I know you already know this, but Kentucky has a lot of bourbon, which means that we have a lot of distilleries. But which ones should you visit? How do you get to them all in limited time? Well, that's where our Kentucky Bourbon Trail 3 day itinerary comes in! I like to think that the “Amber waves of grain” referenced in America the Beautiful is a precise reference to Kentucky bourbon. Our fields of barley, wheat, rye and of course corn are mashed and distilled into a literal glass of amber-colored bluegrass. 95% of the world's bourbon is made in Kentucky, and just like how champagne tastes better from the Champagne region of France, bourbon tastes better from the terroir of Kentucky’s rolling hills. So let's dive into our Kentucky Bourbon Trail 3 day itinerary!

Kentucky Bourbon Trail: the Perfect 3 Day Itinerary

I know you already know this, but Kentucky has a lot of bourbon, which means that we have a lot of distilleries. But which ones should you visit? How do you get to them all in a limited time? Well, that’s where our Kentucky Bourbon Trail 3 day itinerary comes in!

I like to think that the “Amber waves of grain” referenced in America the Beautiful is a precise reference to Kentucky bourbon. Our fields of barley, wheat, rye and of course corn are mashed and distilled into a literal glass of amber-colored bluegrass. 95% of the world’s bourbon is made in Kentucky, and just like how champagne tastes better from the Champagne region of France, bourbon tastes better from the terroir of Kentucky’s rolling hills.

So let’s dive into our Kentucky Bourbon Trail 3 day itinerary!

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Kentucky, where bourbon barrels are stacked as far at the eye can see!

How this guide works

There are distilleries all over the state, but the easiest way to hit up some of the most notable productions, if you’re based in Louisville, is to travel to either Frankfort or Bardstown to be more centrally located. However if you want to stick to Louisville city limits, we’ve also got you covered!

Nothing compares to Kentucky bourbon (it has to do a lot with limestone, but you’ll learn more about that on your tour!) so it’s extremely common for both locals and visitors to travel to either of these 3 central locations to pack in as much “education” *ahem, indlugence* into a weekend as possible.

I wanna let you in on a secret – this isn’t just one Kentucky Bourbon Trail 3 day itinerary, but three separate ones, starting in either Frankfort, Bardstown, or Louisville. Each itinerary has different distilleries, and you could even combine all three to make one big 9-day bourbon extravaganza. You decide!

We have also included a Kentucky bourbon trail map down at the bottom of the post to help you get around!

Some important things to note: 

  • If you are completing the 3-day guide on a weekend, some distilleries are not open on Sundays. So if you choose to go out of order, double check your tour is available on a Sunday.   
  • You will want a car for any of the itineraries. We designed this guide to put you centrally located, however you’ll still have to trek around, and some distilleries can be half an hour away from one another. But don’t worry, the drives have plenty of beautiful views along the highways. Ridesharing is not ideal for the amount of stops or distance between each other. Not to mention those rides will add up fast!
  • Since it is recommended you drive, remember to pace yourself and to drive responsibly. A lot of tours end in tastes and samples, or even a cocktail. Make sure you are well fed, rested and have a designated driver among the group.  
  • If you are visiting a distillery that offers more than one tour, Kentucky state law prohibits more than one tour experience per facility per day. So you cannot book multiple tours at the same distillery.
 
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Bourbon Tasting at Woodford Reserve Distillery in Kentucky on the Bourbon Trail
How to taste bourbon is a major part of the experience!

How to taste bourbon

Now before we start ordering flights and savoring the “Kentucky hug”, AKA that good warm burn you get while sipping bourbon, it might be beneficial to get a few pointers on how to properly taste the raw spirit. Because if this is your first experience with bourbon, you’re gonna want to acclimate your palate. 

The most important part of a tasting is the connection a scent or flavor can bridge in your mind. So even if it sounds a little crazy, don’t be shy and give an honest opinion on what you’re experiencing.  

First step is the easiest! Notice the color. Color comes mostly from the barrel and age, so although it may look all the same at first glance, compare different bourbons from one another. Some might appear slightly more straw color, while others are deep orange and dark amber in color. Typically lighter colors are lighter in taste.

Second step is just as easy, sniffing the bourbon. Most proper bourbon glasses will be tapered toward the top to funnel the aromas. Now don’t stick your nose deep into the glass or you risk burning your nose with the heavy alcohol vapors, so give a little distance and a light whiff. You can even plug each nostril and smell it through one at a time. Is it Sweet? Or spicy? Or maybe it kinda reminds you of smoked bacon – all valid responses, I promise.

And next we finally get to taste the dang thang! Take a small sip and swish it around your mouth without initially swallowing. Hit all the taste buds, because this is what we call the Kentucky Chew, and it acclimates your mouth to the strength of the bourbon. 

And then swallow your first sip. That first swish might feel a bit strong, but over time you’ll start to notice it burns a little less and the actual flavors of the bourbon will start to pop out. Notice that warmness down your throat and stomach? That’s what we call the Kentucky Hug, we’re all about that southern hospitality after all.  

(Photo Credit: Woodford Reserve)

And finally, and most importantly, we keep sipping to taste for flavor! Like I said before, the point of tasting is to make those bridges in your mind. It can be very difficult at first to find the words to describe what you’re experiencing in your glass, so I recommend using a helpful flavor wheel like the one above. 

This wheel is an incredible tool to help map your thoughts by starting from broad categories and working your way to the outer circle for more detailed notes. Start at the center of the circle where the categories are more broad and easier to identify, does your bourbon have a sweet or grain flavor? Now move a little deeper, is this grain flavor more like a sweet corn or like a spiced rye bread?

Conducting a proper tasting can take a lot of practice and develops over time. So don’t get discouraged if you need a little extra homework, because I mean isn’t this the best kind of homework? Woodford Reserve has a very helpful guide to conduct a tasting at home. Here in Kentucky it’s very common to host tastings, every guest brings a different bottle of bourbon and the group tastes and evaluates together.

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romantic getaways in kentucky frankfort capitol eldonmcgrawmedia
(Photo Credit: @eldonmcgrawmedia)
Local Travel Tip: The best way to taste the best food in Louisville is on a food and history walking tour with Louisville Food Tours! Explore the story of Louisville and Kentucky while tasting culinary classics like bourbon balls, biscuits, fried chicken, and - of course - bourbon! You can book a tour on FareHarbor or Viator.

Frankfort

Frankfort is the capital of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The city drips with historic architecture. From Georgian style mansions, Greek revival capital buildings, timber truss covered bridges, and a genuine Frank Llyod Wright house. The city of Frankfort is effortlessly charming. So is it a surprise that Frankfort is home to Buffalo Trace, the oldest bourbon distillery in Kentucky? In addition to Buffalo Trace, some of the most notable distilleries in the area include: Four Roses, James E Pepper, Wild Turkey, Castle & Key, Woodford Reserve, and Bulleit Distilling Co.

So let’s check out a Kentucky bourbon trail 3 day itinerary in Frankfort!

Day 1

Chances are if you’re either visiting from out of town or a Kentucky local, you’ll be commuting from either Louisville or Lexington. So for Day 1, you’ll want to get your trip started by driving into the city. Frankfort is about an hour from Louisville and about 45 mins from Lexington. 

Think of this Day 1 as experiencing Kentucky in all its glory. So just focus on the scenic drive, where to stay to soak in all the historic charm, and indulge in some Kentucky famous foods and drinks.

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The Stone House by Castle & Key- in frankfort ky_
This historic stone house by Castle & Key is a fantastic place to stay! (Photo Credit: Heath Green)

Where To Stay

Frankfort’s downtown area is pretty charming and a very convenient spot centrally in the city, so here are a few options on where to stay through VRBO. For this 3-day Itinerary you should only need to book your stay for 2 nights, on day 3 you’ll be able to head back to Louisville after your last stop.

  • This recently renovated rental has accents historic charm and is cozy and spacious. This is an ideal home base if you don’t need a lot of space because you’ll be out adventuring. This rental has 1 bed, but can sleep 4 with use of the couch. 
  • This charming craftsman home is an entire house, perfect for a traveling group! With 4 bedrooms, 8 guests are able to call this gorgeous place “home” for your bourbon adventures, so the party doesn’t have to end when you get back for the night.
  • For a more luxurious option, this historic stone house drips in classic Kentucky ambience. From the outside stone work, to the deck that over looks the Kentucky River, this is the luxury splurge stay of your trip. This rental is also an extension of the Castle & Key Distillery (which is your last stop on day 2!) and is literally right next door to your dinner spot on day 1. The property has 5 beds in 3 bedrooms, and can sleep 7.

Dinner at Bourbon on Main

Once you make it into the city chances are you’ll be famished. We recommend dining at Bourbon on Main, for the real homegrown experience. Exposed brick, wooden barrel tops, and patio deck that overlooks the Kentucky River really showcase bourbon country. 

First things first, you must start off with the Kentucky Beer Cheese starter. Served with round salted pretzel bites, this spreadable cheese is not only a perfect blend of zing and malt, but it was also invented in Kentucky! That’s right, the gastropub staple was created right here in the commonwealth in a town called Winchester (about 45 mins away).

And although you won’t be hitting up any distilleries on day one, Bourbon on Main is the perfect place to pregame for the big day tomorrow. Start with the Barrel Pick Flight. It’s pretty common for nicer restaurants to visit their favorite distilleries to select their own barrel of bourbon to serve exclusively at the restaurant, after all bourbon is an art and variations vary widely depending on conditions.   

And in this case, we want to pair our food with our drink, because bourbon is the star after all. The House Burger definitely rises up to the task. Dressed with the classics lettuce, onion, dill pickles and tomatoes. The burger is then topped with gouda cheese, bacon preserves, and a sunny side egg for that classic pub burger experience.  

Wanna kick it up a notch? Go for the Kentucky Hot chicken Sandwich. Nashville isn’t the only place you can get a delicious balance of spicy and crunchy between a bun. Grilled or fried, this sandwich is coated in a sweet and spicy bourbon glaze and garnished with lettuce, onion, and tomato.

Now you can head back to your room and rest and take it easy, because tomorrow will be back-to-back excitement of bourbon.

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Day 2

This is it, the big day of the bourbon extravaganza! I’m sure you jumped out of bed singing the Spongebob classic “I’m Ready! I’m Ready!” Well great, I love your enthusiasm, but let’s also remember to drink responsibly and to take our time in between tastings. Today will be a little bit of driving, but the last few distilleries are pretty close to one another, so you’re gonna be fine!

Breakfast at Cliffside Diner

Definitely get some breakfast in ya before your trek. It’s never a good idea to drink on an empty stomach, and also breakfast is probably one of the best meals of the day, so do yourself a favor and get your day started off right. And to do that, you’re definitely gonna want to grab a counter stool at Cliffside Diner

This kitschy diner is the real deal, with a galley-style dining room, fixed chrome bar stools, and checkerboard floors. And because you’re in a retro diner in the country, you absolutely have to get the Country Fried Steak Platter.

So fill up on some country cookin’, a cup of Joe, and get on the road!

old pepper distillery in lexington ky
(Photo Credit: James E. Pepper Distillery)

James E. Pepper Distilling Co.

The James E. Pepper distillery is located in Lexington, and is about a 35-minute drive from Frankfort. Historically, James E. Pepper might have been the most Kentucky man that has ever Kentucky’d. 

Not only was he a Kentucky Colonel, but Col. Pepper also raced thoroughbreds in the Kentucky Derby, and has been described as flamboyantly promoting the whiskey industry. Did I mention, it’s been said that the Old Fashion was invented by a bartender in his honor?

To take a peek behind the curtain of this bourbon wiz, the Distillery Tour will take you on your own yellow brick road journey of the colorful history of the James E. Pepper Brand & Distillery. You’ll walk through the working distillery to see how the magic is made, and finish with an elixir tasting of their award-winning whiskeys.

You can even tap your whiskey glasses together for a souvenir to take home, because you know- there’s no place like home

Good witches and bad witches can start their tours Tuesday through Sunday. Note that if you are visiting in either January or February, James E Pepper is only open on very specific days and times during the winter months, so check out the tour page first.    

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Mary Todd Lincoln House

After your first tasting of the day at James E. Pepper, while you’re still in the Lexington area, take some time to celebrate some other historically famous Kentuckians, like Mary Todd Lincoln. You know Mary Todd Lincoln, the extremely well-educated wife of vampire hunter and former president Abraham Lincoln.

The Mary Todd Lincoln Home is her childhood family home, and offers a self-guided tour throughout the inside of the house and the garden. Mary grew up more affluent than her vamp-slaying beau, so the house showcases 14 rooms of gorgeous decadence of a family of high society. Learn about the Todd family, the enslaved people that ran the house, and what Lexington was in the early 1800s.

The home is closed on Sundays, but is open the rest of the week. Walk-ins are welcome, but online booking is also available ahead of time.

Lexington Cemetery

If you’re visiting in the spring, you MUST visit the Lexington Cemeteryno it’s not another vampire joke, but it is ridiculously beautiful. This peaceful resting place includes a nationally acclaimed arboretum of formal floral gardens, rows or pink weeping cherries and weeping willows. The 170 acres are filled with lots of horticulture treasures as well as a cemetery bird-watching guide.  

The cemetery is open everyday at 8am until 4pm, except Sundays when they close at noon.

Four Roses Distillery

After you experience the beauty of Lexington, it’s about time to hop back on that bourbon train, amirite? Luckily the next stop is only 30 minutes away in Lawrenceburg, to Four Roses Distillery!

  • Note – When you plug Four Roses into your GPS for navigation, make sure you select the distillery NOT the bottling facility – that one is MUCH farther away! And don’t worry, we included the correct location at the bottom of the post in our Kentucky bourbon trail map!

The Four Roses Distillery is as romantic as the origin of the Four Roses name – I’ll save that factoid for your tour guide! This Spanish Mission-style distillery and grounds are budding with red roses, just about everywhere you look. A great stop for you and your amor.  

The unique distillery dates back to 1860, but recently has some new additions to the facility. The new Bar 1888 offers samples of 10 distinct recipes of bourbon, all on a rotating basis which also includes specialty cocktails and seasonal mixology masterpieces. A brand new visitors center made for lounging and relaxing (because all this bourbon education is hard work!) with a cozy ambient fireplace, an interactive exhibit of century-old bottles, and a retail therapy expanded gift shop, because you know you have to get at least a magnet to proudly display your world travels.  

But to get a closer look at what makes this love potion possible, Four Roses offers 3 different experiences:

  • The Distillery Legacy Tour guides you and your love hand in hand through the Spanish style grounds of roses and manicured greenery (With beautiful photo spots), through the step by step distilling affair, and ends with an intimate guided tasting. This blind date lasts about 1.25 hours. 
  • To get right to the good stuff and skip all the pomp and circumstance, A Taste of History aims straight to the heart with their guided tasting. This experience includes a very brief history so that you can focus on the liquid of love. For 30 minutes, you’ll tap into all your senses for a sensory experience that’s just between you and the award-winning bourbons.
  • But hey if you’re single and ready to mingle, don’t be afraid to check out the other singles- single barrels I mean. The Single Barrel Flight is perfect for those looking to get a little deeper on first impression. This special flight is an in-depth look at what makes Four Roses distinct flavors. You can go steady with this experience for about an hour.      

Four Roses Distillery is open Wednesday through Sunday.

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wild turkey in lawrenceburg kentucky_
Photo Credit

Wild Turkey

Also in Lawrenceburg, only 15 minutes away and totally worth the short pit-stop is the Wild Turkey Pop-up Gift Shop. A temporary facility that welcomes visitors to the Wild Turkey brand.

While the main campus goes through some refreshments, the pop-up gift shop is anything but a temporary after thought. Modeled after a Kentucky tobacco barn, this facility is architecturally beautiful and award winning.

Here you can purchase bottles, Wild Turkey gear, and gaze at the advertisements with new spokesperson Matthew McConaughey.

No tours or tastings are offered at this time, so this stop along the trail is short and sweet, but don’t worry you’re still able to grab a cocktail from the gift shop that’ll have you saying, Alright, Alright, Alight…

Just note the main visitor center is also in Lawrenceburg on Versaille Rd and is not open during renovations. So make sure your GPS is set to the Gift Shop on Tyrone Rd. And don’t worry, we included the correct location at the bottom of the post in our Kentucky bourbon trail map!

The Wild Turkey Pop-Up gift shop is open Wednesday through Sunday.

Bourbon Still and barrels at Woodford Reserve Distillery near Louisville Kentucky

Woodford Reserve Distillery

While you’re still touring the bourbon neighborhood, skip over to Versailles for the Woodford Reserve Distillery. Quick note, Versailles, Kentucky is not pronounced like the hoity-toity Marie Antoinette palace, here in the bluegrass we literally say “Ver-SALES” And no, I’m not kidding.

From Wild Turkey, Woodford is less than a twenty-minute drive. I’ve always thought Woodford Reserve has had a bit of streamlined elegance to its bottles, and that elegance is definitely further represented in the historic grey stone facility. 

To see the Distillery both inside and out, you should book the 70-minute Path to Flavor Tour. This tour covers the grounds, history, the 5 sources of flavor, and ends with a taste of the award-winning bourbon. You can only book it online three months out, so be sure to get your tickets when they become available.

However, if you’re a bourbon pro, or even if you’re feeling like a bourbon know-it-all from the previous tours of the day, you should check out The Spectacle of the Senses Tasting. This is a guided tasting of 5 award-winning bourbons and takes about 30 minutes. Reservations for the tasting must also be made online in advance.

Tours are only offered during the reservation time and date available online, but the gift shop is open Monday through Sunday.

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castle and key distillery in woodford county, ky
(Photo Credit: Castle & Key Distillery)

Castle & Key Distillery

Just 5 minutes down the road from Woodford, the next stop is Castle & Key, and yes it’s a distillery in a castle! Contrary to a lot of the other distilleries you will visit on this day, Castle & Key is newer to the current bourbon game. 

The once ruin of a castle was transformed in 2014, and has been making killer spirits ever since. The thing I love about Castle & Key, because it’s so new, the equipment and approach is more modern. They might not have the long ongoing history of some of the other players, but the fact that they have made a great reputation for themselves in such a short amount of time of operation is really all you need to know to check them out. Well THAT and the fact that it’s a freaking castle!

Book their Distillery Experience tour online to explore the blooming florals of their Sunken Garden and the once-dilapidated castle which is now a state-of-the-art distillery, and finish with a tasty twist on special ways to enjoy your favorite spirits. Tours start every 30 minutes and last about an hour.

Castle & Key is open Wednesday through Sunday.

Dinner at The Stave

Right down the road, only 3 minutes away from Castle & Key, dinner awaits at The Stave.

The restaurant strikes a great balance of dark and moody bourbon ambiance, with fire pits and lounge chairs, a screened-in porch, sparkling cafe lights, and side mural that reads “Kentucky Kicks Ass”. This is the place to lay back and enjoy some elevated Kentucky-inspired cuisine.

If you aren’t bourboned-out yet, the Stave does an excellent job at providing different bourbon flight options so you can spot to test all the knowledge you worked so hard for today. You can choose flights from specific distilleries like Old Forester or Knob Creek, which included 4 pours from their catalog offering. Or opt for the curated World of Whiskey flight that showcases non-Kentucky bourbon, you know, to see how it compares.  

The menu is packed with lots of Kentucky and Southern classics, but for the full Kentucky experience I recommend the Blackened Catfish and Grits. Local catfish from Lake Barkley is seared over local favorite Weisenberger cheese grits with a lemon butter sauce and braised greens. 

The Stave is open Wednesday through Sunday. Feel free to also make a reservation to skip the wait.

Day 3

Today we’ll be wrapping up our Frankfort journey with two additional distilleries – Buffalo Trace and Bulleit

Feel free to completely check out of your vacation rental if you are continuing on to Bardstown for the next 3 days, or if you plan on flying out of Louisville’s SDF airport.

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A picture of barrel dumping at Buffalo Trace Distillery intended for media kit usage.
(Photo Credit: Buffalo Trace Media)

Buffalo Trace Distillery

Even though Day 3 you’ll only be visiting 2 distilleries, this next distillery, Buffalo Trace Distillery, is a massive campus! So plan to be here for a while. And the best part is, it’s in Frankfort! So if you’ve gotten a late start to the day after some much-needed recovery, chances are it’s only about 5 minutes away from where you’re staying in town.

The absolute best part of Buffalo Trace, you know besides the river of flowing bourbon, is that all tours and tastings are complimentary. Yes, free! Talk about value. For the complimentary tours, there are currently 5 different options. The Trace Tour, is a great all-encompassing guide to the history of Buffalo Trace, where you’ll walk down rows of slumbering bourbon barrels and smell that sweet aroma of bourbon being born! The tour takes about 75 minutes and ends with a tasting.

You can also opt for the Bourbon Barrel Tour, where you follow alongside the journey of a barrel through the distillery. The tour is also 75 minutes and also includes a tasting of the award-winning hooch. Unfortunately, because of the nature of the barrel building, this tour is not ADA accessible.    

It probably doesn’t come as too much of a shock, but because of the popularity of Buffalo Trace, and the complementary nature, these tours book out pretty far in advance, and online reservations are required.

Buffalo Trace is open every day.

bourbon-tasting-at-bulleit-distilling-co-in-shelbyville-ky

Bulleit Distilling Co.

Your 3-day excursion may be coming to an end, but we still have time to squeeze in one more pour! Bulleit Distilling Co (pronounced like a bullet) is on the way back to Louisville, about 40 minutes from the city in Shelbyville, Kentucky, so it’s the perfect pit stop to round out the journey. 

The Bulleit Visitors Center was built in 2017 and is the epitome of modernity – sleek lines with a black and orange palette mixed with brick and concrete shun the traditional historic design for a more industrial experience.  

There are multiple tours, tastings, and special events available for booking throughout the year. Like the Anatomy of a Single Barrel tasting, which allows you to upgrade your tasting skills by sampling different single barrels to dissect the overall flavor profile, which by now you should be an expert at right?

But for your first visit, we recommend the Frontier Whiskey Distillery Tour. This hour-long tour spends about 40 minutes on a guided tour that will shuttle you around the Bulleit Distilling grounds, and then guests are shuttled back to the distillery where they will be offered a 15-minute sensory tasting. 

And what better souvenir than your own bottle of bourbon with a personalized label? If this bourbon tour weekend is a celebratory getaway – or if you simply carpe diem every day, cap things off with your own custom bottle when booking your tour!

As with most of the stops, these bourbon tours do need to be reserved in advance for specific time and date, and coming early is always recommended so you don’t miss out!

Bulleit is open Wednesday through Sunday.

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romantic getaways in kentucky Bardstown Kentucky Downtown-2

Bardstown

Literally registered as The Bourbon Capital of the World, Bardstown is the second oldest city in Kentucky. The city has been named The Most Beautiful Small Town in America by USA Today, and with the rows of historic buildings and southern charm, it’s not hard to see why. From Bardstown you’ll be able to experience some of the best distilleries in the state like Makers Mark, Willett, Heaven Hill, Limestone Branch, Bardstown Bourbon, and even Jim Beam!

So let’s check out a Kentucky bourbon trail 3 day itinerary in Bardstown!

Day 1

If you’re continuing your bourbon trail from the Frankfort itinerary at the last stop, then your drive is just south from Bulleit for about an hour. But if you’re starting your bourbon path from Louisville, your drive is about 50 minutes south of the city. 

For today, we’ll be focusing on the scenic drive and getting settled and rested for a jam-packed day tomorrow. And if you’ve been continuing on since the Frankfort itinerary, this is an ideal time to do a little recharge for the evening.

suite at the bourbon manor inn bardstown ky
The Bourbon Manor B&B Inn is fancy and spacious, not to mention the excellent breakfast included! (Photo Credit: Bourbon Manor B&B Inn)

Where to Stay

To soak up the charm of downtown Bardstown we’ve pulled a few recommendations on where to stay. Whether you are completing just the Bardstown Itinerary or you’ve been continuing on from the Frankfort itinerary, You should only need to book your stay for 2 nights, because on Day 3 we’ll be headed back to Louisville as the final destination.

  • This adorable 1880s guest house is nestled in downtown Bardstown, super close to shopping and restaurants. There is only one bedroom, so this is a perfect place to cuddle up in the evening if you are traveling with your partner.
  • This cozy blue Victorian cottage has two bedrooms and is perfect if you’re traveling with another couple or with family. Inside is a cheerful country color palette of baby blue, lemon yellow, and soothing mint splashed throughout, and as an added bonus, there is a bakery next door. Now that gives you something to dream about for the morning!
  • If this trip is more of a romantic getaway, this classy B&B suite has more of those romantic amenities and ambience for an extra special experience. A luxury bathroom and manicured courtyard will be a welcome return at the end of a jam-packed day.
  • We also recommend the Bourbon Manor B&B Inn for even more of a romantic upgrade. Lots of suites to choose from and plenty of add-on upgrades if you are really committed to an unforgettable splurge. And of course, a delicious homemade breakfast is included, the perfect way to start your day bourbon tasting!
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Dinner at Scout & Scholar Brewing Co.

Obviously, bourbon is king in Kentucky. But I would say beer is queen! Kentucky is booming with craft breweries, we know our way around some grain after all. We even have a super helpful brewery guide for when you’re in the Louisville area. So even though this is a bourbon itinerary, I highly recommend checking out Scout & Scholar Brewing Co.

This working brewery is absolutely stunning. From the open rafter ceilings, to the speckled tile bar, the dining room is a perfect place to pop-a-squat and relax after a long drive for some tasty dinner. 

Of course the brewery has a stellar beer list, and offers beer flights. However if you really want to stick to the bourbon lifestyle you gotta try the Old Fashioned. Real original, I know – but hear me out! Of course the old fashioned has the delightfully bitter and citrus accents to showcase the staring bourbon, like any proper old fashioned should, but at Scout & Scholar the traditional sweetener component of the cocktail is actually a barrel-aged imperial stout simple syrup, for extra richness. 

I like to pair mine with the KY Grass Fed Beef Burger. With two options of scout, which includes bacon pepper jam, cheddar cheese, comeback aioli, and an onion ring. Or you can scholar it for a more classic lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo, and cheddar cheese.

Day 2

Rise and shine! Today you are in for a jam packed day of bourbon, and bourbon accessories. Quick note on the day – PACE YOURSELF! You have the opportunity of getting FIFTEEN alcohol samples in. As a result, we encourage you to not have the entire tasting, especially if you’re not a fan of one of the pours. You can also ask the distillery to give you shared pours if you’re in a group (you’ll likely still be charged full price though).

Breakfast at Hadorn’s Bakery

My best piece of advice to prepare for the adventure ahead – carb load! So head over to Hadorn’s Bakery for all the donuts, danishes, and cinnamon rolls you can eat. The showcases are filled to the brim with yeasty sugary creations, so just let your eyes do the ordering.

Just make sure you arrive early! This little bakery is not a well-kept secret and they do sell out all the time. Doors open at 7am and if there’s anything left they close at 1pm. Unfortunately, they are closed on Mondays.

limestone branch distillery in lebanon ky
(Photo Credit: Limestone Branch Distillery)

Limestone Branch Distillery

Just a 30 minute drive to Lebanon, Kentucky, is the first tour of the day at Limestone Branch Distillery. Limestone is a pretty big deal in this area, so it’s only fitting that Limestone Branch named their core brand after the mineral. 

The Limestone Branch umbrella actually includes a portfolio of separate brands for their Yellowstone bourbon, Minor Case rye, and Bowling & Burch gin. So for this reason we recommend taking the Limestone Branch Distillery Tour.  

On this hour-long tour you’ll learn about the long-standing history of Limestone in the bourbon industry, as well as get an up-close look at the production floor for the hand-crafted Yellowstone Bourbon recipe (including all the delightful fermentation smells!) You’ll end with a tasting of all their brands, bourbon, rye, gin and all!

However if you’re on a bourbon or bust kinda trip, you can opt for hour-long The Yellowstone Select Experience. Almost identical to the distillery tour, with tales of the history and a guide through the production floor, the conclusion tasting focuses only on the Yellowstone Bourbon and includes some former years for side by side comparison. As an added benefit this tour also includes a complimentary glass for a souvenir- because they know who the true bourbon heads are. 

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Maker’s Mark Distillery

Probably one of the most recognizable brands of liquors has to be the Maker’s Mark red-dipped bottles! Maker’s Mark Distillery is only 15 minutes away from Limestone Branch, and is a gorgeous piece of land and facility. The black buildings with red shutters – which have cutouts in the shape of bottles no less – is beautifully rustic and teams with the waxed cap tradition.

A lot of bourbon tours might be similar to one another depending on process and distillation, however with the Marker’s Mark tour, you’ll be able to see how they also expertly dip each bottle by hand for the iconic drip which is pretty fascinating in and of itself.

You’ll also have a chance to dip your own bottle for the same price of a regular bottle! My custom-dipped bottle is a little on the wonky side, so don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t look shelf-ready – consistency is HARD, and clearly, these dippers are well-practiced.

Their classic Maker’s Mark Tour is a 1.25-hour adventure that concludes with 5 tastings from their various products, so you can really see how bourbon can vary from process to process!

Maker’s gives tours 7 days a week.

willett distilley in bardstown ky
(Photo Credit: Willett Distillery)

Willett Distillery

As we keep following along the journey, you’re likely building up an appetite aside from your liquid diet. Luckily the next stop, Willett Distillery, has got you covered! The drive from Maker’s Mark is about 30 minutes, and once you arrive just head straight to The Bar at Willett

Reservations are required, but they’re super easy to make online. The menu does change daily, with chef-driven creativity, but if it’s available try the Egg Salad Sandwich. This classic packed lunch favorite has been chef-ified to showcase smoked Duke’s mayo, yolk jam, and chives – just trust us on this one!

Looking for a bit more protein? Then go with the Chicken Thighs. You’ll get a little spice kick from the calabrian peppers, but with a finish of lime and honey everything is rounded out to be deliciously tender.  

For the Willett tour, reservations must also be made in advance. We recommend setting your tour start time for after your lunch. You’ll be fully nourished and ready to continue on responsibly. 

There are two tours offered, the hour-long Distillery and Production Tour with Tasting (pretty self explanatory on that one) and the 30-minute Tasting Thru the Times.

The distillery and production option is a walking tour journey around both inside and outside the distillery. A beautiful sight to tour, because every crevice exudes historic tradition. Between the blend of brick, limestone, and wood paneled facility, the tasting at the end is just the cherry on top of this marvel. The sights, smells, and tastes last about an hour.

For the Tasting Thru the Times experience, whiskey flows immediately in the tasting room with selections from the whole family of Willett brands. Aside from the Willett name, the family also includes Johnny Drum, Old Bardstown, Rowan’s Creek, and more familiar faces. This experience swaps the facility tour for a guided introduction to each pour, showcasing both past and current whiskey makers. This whiskey only focus takes about 30 minutes.

Note, The Bar at Willett is only open Wednesday- Saturday and the distillery is open Monday- Saturday. Both are closed on Sundays.

Heaven Hill Distillery

Just down the road, only a mere 5 minutes away is our last distillery of the day 2, Heaven Hill Distillery. Oh the college memories with Heaven Hill, some I can’t remember, and some I can’t forget.

The brand offering from Heaven Hill is pretty extensive. Lots of popular names fall under the Heaven Hill umbrella. Henry McKenna, Evan Williams, Elijah Craig and MANY more. Heaven Hill doesn’t do facility tours like other distilleries, but since you’ll pretty much be an expert by now, you can enjoy one of their many tasting experiences instead! As a reminder, because of KY state law you can only do one. A real Monty Hall problem on which door is the best…

Behind door number one is the Magic of the Mashbill. This 90-minute experience focuses on the production and differences between whiskeys, which is very interesting because Heaven Hill is the only distillery that has every type of American Whiskey. This also includes a showing in the 1935 Distillery Theater and access to the self-guided exhibits. At the end of this experience, you’ll be able to taste at least 3 whiskeys.

If you’re willing to take a peek behind door number 2, you’ll find the Whiskey Connoisseur Tasting. This tasting includes FIVE premium bourbon and whiskey tastings. This tasting lasts about 45 minutes, and might be the best bang for your buck if you really want to taste as much as possible!

But if you were holding out for what was behind door number 3, welcome to the all-inclusive package, You Do Bourbon. This experience takes up to 90 minutes and includes 3 (or more) tastings, hands-on experience in the You Do Bourbon Lab, and if you choose your favorite, you have the opportunity to fill and personalize your own take-home bottle! Quick note though, the personalized bottle is sold separately, because isn’t it always?

Heaven Hill is open every day.

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Dinner at The Rickhouse

Through the entrance of wrought iron gates, past the brick cellar arches and alongside the curved barrel booths The Rickhouse welcomes all bourbon lovers for rich food and strong pours.

This steak house is an indulgent conclusion to your packed day. The menu is filled with varying cuts and sizes of steak ranging from 6oz Filets to a 16oz Bone-in Rib Eye. However I recommend taking a look at the entree menu instead.

The BBQ Bourbon Chicken is sweet and savory, and hits all the right notes. A half chicken is slow roasted for a tender juicy center, and is then slathered in a homemade infused BBQ Bourbon sauce. It comes with two side items, and you absolutely have to make one of them the Eleven Cheese Macaroni. I would go on to describe how rich and thick this gooey dish is, but once you hear ELEVEN cheese, do you really have any more questions?

Just as the barrels don’t leave a rickhouse until they’re ready, you might find the ambience too alluring to say an early goodbye. So if you have room, split a five pour flight to savor the rest of your evening. Available in three tiers, tier number Three includes distilleries you won’t be able to hit this go around, like Basil HaydenAngel’s Envy, and Jefferson’s Bourbon.

Reservations are strongly recommended and can be requested online. The Rickhouse is closed on Mondays, and opens every other day at 4pm and closes at 9pm.

Day 3

Whether today is your last day for this 3 day itinerary, or your plans are for continuing on to Louisville itinerary for the next 3 days, you’ll be able to pack your bags and check out of your rental to head out for the day’s quest. Today we’ll squeeze in two more distilleries and have plenty of time to drive back to Louisville.

breakfast hotbrown from mammy's kitchen and bar in bardstown ky
Nothing like a breakfast hot brown to get your day started! (Photo Credit: Mammy’s Kitchen and Bar)

Breakfast at Mammy’s Kitchen and Bar

If I haven’t preached it enough at this point, let me say it again: Make sure you start off with some breakfast! It’s just common sense for a day of drinking, and once you go to Mammy’s Kitchen and Bar, you’ll be glad I nagged you to fill up your belly.

The barnyard dining room and massive menu are clear indicators that this is homestyle country cooking at its finest. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, because it’s all smothered in rich goodness. However one stand out has to be the Breakfast Hot Brown

This famous Kentucky dish is definitely on the indulgent side, so you might want to consider splitting it with someone else. Double protein with oven-roasted turkey and shaved country ham, sit on top of slices of Texas toast. The open-face sandwich is then covered in Hot-brown sauce (called a Mornay) and finished with two eggs, bacon and sliced tomatoes.

Mammy’s Kitchen and Bar is closed Mondays.

Bardstown Bourbon Company

Only 10 minutes away from breakfast, is Bardstown Bourbon Company. When you’re close, you can’t miss the stunning facility. An exterior of window walls and tower showcase the entire facility transparently with its shining production equipment. It’s sleek, it’s modern, it’s gorgeous. 

Bardstown Bourbon Company offers tours and experiences for about every type of bourbon encounter you could ask for. From a VIP personal bottle filling, a rare vintage tasting, and even a personal art of blending class. 

And for the distillation nerds, opportunities are periodically offered to tour the facility with master distiller Steve Nally or even to take a behind the scenes guide with head distiller Nick Smith.

The options can be overwhelming to pick just one (reminder that KY law prohibits more than one experience per day.)

But one of the coolest tours has to be the Rickhouse Barrel Thieving. The rickhouse is the sole resting place for bourbon and whiskey to sit and look pretty while it ages. On this tour, you’ll be able to not only go inside the rickhouse to gawk at the rows and rows of stacked aging barrels, but you’ll also be offered three bourbon tastings directly from the barrel. Kinda like trying your bourbon medium rare before it’s well done.

This unique opportunity takes about an hour to explore all the finer characteristics. Definitely book ahead of time because at peak times tour time slots sell out fast.

Tours as well as the visitor center are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

James B. Beam Distilling Co.

As our last distillery of the day, James B. Beam Distilling Co. is only a 30-minutes away from Bardstown in Clermont, Kentucky. James B. Beam, or the more familiar name you might be familiar with – Jim Beam, is an Americana beauty. 

The newly renovated white and black pitched roof distillery pays lots of homage to the traditions that built the brand. For Jim Beam, history is a big part of production, so 200 years of stories are included whether you book a tour, tasting, or mixology experience

Jim Beam only offers one tour: the Beam Made Bourbon Distillery Tour & Tasting. The tour lasts about 90 minutes and covers the special details of limestone water, germinated grains, and the all-important heritage yeast that was chauffeured by Jim Beam himself to create one of the most popular spirits on the market. You’ll also be led on a hands-on journey of the distillery and bottling line, where you can even personally pick a single barrel bottle to personalize as a token to take home. They even cover Jim Beam’s sister brands – Basil Hayden, Legent, and Knob Creek.

And with all this limestone and grain knowledge, before your tour comes to an end you’ll be able to taste how they harmoniously come together in a glass – and why no one else in the world can replicate Kentucky bourbon, with a tasting at their new American Outpost tasting room.

Tours are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and it is recommended you book your tour in advance online.

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Bernheim Forest Kentucky in the fall-2
The Forest Giants at Bernheim are made from natural materials from the area and are filled with personality!

Stop at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest

If weather permits you absolutely HAVE to visit Bernheim Forest. The 16,000 acre arboretum is right across the street from Jim Beam, and is one of the most unique spots in Kentucky. 

In addition to numerous hiking trails – both short and full day, there is a gorgeous canopy tree boardwalk and lots of art displays. But the coolest installation is definitely the Forest Giants. Made from recycled wood in the area, these three enchanting creatures were commissioned to celebrate Bernheim’s 90th anniversary. They’re huge and friendly looking, and a really great photo opportunity.

Bernheim is open 7 days a week year-round. And if you’re feeling peckish, there is a cafe as well.

Drive to Louisville

Now it’s time to head back to the city. From Bernheim/Jim Beam you’re about 35 minutes away, and luckily it’s literally just a straight shot on interstate 65 N, so no confusion or getting lost. 

If you’re daring enough and are able to book your flight for late in the evening you could go straight to the airport. SDF is a fairly small airport so you usually don’t have to pad your arrival time more than an hour or hour and a half, and if you have TSA pre-check there is hardly ever a line. Note, this advice should be totally disregarded if it’s Derby Weekend!

However take the opportunity to stay in Louisville before you head back home, whether that be one night at 21c Museum Hotel or the entire 3 day bourbon itinerary for Louisville. Either way we’ve got you covered.

Clock and Street View in Downtown Louisville Kentucky

Louisville

Sure, technically bourbon was invented in Kentucky and not Louisville per se, but Louisville has embraced it, built upon it, and created a drinking scene honoring it. We even coined the term “Bourbonism” to describe bourbon-focused tourism. Oh, and the city’s nickname? Bourbon City. So I guess you could say bourbon is kinda our thing!

Home to distilleries like Rabbit Hole, Angels Envy, Old Forester, Evan Williams, Michter’s, and Kentucky Peerless – Louisville came to play for the bourbon trail.

The distilleries in Louisville are actually pretty close together, so if you are only completing this Kentucky bourbon trail 3 day itinerary in Louisville, you could choose to either rent a car or rideshare. There are a lot of stops, but each ride would be short and peak pricing isn’t crazy (unless it’s Derby!) compared to other major cities.

Day 1

If you’re flying into the city today via SDF airport, Day 1 is going to be nice and light while you get settled in. Here we’ve given you some evening plans, however if your flight arrives early in the day and you’re ready to do some exploring check out our 63 best things to do in Louisville post to maximize your time in the ‘ville.

And if you’re continuing your bourbon extravaganza from Bardstown, take some rest from all the driving and relax and recharge for another back to back bourbon day tomorrow!

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Golden David Statue at 21C Museum Hotel in Louisville Kentucky
Golden David Statue at the 21c Museum Hotel.

Where to Stay

Downtown Louisville is filled with historic brick facades, towering skyscrapers and high-rises (don’t worry, there aren’t THAT many), hotels, theatres, and museums. Bordering the waterfront and the Ohio River, you’re never very far from a view of the water – just head up to the nearest rooftop bar!

These are two of our favorite hotels we recommend staying to be close to all the Louisville-based distilleries.

  • The Grady Hotel is Louisville’s newest boutique hotel right on Museum Row in the heart of downtown – and y’all, it’s gorgeous! The historic building dates back to 1883 and was once a medicinal bourbon apothecary – but today, it’s a stunning hotel that stays true to its historic past.  The lounge is themed like the bourbon bar/library you’ve always wanted in your own personal mansion, the rooms are incredibly modern and chic. Breakfast is included, and you can grab (bourbon) cocktails and bites at the on-site restaurant which is named for a company which made Derby hats during the roaring twenties in the very same building.
  • This is your chance to achieve your sleeping-in-a-museum fantasy at 21c Museum Hotel. This incredibly unique boutique hotel is both a hotel and a contemporary art museum, located right on Museum Row – so you’re literally staying in one of the area’s coolest attractions. 21c is also home to one of the best restaurants in Louisville, Proof on Main – do not miss out on eating at Proof, even if you’re not staying here! Oh, and .. er, try to visit the men’s bathroom on the main floor. Just trust us.
Belle of Louisville on the Ohio River at sunset before heading out on a sunset cruise

take a sunset cruise on the Belle of Louisville

Live jazz, laughter, clinking glasses and the bellow of a steamboat’s whistle (er, calliope) – are we in the roaring 20’s, or did you just board the Belle of Louisville? Honestly, it feels like both on the Belle of Louisville’s sunset cruises. Except we’re way beyond prohibition, and nowadays you can get some excellent cocktails on board – they’re the cat’s pajamas!

Head to the waterfront to take a leisurely chug downriver in the evening twilight. You’ll pass under 3 bridges – 4 if the current and an evening breeze are in your favor – and return two hours later to the sparkling lights of downtown Louisville under the moonlight.

We recommend booking tickets for your sunset cruise in advance and arriving about 30 minutes prior to boarding, so you can snag seats and get all settled in for departure.

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Dinner at wild swann

If you’re staying at The Grady Hotel, dinner is just right under your nose. Beneath the hotel is the dark and moody Wild Swann. With speakeasy vibes and elegant cocktails, the Wild Swann is a decadent oasis.

Since there are no distilleries scheduled in Louisville for today, feel free to indulge in a fancy pour with your dinner. You can request a bourbon list, but I love looking at the cocktail menu when I’m in a speakeasy setting – it’s probably all the fancy coup glassware. 

The Apothecary is a great sipper to follow along your bourbon journey. Made with Michter’s Rye (we’ll be there tomorrow!), sweet vermouth, and orange liqueur. The cocktail is then garnished with a brandied cherry for a richly sweet and spiced finish. They also make a great Old Fashioned with Evan Williams single barrel if you want to stick with bourbon. 

For dinner I like to splurge with the Wagyu Skewer. While not a very large dish (just an excuse to order more food) it is very indulgent. The tender beef is dressed with eggplant, gremolata, and a Makers 46 peppercorn sauce.   

Wild Swann is open for dinner Tuesday – Saturday. They are also open for breakfast, lunch, and brunch but hours and days vary, so check their website if you’re interested in coming back!

Now you’re ready to head upstairs (if you’re staying at The Grady) for some much needed rest to gear up for tomorrow!

Day 2

Did you sleep? Hopefully the anticipation of all the amazing stops we have today didn’t keep you up too late last night! 

Today we’ll be traveling around the city of Louisville to some beautiful facilities like Rabbit Hole, Angel’s Envy, Old Forester, Evan Williams, Michter’s, and Kentucky Peerless for non-stop bourbon fun! A lot of these distilleries are newly built and are pretty close to one another. So if you’ve been following along through Frankfort and Bardstown, you’ll find this last stent a little easier, as the driving time is very short between stops.

Bloody Mary at Butchertown Grocery in Louisville Kentucky
A Bloody Mary at Butchertown Grocery.

Breakfast at Butchertown Grocery Bakery

Tucked on Main Street, in the NuLu neighborhood, Butchertown Grocery Bakery is the black and white striped awning that invites you to this charming European inspired bakery and restaurant. 

No it’s not a grocery store, but doesn’t that just make it even more charming? Fresh pastries, breads, and made-to-order sandwiches are stocked daily in the curved showcase, as well as a full coffee and espresso bar for those of us that need our coffee before our bourbon.

There’s usually a daily special breakfast sandwich, but I always go for the sweet carbs and get a pain au chocolat for the rich buttery flakey crust pairs so well with espresso. 

This adorable bakery is open everyday.

Rabbit Hole Bourbon in a Bar in Louisville Kentucky

Rabbit Hole Distillery

Rabbit Hole Distillery opened in NuLu 2012 when its founder risked his twenty-year psychology practice and took a plunge down the Rabbit Hole (get it?!) to make Bourbon and Rye spirits instead. This is one rabbit hole you DO want to fall down at one of the most whimsical distilleries in Louisville! 

The entrance welcomes you with a leaping rabbit over the building, but don’t look away or it could disappear with its optical illusion banner. The distillery is long and narrow, with gorgeous modern railing for this brand new industrial-chic facility. The architecture alone is worth a tour. 

The Rabbit Hole Distillery Tour is a magical journey for all of us that grow curiouser and curiouser and the perfect place to celebrate your unbirthday! For an hour you’ll dive into the story and philosophy behind the whimsical brand. Cover how the rich grains are transformed into whiskey, how Rabbit Hole’s philosophy is changing the bourbon industry and end at the Overlook lounge for a generous bourbon tasting with a view. 

In addition to tasting their award winning bourbon, “Drink Me” vials also include Rabbit Hole’s Rye and Gin spirits.

They do accept walk-ins for tour groups that are not full, however you must arrive at least 5 minutes early. But I always just recommend booking in advance online to ensure you don’t miss out!

Tours and the distillery are closed on Sundays and Mondays.

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Take a tour of Angel's Envy in downtown, one of the best things to do in Louisville!

Angel’s Envy

Situated on the border between Downtown Louisville and NuLu is the Angel’s Envy Distillery. Opening in 2016, Angel’s Envy also has a brand new state of the art facility that is gorgeously lined with copper equipment and exposed rafter ceilings as an elegant environment to mirror an elegant spirit. 

Visitors can take a full tour of the gorgeous Louisville distillery along with a bourbon tasting, or fill their very own bottle of bourbon, during one of these distillery tours:

The Angel’s Envy Signature Tour offers an hour-long deep-dive into the distillery’s history to learn about the distilling process from start to finish. The tour concludes with a tasting of the Angel’s Envy Bourbon Finished in Port Casks and Rye Finished in Caribbean Rum Casks. This tour lasts about an hour, and is offered daily 7 days a week

If you want to get a little more hands on, Angel’s Envy offers a Bottle Your Own Tour, where you’ll get to bottle your very own 750ml bottle of Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon Finished in Port Wine Barrels, which comes with a commemorative box case and display stand. 

While this doesn’t include a proper tour if the distillery, you’ll feel like a bad*ss filling your own bottle to take home! This experience lasts 40-minutes and is only available on select Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays – so it’s best to check on time slots ahead of time.

Lunch at Royals Hot Chicken

Get tenders or sandwiches, with lots of sauces to choose from. OH! And they have alcoholic slushies, like the frozen Kentucky bourbon coffee.

Y’all know Kentucky loves some fried chicken – and we are not particular about the genre. A big step up from KFC,  Royals Hot Chicken, gives you that fried chicken fix. Serving up Nashville style hot chicken: deliciously crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside fried chicken that isn’t your normal fast food fare.

Besides a perfectly fried chicken sandwich on a potato bun (which you can get with “no heat” to “Gonzo” level spicy), you’ll also find delectable sides like creamy Mac & Cheese or the savory Broccoli & Bacon Salad.

Royal’s also serves slushies you can add bourbon to – best enjoyed on their outdoor patio on a warm day. And if it is a beautiful sunny day, you can even walk here from your Angel’s Envy tour.

Old Forester Distillery and Pride flag on Whiskey Row in Louisville Kentucky

Old Forester

Old Forester is located on Whiskey Row, the historic home of the bourbon industry in Louisville. In a beautiful, full-circle kind of way, in 2018 Old Forester moved back into the same building they inhabited from 1882 – 1919, reclaiming their former space.

The inside of the Old Forester bourbon distillery is bright and airy. As you step inside, you’ll immediately notice a long stairway with a dramatic copper still that stands several stories tall.

Today, Old Forester is home to the only cooperage in downtown Louisville, where they make and char their own barrels – a unique experience and a highlight of the distillery tour.

Old Forester offers two distillery tours:

The 75-minute Old Forester Tour takes you to see fermentation, distillation, and barrel making processes, as well as how the whiskies are maturated & bottled in their state-of-the art facility. At the end, you’ll get to taste four expressions. The tour starts every hour, except on Sundays and Monday when the facility is closed.

The Nothing Better in the Market Tour is for those who want something a little extra (and are willing to pay a little extra for it). This 75-minute tour give you a more in-depth look at the distillery and ends in a VIP tasting experience. You’ll get to sample some of their finest whiskies, like Old Forester Single Barrel, 1910 Old Fine Whiskey, and Old Forester Birthday Bourbon. 

This tour is only offered during select dates and times, usually on Fridays and Saturdays, so booking in advance is a must. You are able to book tours for Old Forester up to 3 months out. 

Old Fo also offers discounts for military/veterans, first responders, and seniors.

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the Evan Williams Experience in downtown Louisville Kentucky

Evan Williams Bourbon Experience

Evans Williams bourbon is a staple in Louisville. You’ll find it everywhere, which is not surprising because Evan Williams was Kentucky’s first distillery, opened in 1783!

Evan Williams is actually distilled at the Heaven Hill Distillery if you remember from our visit to Bardstown. At their downtown location you can learn about the distilling process, take a unique trip back in time to a Prohibition-era speakeasy, and most importantly, sample bourbon!

The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience offers three tours and experiences:

  • The first is their Traditional Tour & Tasting which features a film and historical walkthrough of the founding of the distillery to today. We recommend this for anyone who hasn’t done a full-blown distillery tour, as you’ll learn a lot about the process of bourbon making. The tour lasts about an hour and includes a souvenir distillers glass. Time slots are every hour on the hour, except on Mondays when they’re closed. 
  • Only offered on Saturdays and Sundays, the Speakeasy Tour is a 45-minute long celebration of the end of Prohibition in the Evan Williams speakeasy. You will be transported back in time as you sneak through a safe into a hidden Prohibition-era speakeasy, complete with a 1920’s bartender who’s brimming with historic bourbon knowledge! During your trip back in time you’ll get to try plenty of samples of Evan Williams bourbon – and hopefully make it out safely without being busted by a hatchet-wielding member of the Temperance Movement. This fun and unique experience comes with a souvenir distillers glass.
  • The last experience option is The Ideal Bartender Experience, offered on Thursdays and Fridays. You’ll step back in time to the final days of Prohibition to the secret speakeasy. History comes to life as you meet Louisville native and renowned bartender, Tom Bullock. He was the First Black American to write and publish a cocktail book.  Along the way, you will taste 3 premium whiskeys and even get to enjoy one of Tom’s most famous creations. The experience also includes a commemorative glass and a special recipe to take home. The experience is 45 minutes long.

The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience is closed Mondays.

Michter’s Fort Nelson Distillery

Michter’s Distillery descends from one of America’s oldest whiskey companies. Back in 1753, Michter’s was known as Shenk’s and was located in Pennsylvania. Lore has it that General George Washington visited the distillery and purchased whiskey to fortify his men during the brutal winter at Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War. So, that’s some provenance!

Michter’s has two locations in Louisville: an enormous warehouse distillery in Shively where the spirits are actually produced, and a tasting room and “micro distillery” located in the historic Fort Nelson Building on Museum Row, which is open to visitors- which is the location we will be attending.

At their downtown Fort Nelson location, the micro-distillery offers three tours :

  • Their most basic tour is their Discovery Tour, which offers a brief one-hour overview of the Michter’s distilling, barreling, and the extra steps they take to pursue their goal of making the “greatest American whiskey”. The tour concludes with a tasting of five Michter’s expressions.
  • The hour and a half long Founders Tour includes all the information of the Discovery tour, but also gives you the opportunity to delve deeper into the distillation process, learning all about their legendary Pennsylvania pit still system. You’ll get to smell the various sample heads cuts, hearts cuts, and tails cuts from tails, which are the different phases that the alcohol goes through as it is distilled. The tour ends with 7 samples, and they also send you home with a commemorative gift! It might be difficult booking this one, because it is only offered once a week, so you’ll have to check online for time offerings.
  • The Legacy Tour at two hours takes you a step further behind the scenes to their historic distilling process, and is offered only once monthly. Alongside one of Michter’s senior team members, you will delve into all the process from the tours above AND get to participate in the filling of a barrel and learn about their approach to filtration. This tour concludes with you getting to try some of their rarest expressions, and you’ll take home a commemorative gift.

Michter’s Fort Nelson Distillery is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

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Truck and facade against sunset of Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co. Louisville, KY
(Photo Credit: Peerless Distilling Co.)

Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co.

The distillery currently known as Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co. barreled their first bourbons in 1881 and was one of the largest distilleries in Kentucky… until Prohibition shut it down. Peerless managed to survive for a while, selling its barrels by prescription only for medicinal use.

But in 1937, a crazy accident almost shut the brand down for good. But I’ll leave that chilling tale for your tour guide! Kentucky Peerless offers three distillery experiences:

  • On the Distillery Tour, you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at how Peerless crafts bourbon and rye from grain to bottle in their beautiful, old wooden warehouse. After your tour you will also get a complete whiskey tasting. The tour lasts about an hour and fifteen minutes.
  • However if you’re feeling comfortable with all the bourbon knowledge you’ve been able to absorb from the day, opt for the tasting without the tour. Save a few bucks and book a 45-minute Tasting Experience where you’ll be able to taste not only Kentucky Straight Bourbon, but also rye whiskey.
  • The Heritage Experience is perfect for true connoisseurs and serious experience goers. A private tour and specialty tasting in the on-site speakeasy. You must submit a request at least 2 weeks in advance for this ultimate VIP experience.

All tours and experiences must be booked online in advance, and is closed Sundays.

food from the silver dollar in clifton louisville
(Photo Credit: Grill Momma)

Dinner at Silver Dollar

When their website address reads “WhiskeybytheDrink.com” you know they’re serious about their whiskey and bourbon. And I’m talking REAL SERIOUS about their whiskey and bourbon. The bottle list is intimidating for even the most seasoned of drinkers, including vintage bottles.

Which is just one of the reasons this little renovated firehouse on Frankfort Ave is something special. Silver Dollar is like a beautiful modern-day honky tonk, with colorful hanging lights and a massive bar top perfect for sliding a mug after a long day.

Reading through the menu, you will feel the charm of all the best southern flavors in one spot. Buttermilk fried okra, cornmeal chicken livers, and spicy collard greens, just to name a few southern staples.

Although, the Fried Chicken Sandwich is really where it’s at! A crispy chicken breast, slathered in Nashville hot sauce, and topped with cooling lettuce, pickles and ranch. I always pair it with a Kentucky Mule, Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon, Lime, and housemade ginger syrup.

Day 3

Hopefully all that bourbon helped you have a GOOD night’s rest. Better than Ambien if you ask me. 

For all the visitors who have been following along since Frankfort and Bardstown – you did it! You actually did it! Not only have you conquered the best distilleries in the state that makes the best bourbon, but hopefully you’ve picked up a few souvenirs and personal bottles along the way to show off to all your jealous friends and family. Proud of you.

And while you’re in the city check out all of the other great things we have to offer besides bourbon- I know that seems blasphemous by this point, but give your body at least a little break.

Whether you’re driving or flying back home, if you’ve got the time, check out our guide of things to do in the city before you head out!

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Proof on Main Restaurant interior in Louisville Kentucky

Brunch at proof on main

Proof on Main, the unique restaurant in Louisville’s famous 21C Museum Hotel, is every bit as quirky as its hotel home.

Redecorated regularly with its own series of installations, the restaurant is a museum in its own right. Oh, and the food is magnificent.

Proof is an excellent place for brunch, lunch, and dinner in Louisville, but we’re here to talk about brunch. Start your day off properly with a French Toast Casserole made with apple butter, whipped cream, and fresh hazelnuts, or a Cast Iron Dutch Pancake with blackberry maple preserves, cultured butter, and cocoa nibs.

And of course, drinks: we recommend the Relancer, made with dolin blanc (no idea, don’t care), apricot liqueur, lemon, thyme, and “bubbles.” It’s delish.

And what is the restaurant decorated like now? I guess you’ll have to visit Proof on Main and find out…

flying out of SDF

SDF is a fairly small airport so you usually don’t have to pad your arrival time more than an hour or hour and a half, and if you have TSA pre-check there is hardly ever a line. Currently, we do not offer CLEAR at SDF, so the fastest line will be TSA pre-check.

Kentucky Bourbon Trail Map

Nothing says I know where I am going like a good map. Here is out Kentucky bourbon trail map to help you get around!


What did you think of our Kentucky bourbon trail 3 day itinerary? What questions can we answer? Drop us a comment below!

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I know you already know this, but Kentucky has a lot of bourbon, which means that we have a lot of distilleries. But which ones should you visit? How do you get to them all in a limited time? Well, that's where our Kentucky Bourbon Trail 3-day itinerary comes in! 95% of the world's bourbon is made in Kentucky, and bourbon just tastes better from the terroir of Kentucky’s rolling hills. So let's dive into our Kentucky Bourbon Trail 3-day itinerary!
 
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