Wednesday turned out to be a pretty nice day, low 70’s, so we decided to complete the final to stops on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. We started at Heavens Hill, in Bardstown, KY. We had been here before, so we did skip the tour, but got our passport stamped. Their visitors center has a lot of interesting information on the history of bourbon.
Heaven Hill had a huge fire several years ago that destroyed over a dozen warehouses. As with all the distillery’s, the warehouses are spaced pretty far apart, but once several thousand barrels of bourbon starts on fire, there isn’t much anyone can do to contain it.
Heaven Hill warehouses
Below is an example of a copper pot that was used in the past by moonshiners.
A simple copper still pot
Heaven Hill has on display many historical photographs from the days of Prohibition.
Heaven Hill was founded by William Heavenhill. It is believed that a typists error on the distillers permit put a space in between Heaven and hill, and the company could not afford the fee to have it corrected, so it was left as two words. Their main brands of bourbon are Elijah Craig and Evan Williams. Elijah Craig is considered the “father” of bourbon, as he was a minister, and was the first person to char the barrels that the whiskey is placed in for aging. Evan Williams was Kentucky’s first commercial distiller, rolling out the first barrel in 1783.
After Heaven Hill, we headed to our final stop on the tour, Jim Beam, in Clermont, KY. Beam is considered to be the number one bourbon distillery by volume. We had also done their tour last year, but they completely revamped it, and built a brand new visitors center for 2013, so we decided to go on their tour. At $10, it was the most expensive of the tours. They had to raise the price of their tour because so many people were stealing their tasting glasses, that they now give them as a “complimentary” gift! Also on our tour was a number of students from the national Future Farmers of America (FFA) convention that is going on in Louisville. You don’t have to be 21 to go on the tour, only to sample the product. It was good to see the students learning about the importance of the grains. After all, they could be the future farmers providing these important ingredients.
Jim Beam complex
The tour this year was very interactive and informative. This is the new visitors center:
lounging on the rocking chair
The tour starts out by going over a small-scale example of a distillery, and then goes into the main plant to see their operations. During the tour, visitors have an opportunity to fill a barrel, dump a barrel, and rinse out bottles.
We were able to watch the bottling of the single batch of Knob Creek. Dan participated in the rinsing of the bottles. The bottles are not rinsed with water, only bourbon. You could then put a sticker with your initials on the bottle, and follow it along during the filling, labeling and hand dipping of the bottles. They only hand dip the single batch bottles. Then they will engrave the bottle with today’s date. Follow along on our bottle’s journey….
single barrel Knob Creek
rinsing the bottle
placing it on the filling line
Dan’s bottle “DVA”
Unlike Makers Mark, they don’t let you dip your own bottles.
The finished product!
Now if anyone wants to join us in the “sampling”, come on down to Kentucky! We’ll be here until December 24th!. Continuing on with our tour, we went into one of the barrel warehouses.
barrel warehouse at Jim Beam
Jim Beam has two warehouses that sit on either side of a Baptist Church.
this bourbon’s safe
Jim Beam also has a huge display of souvenir containers that actually contained their bourbon and was given out as gift items.
This is part of their copper pots. They have one above ground, and one below ground in a blast proof container.
Final stop on the tour was the tasting room. They give you a plastic card that you insert into the machine below, and it dispenses two small samples of your choice.
The tasting machines
And now onto our favorites. We both enjoyed the Woodford Reserve the best, as a good sipping whiskey. Makers Mark was also good, but the triple distilling at Woodford made their whiskey a bit smoother. The regular Jim Beam or the Four Roses yellow label would be good for all the recipes that call for bourbon in the ingredients.
As far as tours goes, again we felt the Woodford Reserve tour was the best, followed by both Makers Mark and Jim Beam. If you are in the Kentucky area for a week or so, the Bourbon Trail is a fun thing to do. Except for two, the distillery’s are 20 – 50 miles apart, so this is not something that could be easily done in a weekend.
Quote for the day: “Whiskey is by far the most popular of all remedies that won’t cure a cold.” – Jerry Vale