Bourbon Distilleries in Kentucky: What We Visited While on Vacation

Updated on August 30, 2019
oceansnsunsets profile image

My family and I toured several bourbon distilleries in Kentucky. Here are the aspects of the tours we enjoyed most.

At the Woodford Reserve Bourbon Tasting, they also gave us a chocolate bourbon ball with this tasting, which really helped to balance out the flavors while allowing us to fully savor the distinct notes of the bourbon.
At the Woodford Reserve Bourbon Tasting, they also gave us a chocolate bourbon ball with this tasting, which really helped to balance out the flavors while allowing us to fully savor the distinct notes of the bourbon. | Source

Visiting Bourbon Distilleries in Kentucky

I just got back from a wonderful trip with my family to Kentucky. Stopping at a distillery wasn't the point of the trip, but something we wanted to do on our way into eastern Kentucky, as we had never done that before. My husband mentioned that it was something he had always wanted to do.

The first day of driving from Missouri was short, as we left after the end of my workday. We wanted to get in some hours so that we weren't driving all day on Sunday. We ended up spending the night in Louisville and headed out in the morning to Castle and Key, first. Castle and Key does guided tours, but we only did a self-guided tour as our greater destination was Woodford Reserve.

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On the outside of Castle and Key Distillery.
On the outside of Castle and Key Distillery.
On the outside of Castle and Key Distillery. | Source

Castle and Key Distillery Near Frankfurt, Kentucky

So our first stop was at Castle and Key. We heard there was a garden type of self-guided tour you could take yourself, and this really appealed to me as a lover of gardens!

The grounds were under a small bit of renovation, but it didn't put a damper on our visit whatsoever. Getting out of the car in the parking area immediately showed some very cool buildings and old distillery equipment, etc. We were excited to see what it offered.

We were met with a very helpful woman who gave us general directions, which was so nice. Often, people are left to wander around and figure everything out. She pointed us in the right direction for the garden area which was nice because it was already pretty hot and humid.

One of the very first things we saw besides a water tower was the "key" portion of Castle and Key. It was the "key" to the success of the distillery in regards to how the key filled up with water twice a day from the surrounding river as it filtered through the limestone. It was actually very beautiful!

You could see that it could make for a wonderful venue for any kind of event, and they seemed to have musical events there on occasion where people could come and listen in a garden setting. There were lovely little lights set up, and I could just imagine the ambiance in the evening.

Of particular interest to my family and I was the river that flowed along right there. There were very beautiful limestone bluffs or cliffs, not too tall. The water and the trees there were just lovely! My youngest mentioned to us that the flatter limestone rocks make for great skipping rocks. Many skipped approximately 10 times!

Since we had two other main destinations that day, we decided to move on to the garden path where we observed some fascinating plants and some lovely butterflies, etc. Walking along got very hot so it was a good thing we wore sunscreen and had water.

Eventually, we made it back to the gift shop where we saw the very lovely inside portion of one of the older buildings. They had done a fantastic job of making it into a very lovely gift shop while retaining a lot of the more unique portions of the old distillery. It was very inviting, and you could get some cold, limestone-filtered water while you sat on the lovely leather chairs, etc.

We learned some more about how the original owner had a train track put in to bring in people from Frankfurt. Also, we learned the current owners helped to bring the distillery back to life after it had been basically non-operational for I think 40 years or so.

So that was one of my very favorite parts of Castle and Key, that it did such an amazing job of restoring something back to its original beauty, plus added extra beauty and functionality. If we had had more time, we may have enjoyed purchasing tickets for the distillery tour. I can only imagine how much more there would be to learn!

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Woodford Reserve
Woodford Reserve
Woodford Reserve | Source

My Thoughts on Woodford Reserve Distillery

So Woodford was the tour we had really planned for and looked forward to. My husband already enjoys a small bit of their bourbon on occasion, and we knew it was a great company. We drove on from Castle and Key and arrived well before our tour time. You cannot be late, so it is a smart thing to do.

We did grab lunch in the building that houses Woodford's gift shop. It isn't a cafe per se, but they did have some nice options, like barbeque pulled pork, chili, sandwiches, salads, chips and desserts along with various coffees. We had not eaten yet, and had the time to spare. In the shade outside on the back deck, we enjoyed a nice lunch together. I loved seeing the older buildings in the distance and wondered how our tour would be.

The time came for our little tram to take us back to the building where the tours started. We had our tickets in hand and enjoyed the first portion of the tour. We went to a building where they had huge, open wooden mash containers with the beginnings of their bourbon We had a great, informative tour! We were able to taste the "mash" which was so interesting! It was a great beginning to the tour.

I learned all that I could want to know about bourbon and more. Like what makes it taste different than other bourbons, as well as how they get the different flavor notes that create Woodford's different formulations. My husbands favorite of the three we ended up trying, for instance, was not the general Woodford Reserve we currently have! They even gave us a chocolate bourbon ball, taught us how to get the most out of our tasting, etc.

Both my youngest son and I liked their original the best, though it was a toss-up for me to a degree. I think I chose their general version of it because I was impressed by the flavor notes as I was trying it while they were describing it.

We had a nice time. There were a couple of minors there with their family members. In fact, it was a family there with the parent and grandparents! They seemed to be having a great time and the kids got to be with us as we sampled, and they enjoyed lemonade and chocolate!

I am so grateful that my husband came up with this idea. The cost was $20.00 a person, but worth it for the enjoyment factor, along with the educational factor.

Buffalo Trace Distillery
Buffalo Trace Distillery

Buffalo Trace: A Very Quick Glance

We had hoped to stop at Buffalo Trace for something similar, but found our time was short. Coming back home, we did manage to stop by very briefly. It was a huge place and it had a lot of people. My son found out that they were sold out of some nice options already, and if we didn't need to get home, we likely would have added one this bourbon distillery to our collection of Kentucky Bourbon tours!

I was able to grab a few pictures of these locations, and I hope you enjoy!

Castle and Key Distillery:
4445 McCracken Pike, Frankfort, KY 40601, USA

get directions

Woodford Reserve Distillery:
7785 McCracken Pike, Versailles, KY 40383, USA

get directions

Buffalo Trace Distillery:
113 Great Buffalo Trace, Frankfort, KY 40601, USA

get directions

© 2019 Paula


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    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR


      8 months ago from The Midwest, USA

      Thank you, Linda, it was! I had not thought of touring a distillery either, and I am so glad my husband came up with the idea. Thank you for the comment! Paula

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      10 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      It sounds like you had an enjoyable trip. The photos are very interesting. I've never thought of touring a distillery, but after reading your article it seems like an excellent idea to me.

    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR


      10 months ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Liz, thank you, we did have a great trip. It has been a while for us since we added anything like this to a vacation. We were glad to do it this time and our youngest,who is now 21, was able to go along and learn as well. I jokingly made the point that I don't generally like focusing on "alcohol" so much, and while he laughed, he gets it too. Thanks for the comment.

    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR


      10 months ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Doug, yes, it was a fun vacation! Going to these distilleries was just a part of it, not even the main focus, but a great addition to the overall vacation. If you ever get the chance, it is a fun and interesting thing to do!

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      10 months ago from UK

      It sounds like you had a good trip. In recent years we have added various distillery tours to our holiday trips and we have learned a lot in doing so.

    • dougwest1 profile image

      Doug West 

      10 months ago from Missouri

      Looks like a fun vacation. I may have to try that myself.


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