Featured Photo by Woodford Reserve

Kentucky Bourbon Trail Distilleries Along The Kentucky River!

Kentucky is Bourbon Country. Home to over 70 different distilleries across the state and popular experiences like the B-Line and Urban Bourbon Trail, the bluegrass state is the perfect place for a bourbon-filled vacation. A great starting point for many visitors, whether you’re new to the scene or a bourbon enthusiast, is the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Featuring traditional world-class distilleries that have flourished in Kentucky for generations, you can get a taste of the state’s culture and heritage at all of these famous destinations. The entire trail typically takes over four days to complete, but if you only have a couple of days you can find a hub of some of the distilleries near Kentucky’s capital, Frankfort, along the Kentucky River. Here, bluegrass landscapes, the river, and vibrant cities will serve as a beautiful backdrop for your bourbon adventures at the historic distilleries nearby.

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1. Wilderness Trail Distillery (Danville, KY)

Tucked away in the rolling bluegrass hills of Danville, Wilderness Trail Distillery is a proud member of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail with traditions and roots in the bourbon industry since the 1940s. Wilderness Trail Distillery makes premium spirits including Bourbon, Rye Whiskey, Rum, and premium unfiltered Vodka using locally grown ingredients. Here you can taste and purchase double-distilled, authentic Kentucky bourbon that has been aged to perfection for four to eight years on site. You can learn all about their fermentation and distillation processes on the distillery tour, where you’ll spend some time in the distillery and the barrelhouse, before ending with a tasting of some of their finest products. If you want to learn even more about bourbon, Wilderness Trail Distillery is a great place to start on the trail as they offer a Bourbon Steward Class that will take your knowledge to the next level.
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2. Woodford Reserve Distillery (Versailles, KY)

Perfecting the art of making fine bourbon since 1812, Woodford Reserve is a household name in the Kentucky bourbon industry and around the entire U.S. Visiting the Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles means stepping into a National Historic Landmark and one of the richest Kentucky bourbon stories in the state. The daily Distillery Tour is one you won’t want to miss out on during your time on the trail. You’ll get to see the historic barrelhouse along Glenn’s Creek, take in over two centuries of distilling history and traditions, and try Woodford Reserve’s award-winning spirits ranging from Straight Bourbon Whiskey and Double Oaked to pre-Prohibition style Rye Whiskey and historical Wheat Whiskey. Woodford Reserve also shares their favorite ways to use their whiskey in cocktails and food, which are perfect to try after your trip on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
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Photo by Wild Turkey

Home to the longest-tenured active bourbon master distiller in the world, Jimmy Russel, and his master distiller son, Eddie Russel, Wild Turkey is a great pre-Prohibition Kentucky distillery on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. With the only active father and son duo of master distillers in the world at the helm, your experience at Wild Turkey will be top-notch with a focus on craftsmanship, history, and tradition, all while sampling some of the finest bourbons in the country. The best place to start out at is the historic distillery, the rickhouses, and the beautiful property on top of Wild Turkey Hill on a tour. Then, stop by the award-winning visitor’s center and be immersed in history and memorabilia in the gallery hall, tastings in Angel’s Room, unbeatable views of the Kentucky River, and beautiful architecture. Before you go, stop at the gift shop to pick up something to remember your visit by, and a bottle or two of Wild Turkey’s finest bourbons.
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4. Town Branch Distillery (Lexington, KY)

A joint brewing and distilling operation, you’ll get to enjoy both award-winning beer and spirits all brewed and distilled in one place at Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co. in Lexington. Starting out with its flagship brew, Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, in 1999, the company was only a brewery. In 2012, Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co. became a part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail when they opened their Town Branch Distillery, known for crafting Town Branch spirits including bourbon, rye, malt, and other specialty liqueur. Today, you can visit and tour both the brewery and the distillery at one location, on the Barrel-Aged Beer Tour and Tasting and the Lexington Brewing & Distilling Distillery Tour and Tasting. If you enjoy what you try during the tastings, be sure to pick up some of their signature brews and liqueurs before you head on your way to the next destination on the trail.
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Though a lesser-known bourbon and distillery on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Four Roses Bourbon comes from similar Kentucky bourbon traditions and history dating back to 1888. Originating in the US in the nineteenth century, Four Roses was a popular bourbon brand in the 30s, 40s, and 50s, but was moved overseas to European and Asian markets shortly after. In 2002, the brand was brought back to the states, reinstating the legacy it had left behind that you can now visit today. Enjoy a guided flight tasting of Four Roses award-winning bourbons in the distillery’s A Taste Of History Tour, or spend some time on a guided walking tour through Four Roses Spanish mission style distillery on the Distillery Tour.
I am a student, aspiring writer, and avid reader of books. My favorite things in the world are my two German Shepherds.
Maeve Miller

Writer , River Travel Magazine