A Barrel of Fun in Kentucky’s Bourbon Country

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Sour Mash

California has its wonderful wine, Mexico its Tequila, and Kentucky has the bourbon.  Like fine horses, bourbon has been written into a chapter of the History of Kentucky.  Those fine horses and bourbon have one thing in common that make Kentucky unique – its limestone-rich soil.  The bluegrass that grows in this soil provides lush pastures for the thoroughbred horses, and the same soil is prime for growing the excellent corn used to produce the finest bourbon in the world.

Corn Farms

Miles and miles of corn fill the countryside

I mentioned in my previous post that Steve and I are not bourbon drinkers, but that did not deter us from checking out a couple of the popular places on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. We limited our excursions to just two distilleries, so we could at least learn how bourbon is made and do a little tasting.  We chose to visit the Buffalo Trace Distillery while in the capital city of Frankfort, and Maker’s Mark when we were near its distillery in Loretto, KY.

Right off the bat we learned that all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. And 95% of the world’s bourbon is made right here in Kentucky.  This is an all-American drink that was officially declared “Americas Native Spirit” by an act of Congress in 1964.

Makers Mark

A copper still reflects the excited tourists

Sour Mash Makers Mark

We were encouraged to dip fingers into the sour mash for a taste

Makers Mark Distillery

Giant cypress tubs full of sour mash at various stages of distillation

We learned from both distilleries that while they follow the same time-honored process, what makes them distinctive from each other is their individual recipes and production techniques.  However, to allow their product be called bourbon, by law they have to adhere to the following standards:

  • Must be made of at least 51% corn.
  • Must be stored in a brand-new, charred white oak barrel.  This charring imparts the amber color and unique flavors into the bourbon.
  • Must  be aged at least two years in order to be designated “straight” bourbon whiskey.
  • Nothing can be added to bourbon in the distillation process except water.
  • Must be distilled at less than 160 proof.
Buffalo Trace Distillery

Buffalo Trace storage warehouse

 

When we entered the storage warehouse, we immediately inhaled the bourbon aroma that filled the air, also known as the “angel’s share.”  That’s what the evaporated part of the bourbon is called as it “sleeps” in the barrel for at least two years as required.

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Maker’s Mark, we couldn’t pass up the “photo op” of dipping our own bottle into the classic red wax.  Now we can someday share a bottle of bourbon and an interesting story with our friends.

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Safety gear is required when dipping your bottle into 350-degree wax!

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The final product – who wants to share it with us?

Here are a few more pictures from both distilleries:

Makers Mark Distillery

The grounds were beautifully landscaped at Maker’s Mark, can you make out the distinctive whiskey-bottle cutouts on the window shutters?

Mark;s Maker Distillery

Art depicting the bourbon process — displayed in the tasting room

Buffalo Trace Distillery

At Buffalo Trace Distillery, the bourbon was aged in thick brick warehouses

Buffalo Trace Distillery

Buffalo Trace Distillery sits along the great buffalo trace, a trail that migrating buffalo and early pioneers once trod.  The life-size sculpture pays homage to millions of buffaloes that once lived in Kentucky

 

Tasting bourbon, learning the rules and getting up close to how it’s made was a fun experience.

Buffalo Trace Distillery

My reaction to “White Dog”, the liquid just after distillation and before it goes into the barrel.  How do people drink this stuff?

Bourbon Tasting

Looks like I’m seeing double after a few tastings!

The official trailhead of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail is at Bardstown.  This town has the distinction of being the Bourbon Capital of the World, and The Most Beautiful Small Town in America.  We stopped here first to fill our tummies with some food before heading on to Maker’s Mark.  It is centrally located on the Bourbon Trail and boasts a variety of unique and diverse attractions, restaurants and shops.  There were several restaurants to choose from, but we picked a local hole-in-the-wall – Mammy’s Kitchen – where we enjoyed a delicious lunch.

Bardstown, KY

The main drag in Bardstown – Smalltown USA

So the question is: did we have a barrel of fun?  Oh yeah!

Cheers!

 

Next up:  Caves, Corvettes and more!



 

31 thoughts on “A Barrel of Fun in Kentucky’s Bourbon Country

  1. WHAT FUN! We stopped by the Jim Beam Distillery. Some of that Bourbon is POWERFUL STUFF! I like Boubon but it has to be smoooooooooth! 😀 Thank You for sharing some more of your great photos!

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  2. Your reaction to white dog reminds me of my reaction to the vodka we were given to toast Shackleton at his gravesite in South Georgia … not a Vodka fan anyway, and this one was particularly foul IMHO … although others thought it was quite good ;-))

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  3. What a hoot….the grounds at Makers Mark are so pretty! We also did that tour and enjoyed yummy bourbon chocolate too!

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  4. Hahaha, the photo of you tasting the “White Dog” is definitely the winner! I’d be making the same face. 🙂 Interesting that Bardstown is “The Most Beautiful Small Town In America.” That definitely makes me want to visit. If you guys find a place that makes gin, count us in on sharing a bottle. We LOVE gin and tonics! Especially in the 95 degree temps we’re having in Ashland this past couple of weeks….

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    • Laurel, I’ll go for a gin and tonic. The white dog was too much, and Steve knew that is how I would react and was camera ready.

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  5. Looks like you sobered up enough after breathing the Angel’s Share and tasting the White Dog to write a great post! It would be a shame to open that bottle that you personally dipped it in the wax! O_o

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    • Thank you Carol, but I kept eyeing at the one I just dipped. Still eyeing and not opening it!

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  6. Count us in on sharing the bourbon! LOL. I guess we’ll have to do it virtually unless you’ll be in San Antonio before it’s all gone.

    Good picture of you tasting the White Dog.

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  7. Loved it. If you have the time plan to go to Woodford Reserve. The tour was equally impressive and the barrel houses were unique compared to all the rest. The Bourbon, excellent.

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  8. Loved that expression on your face MonaLiza! We did enjoy the grounds of the Maker’s Mark distillery and Terry had to dip a bottle as well. He, however, did not share his bottle with anyone.

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    • If we met again, I would love to share … he he he. Steve was expecting that reaction so he got me, this time.

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  9. Fun times for sure:) Great face, MonaLiza:) Thanks, Steve, for capturing that expression…priceless! We only did the Corvette plant on our way through there but did do Jim Beam in TN. We don’t drink whiskey but enjoyed learning and seeing the process. If you did all the bourbon places, you get a T-shirt!!!! See what you missed by only doing two!! So good to see you having fun times with new adventures:)

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  10. What fun! I am not a bourbon drinker either but recently toured the Willet Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky. Apparently every distillery tour is different. No wonder people do the Bourbon Trail visiting several along the way!

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    • If we had time we may have visited other distillery not for the taste but for the distillery ambience.

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  11. Sounds like two really fun tours! I don’t drink bourbon either, but am always up for a good tour. Especially when the location is that gorgeous! Love the pic of your face after trying the White Dog. That’s the face I make when drinking most liquors!

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    • Liquors are not really my thing, give me a glass of wine or a cold beer! Lots to do in KY and places that we missed.

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  12. Enjoying following your trip through Kenucky. We spent a few days at the Kentucky Horse Park a few years ago and visited the Wild Turkey distillery. We are not bourbon drinkers either but I discovered their Wild Turkey American Honey Liqueur. Yum.

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  13. We will too, we will too! Now all we have to do is catch up with you….. We’re not bourbon drinkers either, but we did find that a nice cold mint julep made with it was pretty tasty…..

    I loved this post, I loved the pictures, especially the one of you MonaLiza, tasting the white dog!

    Thanks for letting us ride along guys,

    Sue

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    • Sue, we will keep a few shots so we can make that mint julep and drink it. Hmm, we will just have to figure out where !

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  14. John’s drink of choice is Maker’s Mark. Me, just give me a margarita! Love your reaction to White Dog. Probably would also be mine.

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  15. “We will…. we will”, she exuberantly declared regarding the sharing of the bottle of bourbon. Not that we’re bourbon drinkers – Anything to see a couple of gals seeing double trying to focus their cameras…. oh wait, there’s auto focus LOL 🙂

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    • We will save a few shots and share it with you in Texas this winter! Better be there Ingrid.

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  16. Looks like fun! I’m glad Steve caught your reaction to the White Dog! Perhaps you cam mix the bourbon with something to make it more palatable???? 😉

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