Before getting to the first distillery of Day 2, I've learned a few things about how to do a bourbon tour that I'd like to share with you.
Video 2.1: Good Reminders when Doing a Bourbon Tour
- Google Maps provides a great way to download area maps to your phone, so your GPS doesn't get you lost: Android | iPhone
- When I returned home, the whisky I purchased on day 1 was fine, even after being in a warm car. If you think about it, part of the process of distilling is putting this beverage to extremely high heat. I don't think a few days in a car is going to evaporate enough to make a difference and it shouldn't taint the flavor.
- I learned more about distilleries, gift shops and their prices as I went along. Distilleries are very inconsistent in pricing, as are stores. Also, don't always fall for the "not available in stores" line.
- I trusted my tickets for the rest of the trip. ;)
Glenn's Creek Distillery and Video 2.2
Fly That Jolly Roger. A Very Different Distillery Experience
- Location: Frankfort, KY
- Website: Tour Information
- Cost: The tour costs $8.
- Samples: I got to try all 4 of their selections. 2 spirits were outsourced from MGP in Indiana to get them started, however Glenn's Creek finished aging them in the barrels and 2 are 100% theirs from start to finish. They have a single barrel double oaked called Stave + Barrel (MGP), a single barrel cask strength rye called Ryskey, OCD #5 and Prohibition Rum.
- Perks: If you buy a bottle of spirits, they will refund the tour fee.
- My Glenn's Creek Instagram Photos
In this video, I will give you a glimpse of the Old Crow distillery as it stands today, with a legacy back to the 1830's. It is the very distillery where Mr. James C. Crow perfected the Sour Mash process for bourbon whiskey. Interestingly enough, he later went on to work for the Old Oscar Pepper Distillery which I visit on Day 3. Today the Old Oscar Pepper Distillery is known as Woodford Reserve.
- GPS might have a little challenge with this one. It's right on Glenn's Creek though and between the Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Woodford Reserve. Be ready, it's a small 1 1/2 lane road with two way traffic, but I didn't see a single car coming from the other direction at the time of day I was there.
- If you're around on a Sunday, they are there at 10 AM, which can help you sneak in 3 distilleries in that single day.
- What I loved about these guys is, Stuart gave me the tour even though I was the only one there at 10 AM and he listened to my interests and crafted the presentation on the fly to give me the rundown on the history of bourbon in Kentucky and the Old Crow distillery.
- The Old Crow distillery is fascinating for historians and ruin hunters. You can't go inside, but they are cool exteriors to checkout.
- Don't drive into the area with the Old Crow Distillery on the sign, that is Jim Beam's warehouses and not Glenn's Creek's, you will be met my security!
- I mention the Jolly Roger because Stuart said they'd like to fly one off their building. In other words, they don't want to be huge, they want to do it the old fashioned way.
- A lot of marketing myths were dispelled here. I appreciated that. The tone was, the buyer of spirits should purchase because they love it and it's a good product, not because of what it says on the label.
- They have a clear spirit with Alexander Hamilton's face on it...ask them what they think of ol' Alexander Hamilton's tax policy. However, they might thank Hamilton for pushing distilllers West after his involvement in run up to the Whiskey Rebellion.
- I found myself recommending this distillery over and over to people. Mainly because it was so different than any other. Closest second to that craft distiller feeling would be Kentucky Artisan Distillery.
- This is the only place I heard of that that didn't reduce their cask strength with distilled water to get it down to a legal proofing level. Instead they use the "tail" and just purify that, which is a lower alcohol level. So this is definitely not watered down.
- If you think having one of these small distillers use outside product from MGP of Indiana somehow cheapens it...think again. I found this list of other products, including some from big players, that are outsourced from MGP. Note that none of these should be able to say Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey because they did not originate from Kentucky.
- I saw a wild turkey on the way. Foreshadowing? Yes!
Video 2.3: A Walk Around the Historic Old Crow Distillery Ruins
Here is some additional footage of the 19th century Old Crow distillery ruins.
Further Investigation: Limestone Water
Go to any distillery out in the country and they will brag about their limestone water source. At one time, I believed limestone water was essential in making bourbon. That is how far the myth has come. Glenn's Creek went as far as to say limestone water, for all it's natural benefits to making bourbon also causes some issues in it's added calcium. It sent me on a mission to learn a bit more. Little is written about it to the contrary, however, I did find this article that suggests that even some major distillers such as Old Forester just use reverse osmosis water because clean, fresh limestone water is not available in downtown Louisville. So, next time someone says bourbon has to have limestone water, put that down to marketers who started spinning the tale back in the 1700's. Technology has advanced quite a bit since then, so enjoy the tall tale about the need for limestone water, and enjoy your bourbon wherever in the states you get it from.
Arrival at Four Roses Distillery and Video 2.4
Four Roses Distillery and Video 2.5
- Location: Lawrenceburg, KY
- Website: Tour Information (Requires Age Verification)
- Cost: The tour and tasting is $5. That is a nice deal. And you can use the same ticket to get into their warehouse near Clermont.
- Samples: I tried three of their selections, including Four Roses (Yellow Label), Four Roses Single Barrel and Four Roses Small Batch.
- Perks: I was given a wide mouthed 130th anniversary glass as a keepsake.
- My Four Roses Instagram Photos
- At Four Roses, no reservations are taken, so arrive a few minutes early to make sure to get on the tour.
- There was construction going on when I went, so we didn't see anymore than you can see by walking around the campus (other than a promotional video). They did offer just a tasting and no tour as an alternative, if you've not tried Four Roses before.
- No luck on finding the history of Four Roses. Popular before Prohibition, it dissappeared from U.S shelves for decades, only being sold in Japan and overseas. The irony is, a Japanese company (Kirin) bought it and brought it back to the U.S. The only sort of history on their site or on the tour is about the mysterious origins of the name.
- As for the architecture, that remains a mystery as well. It's in a Spanish Mission architectual style. Why? I guess another mystery. Four Roses desperately needs a historian to work with them.
- Don't get mad at me or say I'm ganging up on Generation Y or Z. There is nothing wrong with having a young tour guide. I had a few really good one's on this trip who were passionate about the product. Sadly, I didn't get that from my tour. When someone has to ask if the guide likes bourbon, then it is apparent to more than just me that there wasn't that zest for the product. And that is sad, because this may have been the one place I was most looking forward to seeing. Hopefully you get more "zest!"
- Update: I did get a follow up from one of the tour guides through my Instagram account and appreciate her reaching out...she gave me Leo Oberwarth's name as the architect. He also designed the beautiful gardens and club over at Buffalo Trace. She said information wasn't available as to why he chose that style.
A Word of Advice: The Tastings
These tastings go very fast. 80% of your time is touring, then you are given a few minutes to drink 2-5 different styles. At Four Roses, Willitt and some others I barely had time to put a couple drops of water and taste before I had to knock it down because the next drink was coming. And some of these are just too hard to taste without a little diluting and some time for multiple tastings. The distilleries that are being kind in giving you a glass, but they should point out where you can dump any you can't finish. No, that shouldn't be considered a faux pas. I would rather enjoy a full Kentucky chew (more on that coming up) and savor what I do drink, rather than feeling I had to gulp it down so my glass would be empty for the next whisky.
Wild Turkey Distillery and Video 2.6
Extensive Campus with Informative Visitor's Center
- Location: Lawrenceburg, KY
- Website: Tour Information (Requires Age Verification)
- Cost: I paid $11 for the tour. Check hours, they close for lunch and are closed on Sunday and Monday.
- Samples: They don't skimp. You get to try the Russell Reserve Rye and Russell Reserve Bourbon, as well as the Rare Breed. They threw in the American Honey Stinger which isn't classified as a bourbon for reasons I'll go into later.
- Perks: A bus ride, I guess. Wild Turkey is the only distillery I went to where I came home with nothing, including no whisky.
- My Wild Turkey Instagram Photos
Behind the Scenes: Good Management?
What was I babbling about... "good management?" I told you, unscripted. I had a car come up while I was doing this report and my inner introvert took over and my brain went elsewhere. I was rambling on about my team anyway...so it was probably a good thing! By the way, my Tigers got smoked by the Reds 9-0 and proceeded to go on a long losing streak, dispelling my odd "good management" rap!
- Stay a little later and read up on some of the history of Wild Turkey and the distillery. They have a picturesque visitor's center with a lot of great information. I actually got more out of reading then I did from the tour itself, which was very heavy on process.
- The view down to the river with the two bridges is beautiful. You'll get a closer view on the tour. You can also walk down below the distillery and get a great shot and enjoy a cocktail, but you'll also see it from the tasting room.
- Take heart inexperienced bourbon drinkers, after a few tours, I realized that I could taste the whisky and pull out some flavors. And now, post trip, I'm finding that I really enjoy the tasting experience and have fun doing some comparisons and examining of flavors at home.
- Had a nice discussion with a fellow bourbon explorer, Franck Mounier of the Whisky Gourmet. If you live in the 862 area code, you might check out some of his events. Or at least follow him on Instagram for some food pairing and tasting events.
- Off topic: Ardbeg wins awards constantly as a Scotch. I am keeping my bottle (using a bottle preserver to suck out the oxygen, as oxygen robs life from a whisky over a period of a couple of years) until I come back from a trip to Scotland. I've had things I didn't like at first, suddenly become something I enjoyed. But right now, Ardbeg is just too aggressive for my palate...and Ardbeg lovers will just have to be okay with that.
A Word About: Mash Bills
This is a term you will hear often. It is an important term to know. Basically, a mash bill is another word for a recipe. It is the specific mixture of corn, rye or wheat and barley that is used to make the Sour Mash. And the first place I discovered the impact of the mash bill was with Maker's Mark. Amazingly, they only have one. That's right, all the different styles you try; all the different labels, they are all from one formula; one single combination of grains. The same for Wild Turkey, as I mentioned in the video, and also Four Roses. That was a real eye-opener. And it becomes even more of an eye-opener when you realize that a hard to find whisky you're looking for may come with a different label and some slightly different finishing techniques. Knowing this, you might find a lesser known label that might be just as good as that rare whisky you've not been wanting to spend a small fortune on. These guys have developed a pretty nice list of mash bills...see what your favorites contain.
Full Disclosure: End of Day 2
I had a rough time making a video after the Wild Turkey tour It was very hot and I felt like I was wearing down. However, on Day 3, I was up, energized and loved the tours I went on. I think I lost a little momentum because Four Roses and Wild Turkey were high on my list and I felt a little let down.
Do It Yourself
Each day, I will provide a map showing my drive and will give you an idea of the mileage.
Note: I was staying south of Lawrenceburg, KY but you can start from anywhere. Both Frankfort and Lexington are not far and offer many options for lodging. Times are approximate.
- Lawrenceburg to Glenn's Creek Distillery (Frankfort, KY) - 16 miles/24 minutes
- Glenn's Creek Distillery to Four Roses Distillery (Lawrenceburg, KY) - 21 miles/28 minutes
- Four Roses Distillery to Wild Turkey Distillery (Lawrenceburg, KY) - 8 miles/14 minutes