Year-Old Bourbon, Orphan Barrel Rhetoric (20- to 25-Year-Old Bourbon)
Tours: The Stitzel-Weller Experience ($25 per head); Progressive Walking & Tasting Tour ($65 per head)
Tastings: Chocolate Tasting Experience ($30 per head); A Taste of History ($30 per head); Cocktails Through The Ages ($60 per head)
Hours: Wed–Sat, 10am–5:30pm; Sun, 12:30pm–5:30pm; Mon–Tue closed
Bulleit Frontier Whiskey was formerly produced in Stitzel–Weller Distillery until they moved into their new distillery in Shelbyville. They’ve won awards for their sustainable approach to producing great whiskey.
Location: 3464 Benson Pike, Shelbyville, KY | 502-647-5799
Must-try Products: Kentucky Straight Bourbon, Rye Whiskey, Barrel Strength Bourbon
Tours: The Frontier Whiskey Experience ($22 per head)
Tastings: Unlocking the Senses ($18 per head)
Hours: Wed–Sat 10am–5pm; Sun 11:30pm–5pm; Mon–Tue closed
The only distillery and brewery on the trail, you can learn about both bourbon-making and beer-making when touring their facility, plus tastings of bourbon and beer at the end of the tour.
Location: 401 Cross St., Lexington, KY | 859-255-2337
Must-try Products: Town Branch Kentucky Straight Bourbon, Town Branch Small Batch Straight Rye Whiskey, Town Brand Single Malt Whiskey
Tours: Brewery & Distillery Tour and Tasting ($13 per head)
Hours: Mon–Sat 9:30am–5pm; Sun 12pm–5pm; Mon–Tue closed
Operating since 1812, the Woodford Reserve Distillery is the oldest on this list and the only distillery on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Location: 7785 McCracken Pike Versailles, KY | 859-879-1812
Must-try Products: Kentucky Straight Bourbon, Distiller’s Select, Master’s Collection
Tours: (strictly reservations required) Path To Flavor Tour ($32 per head); Innovation Inspired Tour and Tasting ($125 per head); VIP Master Distiller Tour Experience ($500 per head)
Tastings: (strictly reservations required) Spectacle For The Senses ($25 per head)
Hours: Vary depending on the specific tour booked
The Wild Turkey Bourbon is another popular distillery on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and is one of the few Kentucky distilleries that produce some of the most popular bourbons in the world.
Location: 1417 Versailles Rd, Lawrenceburg, KY | 502-839-4544
Must-try Products: Wild Turkey Bourbon, Rare Breed Bourbon, Wild Turkey American Honey Sting
Tours: Temporarily unavailable due to renovations; check back for updated tour options
Hours: Thu–Sat 9am–5pm; Sun 12pm–4pm; Mon–Wed closed
The distillery was built in 1910 and has always produced Four Roses Bourbon, although, for a number of decades in the 20th century, it was only sold in Europe and Japan.
Their expanded visitor center just opened at the end of 2021, with modern facilities tucked inside Spanish architecture.
Location: 1224 Bonds Mill Rd, Lawrenceburg, KY | 502-839-3436/502-839-2655
Must-try Products: Kentucky Straight Bourbon, Small Batch, Single Barrel
Tours: Distillery Legacy Tour ($22 per head)
Tastings: Single Barrel Flight ($45 per head); A Taste of History ($16 per head)
Hours: Wed–Sat 9am–4pm; Sun 12pm–4pm; Mon–Tue closed
Bardstown Bourbon’s location is one of the most sophisticated ones on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, with a focus on open spaces and clear glass.
They also have a kitchen and bar right on the premises where you can get a sumptuous meal before or after your tasting and/or tour.
Location: 1500 Parkway Dr., Bardstown, KY | 502-233-4769
Must-try Products: Fusion Series Kentucky Straight Bourbon, Discovery Series Blended Whiskey
Tours: From Distillate to Barrel Tour ($15 per head); Behind the Scenes with Head Distiller ($50 per head); Tour with The Master Distiller ($95 per head); Fill Your Own Bottle VIP Experience ($295 per head)
Tastings: Bardstown Bourbon Company Tasting ($20 per head); Rickhouse Barrel Thieving ($30 per head); A Taste of Whiskey History ($250 per head)
Hours: Wed–Sun 10am–5pm; Mon–Tue closed
Lux Row Distillers produces bourbon and whiskey for 5 different brands. Their distillery opened in 2018, though the parent company Luxco has been around since the 1950s.
Photo Credit: Anthony
Location: 1 Lux Row, 3050 E John Rowan Blvd, Bardstown, KY | 502-337-7420
Must-try Products: Blood Oath Bourbon, Ezra Brooks Bourbon, Rebel Bourbon
Tours: Warehouse & Whiskey ($10 per head); Lux Row Distillers Production Tour ($15 per head)
Tastings: Lux Row Premium Tasting ($25 per head)
Hours: Tue–Sat 10am–4pm; Sun–Mon closed
Founded in 1935 by the Shapira family, Heaven Hill Distillery is the country’s largest family-owned and operated distilled spirits supplier.
The visitor center in Bardstown is not where their current distillery is—they’re currently distilling in the historic Bernheim Distillery in Louisville. Sadly, their original distillery burned down in 1996.
Location: 1311 Gilkey Run Rd., Bardstown, KY | 502-272-2623
Must-try Products: Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon, Henry McKenna Single Barrel, Larceny Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Tastings: Magic of the Mashbill ($18 per head); Whiskey Connoisseur Experience ($25 per head); You Do Bourbon ($40 per head)
Hours: Mon–Thu 11am–5pm; Fri–Sat 10am–5pm; Sun 1pm–5pm
Jim Beam is the top-selling bourbon in the world, and their distillery is known as the birthplace of bourbon and easily the most popular on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
Their newly renovated American Outpost replaced the American Stillhouse in 202 as a visitor and retail center.
Location: 568 Happy Hollow Rd, Clermont, KY | 502-543-9877
Must-try Products: Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon, Jim Beam Black, Jim Beam Honey
Tours: Beam Made Bourbon ($22 per head);
Tasting: Meet the Family ($12 per head); Basil Hayden Culinary Tasting Experience ($50 per head)
Hours: Wed–Sat 9am–5:30pm; Sun 12pm–4pm; Mon–Tue closed
16. Maker’s Mark
Another favorite on the trail, Maker’s Mark Distillery is perfect if you’re looking for both aesthetics and history.
Take your time strolling through the grounds and take lots of pictures. Buy yourself an undipped bottle in the gift shop and you’ll get to hand-dip it in red wax.
Location: 3350 Burks Spring Rd, Loretto, KY | 270-865-2099
Must-try Products: Kentucky Straight Bourbon, Maker’s Mark 46, Maker’s Mark Private Selection
Tours: The Maker’s Mark Tour ($22 per head)
Hours: Mon–Sat 9:30am–5pm; Sun closed
The Wilderness Trail Distillery joined the trail in 2019, making it the newest stop.
It’s also a chance to learn a different way to make bourbon; they use the sweet mash technique instead of the sour mash technique, bringing out a more subtle blend of flavors.
Location: 4095 Lebanon Rd, Danville, KY | 859-402-8707
Must-try Products: Kentucky Straight Bourbon, 6-Year Bourbon, Wheated Bottled in Bond
Tours: Distillery Tour ($15 per head)
Hours: Tue–Sat 9am–5pm; Sun–Mon closed
The Green River Distillery is another historic distillery, producing bourbon for various brands since the end of Prohibition.
This stop is quite a distance away from the other distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail (it’s not even in the same time zone), but you won’t regret driving out here if you have the time.
Location: 10 Distillery Road in Owensboro, KY | 270-691-9001
Must-try Products: Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Tours: Distillery Tour and Tasting ($20 per head); Barrel Thieving Distillery Tour ($45 per head)
Tastings: Sit and Sip ($12 per head)
Hours: Mon–Sat 10am–3pm; Sun closed
Planning Your Kentucky Bourbon Trail Itinerary
There are many ways to plan your trip, but here’s our suggested itinerary based on the general area of the distilleries.
Days One and Two: Louisville Area: Welcome Center + 6 Louisville distilleries
Day Three: Lexington Area: Four Roses, Wild Turkey, Woodford, Town (+ Bulleit)
Day Four: Bardstown Area: Bardstown, Lux Row, Heaven Hill, Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark
Day Five: Outliers: Wilderness, Green River
When’s the best time to visit the Kentucky Bourbon Trail?
While Kentucky distilleries are open year-round, visiting during the fall or spring months is ideal. Bourbon is in full production, and the weather is just right.
I don’t recommend visiting during the summer months as the weather is hot and the temperatures inside can be unbearable.
Where should I stay on the Bourbon Trail?
I would recommend staying in the Louisville or Lexington areas so you can be as close as possible to more distilleries on the trail.
You’ll find that these places have the easiest access to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and plenty of hotels, Airbnbs, and restaurants.
If I have to choose only one distillery on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, which one should I choose?
It really depends on what you want out of this tour.
The James B. Beam Distilling Company is the birthplace of bourbon and the most popular one on this trail.
The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience does the best job explaining the history of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and bourbon in general. It’s also been reported to be more family-friendly than most of the other distilleries on the trail.
The Discovery Tour at Old Forester provides the most detailed information about the entire bourbon distilling process from start to finish, from making the barrels to bottling the final product.
Touring the Lexington Brewing and Distilling Company is unique in that you’ll get to learn about both bourbon and beer.
Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour
Aside from their 18 Heritage distilleries, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour features 23 smaller but no less excellent distilleries, made to showcase the best of Kentucky craftsmanship and history.
They’re divided into 4 regions: Northern, Central, Western, and Bluegrass. Learn all about these distilleries and choose which ones to add to your itinerary.
Tips for Planning your Kentucky Bourbon Trail trip
- You don’t need to take a tour of every distillery.
- But if you feel you need to, book a slot ahead of time if you can, especially for the more popular ones.
- Show up early
- Decide early on whether you’re taking a tour bus or driving.
After you finish the trail, maybe visit Indiana Caverns, which is an adventure park half an hour away from Louisville via I-64.
Or maybe Mammoth Cave National Park! It’s about 90 minutes south of Louisville and one of the largest caves (spanning over 400 miles!) in the world.
Other Alcohol-Themed Trails to Explore
If you plan to drink your way around the country, check out other similar itineraries: