Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Kentucky Bourbon Trail – Pt. 3

(Shepherdsville, KY)  Hi 84  Lo 61 – Today we wrapped up the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Dee and I now qualify for free t-shirts. Really. You get a small passport at your first stop on the trail, and when you get a stamp from all six distilleries you mail the passport to an address in Lexington and they send you a t-shirt (along with returning your passport). I know you’re probably tired of reading about bourbon and distilleries, so instead of describing today’s three tours in detail, I’ll just describe what was significantly different on each of today’s tours from the others we’ve taken. The three tours today were:

Wild Turkey in Lawrenceburg.
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Four Roses, also in Lawrenceburg.
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And Woodford Reserve, in Versailles.
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The tours are scheduled at different times of the day, so today was somewhat of a logistical challenge. They were all within 20 miles of each other, which made it worth the hour-and-a-half trip east to the Frankfort area. We got to Wild turkey about 40 minutes before the 10:30 tour, so we sat in a porch swing on their front patio and passed the time talking to two couples who were on a motorcycle tour of Kentucky. They were from Dallas, TX and they’re traveling on two Harleys. They were interesting to talk to, and one couple said they have dreams of living full time in an RV when they retire from work.

The Wild Turkey tour was very similar to the others we took, with one exception. We got to watch a worker filling barrels with distilled whiskey, the last step before sending the barrels to the aging warehouse to become bourbon. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

Here he’s filling the barrel with the long pipe, then after the barrel is full he hammers the oak “bung” into the hole to seal it. The liquid is clear at this point, but in just 4-6 years it’ll be golden bourbon.
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We were finished with the tour and tasting at 11:35, and we made a mad dash to cover the 9 miles to Four Roses to arrive just in time for their noon tour. Four Roses was both the worst, and best, of the six distilleries. It was the worst because they were in the middle of a two-month shutdown, so the tour was basically walking around looking at idle equipment with our tour guide explaining how everything works. Not very exciting. But it was also the best because I was surprised at how good their bourbon tastes! Their small batch and single-barrel bourbons are really smooth.

One sight we thought was amusing was this cute swing they made out of a barrel.
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On the way to our last stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Woodford Reserve, we stopped in Versailles for lunch. We were hungry, plus we needed to pass some time before the next scheduled tour at 3pm. The Woodford Reserve Distillery is next to a large horse farm (Diamond A Farm), and the scenery was breathtaking! Photos just don’t do justice to how beautiful Kentucky is, but here’s a few anyway.
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We are really falling in love with Kentucky!

Woodford Reserve is a tiny operation compared to the other six. They produce one brand, and in small quantities. All of their inventory is in one warehouse that holds 40,000 barrels. In comparison, Jack Daniels (which is not bourbon, by the way) has 80 warehouses, the largest of which holds 80,000 barrels! The Woodford Reserve property is very upscale looking. It looks sort of like how I envision Augusta Golf Club would look (if I would every get to see it). You can tell they cater to a higher class of customer. (Their cheapest bourbon is $33 a bottle.) The tour was very complete. One thing that stood out was their three copper tank stills. They date to the 1800’s, and all the bourbon they produce is run through these three stills.
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Another nice treat was the chance to see some bourbon being released from the barrels. The worker drills out the bung…
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He then rolls the barrels over and the golden liquid pours out.
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The bourbon drains down to pipes below the floor and travels to the nearby bottling machines. Here’s an overall view of the bottling line.
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As fancy and exclusive as Woodford Reserve is (official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby), I thought it’s taste was rather unexceptional. And it certainly wasn’t as good as Maker’s Mark or Four Roses Small Batch, my two favorites.

Well, that’s all you'll hear about bourbon from me. I’m sure you’re thankful of that. :)  I sure enjoyed visiting the six distilleries. I learned a lot and gained a good appreciation of fine bourbon. And I want to thank my long-suffering wife Dee for her patience while I indulged in all of this. To reward her, we stopped at a winery we happened to come by on the way home, Prodigy Vineyards & Winery.
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She tasted a few different wines and brought home a couple of bottles that she liked.
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Our list of “to see’s" here in the Louisville area is just about complete. We have a couple of more wineries to search out so Dee can complete her Bullitt County Wine Tour and get a free long-stemmed glass. That’ll probably be on Friday. Tomorrow will be a catch-up and laundry day. Boy, that’ll make you not want to miss tomorrow’s blog, right? :)


Paul and Marti Dahl said...

So you take turns being the designated driver, Dee for the BOurbon trail and you for the wine tasting tour?

Speedy said...

I would love to have one of those kegs!

Joe and Sherri

GGuncle said...

did they tell you at ,i think J. Daniels, that they only use the barrels once. That there are 50 gals. of booze in the bbl. & the fed. gov. hits them for $50.00 on each bblk for fed taxes. then after 5 or so years when they tap the bbl. they only have 40 gals. of booze the other ten gal. is soaked into the oak,or evaporated. right off the bat they are out ten dollars. They then scrape out the bbls. & sell them to wineries. those oak bbls. only get used once for whiskey or burbon. i still enjoy reading about your adventures. thanks. dom

Bob and Jo said...

I believe JD is technically a bourbon but choose to market it as sour mash Tennessee whiskey. Enjoyed the tour.

Anonymous said...

We have also done the tour and my favorite bourbon was definitely Four Roses!! Kentucky is a beautiful state. The National Quilt museum in Paducah is definitely worth a stop when you get back to that part of the state.