A couple of things really surprised me about this tour. First, that I would have so much fun discovering bourbon that after a week I could have kept going. And second, that in a week, I'd go from bourbon novice to an educated consumer of it.

Heading into my last day, I almost got reservations for Jim Beam's American Stillhouse, but two things stopped me. First, my Barton's tour was starting at 11 AM, so a 90 minute tour and tasting in Clermont would just be pushing it a bit. But also because you have to reserve online and you have to do it two days in advance, so keep that in mind. I still wanted to see it, so I decided to just drop by and take some photos of the grounds.

Jim Beam American Stillhouse

Picturesque Location

Takeaways

  • I've heard people say this is a pretty marketing heavy tour. I'm not sure myself. However, if it's anything like the tone of the Urban Stillhouse, that wouldn't surprise me.
  • Go have your picture taken with the Booker Noe statue and see the house he used to live in. 
  • There is a distinctive flavor with Jim Beam. I've only ever liked the product mixed with Ginger Ale and that didn't change after my tour. I had purchased at least one type of whisky from every distiller I took a tour with except Wild Turkey and Jim Beam. It wasn't until I got back home that a friend of mine and I did a tasting and he had Old Overholt Bottled in Bond which is a rye. I actually like it as a sipping rye, even over Rittenhouse Rye. So I was happy to finally get one step away from completing my collection. Now, just to find that Wild Turkey (and not the one that was roaming in Frankfort by the war memorial).  
  • On your way down from Louisville, look for the signs that point you to Jim Beam and Heaven Hill from I-65. There are 4 distilleries and Four Roses warehouse down that road to Bardstown. You'll also find Stephen Foster's "My Old Kentucky Home."

Further Investigation: The Kentucky Chew

Drinking bourbon like an old west cowboy is just asking for pain and no taste. I didn't know how to drink whisky properly until I was introduced to the Kentucky Chew. What is the Kentucky Chew you say? Well, it's a savoring technique that developed and named by Booker Noe of Jim Beam, now is as good a time as any to share with you the real way to enjoy your whisky as demonstrated by Booker's son Fred Noe. It's such a good method, I don't miss my ice cubes anymore!

Barton's 1792 Distillery

Excellent and Thorough Tour with Complimentary Tasting

  • Location: Bardstown, KY
  • Website: Tour Information (Requires Age Verification)
  • Cost: I did the Estate Tour, which is only available for up to 5 people and is only at 11 AM Monday through Friday. I made reservations by email.
  • Samples: Incredible tour (little did I know I'd be there the day and hour the warehouse collapsed, don't expect this on your tour! ;)  You get to finish up with a taste of Very Old Barton, 1792 and a locally available liquor.
  • Perks: Estate Tour comes with a free water bottle andn the tour is free of charge (as are all of thier tours). And we got a little piece of chocolate to pair with the bourbon. Also, a cool keepsake is a stamped bung stopper. They stamp the date of your tour. Since mine says 18F22 (Year 2018, F month meaning 6th month June) and Estate, it's a little proof of my time there on the day of the warehouse event.
  • My Barton's Estate Tour Instagram Photos

Video 7.3: Barton's Estate Tour Review

Takeaways

  • Free, I mean really? It was a fantastic tour.
  • Hear the story as to why there is a crack in the wood carving of the 1792 bottle. Also, they have the world's largest beer barrel that you only get to see on the Estate Tour.
  • The "Big House" was really cool. Got to see the left over char from the barrels, where they dump the bourbon once it comes out of the barrels.
  • If you ever wanted to buy a barrel and take it home (without the alcohol in it) they have a fantastic price on them. Half what anyone else was charging.
  • Drunk cows: One of the fables that I heard ad nauseam everywhere else was that the spent grains from distilling were sent to farms and that is why Kentucky, not California, had happy cows. In reality, if there is any alcohol in the grain, it's probably the equivalent to the amount caffeine in decaf coffee. But what was cool about Barton's is, besides not hitting us with that lame joke once again, they also turn this spent grain back to a solid so it doesn't go bad so quickly. The grains provide protein to livestock. But it also can make them a little overweight if given too much, so this is just mixed with their regular feed.
  • My tour started at 11 AM. The big warehouse collapse happened at 10:55 AM. Did I hear it? Nope...amazingly. The only thing I knew was something out of the ordinary had happened, because we saw the fire marshal drive by, then someone told our tour guide we couldn't go up on the hill, and finally we saw a fire engine so we knew something was up. They finished our tour (I can't imagine the confusion and stress the office personnel were probably going through) and did our tasting, but we were the last tour of the day. It wasn't until I was over at the Willet's tour that someone said, did you hear about the warehouse collapse at Bartons? They also mentioned it during the Jack Daniel's tour the next day. These distilleries really do look out for each other, even from a distance. I highly recommend the tour and I hope for a speedy recovery for the distillery...that is a lot of bourbon laying in a pile.
  • Nope, not doing a technology tour anytime soon. Cupertino, you're safe!

Terminology: Opening Up

When you drink a whiskey that is too strong, it can burn and mask the flavors. Adding a couple drops of water is said to "open up" the drink. In other words, it helps reduce the alcohol burn to reveal the flavor profile. On Four Roses Small Batch, I find it a little bit too harsh to the palate at full strength. However, with a few drops of water, it opens up a butterscotch taste and still keeps the creamy mouth feel. 

Willett Distillery

A Family Run Distillery with First Rate Bourbons

Experiment: Doing Your Own Tasting Party

A couple years ago, when I was just dipping my toe in the waters with whisky, some friends suggested we do a tasting event at one of our houses. Each person was to bring three bottles, a top shelf, mid-shelf and bottom-shelf that we liked. Then, with 4 people, we had 12 bottles to sample. And even better, if we bought something and didn't quite like it, we could make a trade (for a guy that had fun as a kid trading baseball cards, this is like next level stuff). When I got home from this tour, I actually traded my Kentucky Pure for the Barton's 1792 Small Batch. To me, it was a good trade because I had Johnny Drum from Willetts and during the tasting, I didn't give 1792 enough of a lingering taste. It's a great experience. If you want to take it a step further, do some pairing experimentation with either foods or chocolates. Makes for a nice relaxing evening and you can chat about what you like and don't like in each. Just make sure to keep the pours to just a taste and take time in-between. It'll make it a lot more fun, and safe for those that may have to drive home afterwards.

Takeaways

  • Probably my 3rd tour where I saw cats. I finally had to ask and they said it's because they are great mouse catchers (and apparently distillery cats are a world wide phenomenon). These kitties were soaking up the attention. 
  • Don't bring the Mercedes, unless it needs a bath. You'll be driving up a dirt road for this one.
  • I had my Willetts tour at 3:00 PM and Heaven Hill at 4:30 PM and even though I made it, I felt rushed at Willetts and that was a lot of alcohol within a short period. I could barely keep down the Heaven Hill, it was coming so fast.

Heaven Hill Whiskey Conniseurs 

A Bit Disorganized, but Definitely Drinking the Good Stuff!

  • Location: Bardstown, KY
  • Website: Tour Information (Requires Age Verification)
  • Cost: I paid $20 but did the Whiskey Conniseurs Tour which featured some high-priced samples.  
  • Samples: 4 Selections including Pineville, Larceny, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof and William Heavenhill.
  • Perks: I received an undersized Glencairn glass and some generous sized samples of some very expensive whisky. 

Takeaways

  • Bourbon prices are a little higher at the Heaven Hill and Evan Williams locations. Might be better to hit the liquor store later.
  • Closest I came to needing a designated driver. They gave out generous pours and the closed soon after I finished up. 
  • Like Wild Turkey, there is some good educational material in the building while you wait for your tasting. I didn't do any tours on this one, but felt like I got something out of the reading I did.

Side Tracked: How Tight Knit Is The Bourbon Industry?

In 1996, the Heaven Hill Distillery had a devastating fire. If you can imagine the combination of both fire and alcohol aging in wooden barrels. The fires burned so hot, even nosy helicopter reporters couldn't get near the blaze due to it's intense heat.  Bad enough that an estimated 6% of the world's bourbon supply disappeared in a few heartbeats, but also potentially devastating to the family-owned independent distillery. However, Heaven Hill's neighbors all pitched in and offered help. With their distillery destroyed, production had to come from somewhere else, and distillers like Jim Beam and Wild Turkey stepped in and let Heaven Hill use equipment and even some whiskey to fill their barrels, until Heaven Hill was able to buy Blenheim Distillery and started producing on their own again through that company's equipment.  So when you think corporate America can't work together, at least in the bourbon industry, there is a real comradery and willingness to help out a fellow neighbor. 

Talbot Tavern and Inn

The "Oldest" Bourbon Bar In the World

  • Location: Bardstown, KY
  • Samples: The flight I had included Bulleit Rye, Kenucky Vintage, Knob Creek Small Batch, Old Grand Dad Bottled-in-Bond and George Dickel 8.
  • Perks: You get to keep the shot glass.

Takeaways

  •  If you stay at the Inn on a Friday or Saturday night, better make sure they aren't putting you in room 4 or 5 if you want to get to bed early. You're right above the bar. I'm pretty flexible, so I just stayed up and enjoyed the show, then passed out at midnight (no noise was going to bother me with as tired as I was!)
  • This was a great way to end up my stay in Kentucky...on to Tennessee to discover the difference in Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey and Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey!

Do It Yourself

Each day, I will provide a map showing my drive and will give you an idea of the mileage. 

Kentucky Bourbon Tour Map - Day Seven

Distance Between:

Note: Coming from Louisville, KY there is a nice half hour drive, but then all of these distilleries are within a very short distance. 

  • Louisville, KY to Jim Beam American Stillhouse (Clermont, KY) - 26 miles/30 minutes
  • Jim Beam American Stillhouse to Barton's 1792 (Bardstown, KY)  - 15 miles/22 minutes
  • Barton's 1792 to Willett - 3 miles/7 minutes
  • Willett to Heaven Hill's Bourbon Heritage Center - 1 mile/3 minutes

On to Day 8 (Watch for the link on Wedneday, July 11th, 2018 or follow me on Instagram, Facebook or YouTube for alerts on new postings)

Share Your Thoughts