Disclosure: This trip was part of a hosted stay with #MoonshineTmoms. All opinions are my own.
Have you ever agreed to do something without fully understanding what you were getting yourself into? I do it all the time.
Hey, Mary – do you drink bourbon? Do you want to join a group of us on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail? – the question came across my facebook messenger.
What do I know about bourbon? Well, I know that I’ve probably had it in a few mixed drinks before. Does that count?
Sure! I said without a second thought. Sounds like fun.
For those of you who know me well, you probably know that I often tend to do things on a whim. This is because I understand myself and if I spend too much time thinking things over I’ll probably just end up talking myself out of doing it at all.
I’ve learned that I can’t give anxiety the chance to speak up. If I did, it would tell me that I have no place in taking the bourbon trail. I am not a bourbon connoisseur nor do I know hardly anything about it.
Arriving in Central Kentucky
If you’ve ever been to Central Kentucky, you might understand the level of beauty I embraced while driving in. The green, lush hills, or knobs as the locals call them, rolling for as far as my eyes could see. The tall rock formations lining the ever winding roads, giving me moments of both awe and brief panic. The fences upon fences that line the one lane back country roads, keeping the apparently common household horses at bay. But seriously, does everyone own horses?
Kentucky was exactly how I pictured it in my head, only slightly better.
For this stay, I was being hosted at the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. This village, I learned, used to be the home of a group of people called the Shakers. From my understanding, it was a commune situation. Now, however, it is a family vacation destination overflowing with history.
Read more about my stay in Shaker Village on TravelingMom.
Am I a Bourbon Imposter?
Like I said before, I don’t really have a lot of knowledge about the making or drinking of bourbon. I am just a mom who likes to enjoy a drink with friends now and then and sometimes that includes bourbon.
I had no clue what I was about to get myself into.
Independent Stave Co / Kentucky Cooperage
Luckily for me, our first stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail was to the local cooperage. If you’re scratching your head as to what a “cooperage” is, don’t feel bad. I had no idea what that meant either.
So, for all of us, a cooperage is where they make the bourbon barrels. It is totally worth the visit because it smells glorious like a high-class campfire. It is also very loud, so we had to wear mic’d earphones to hear the tour guide as she walked us through the two, very large warehouses full of workers.
During the guided tour, I watched intently as the coopers showed us how the barrels were made. Did you know that they don’t use any glues or nails? Seriously, the barrels are all held together by rings and then fire charred to the specifications of the bourbon makers.
The tour only lasted a short time, but the knowledge I gained was tremendous! For instance, did you know that the hole they put in the barrel to pour in the bourbon is called a bung-hole? I’m telling you that now so you don’t embarrass yourself by laughing out loud during the tour like I did.
Limestone Branch Distillery
Stop number two on our tour was at the Limestone Branch Distillery. Surprisingly, this place also made moonshine.
Can you imagine how wide-eyed I was when I walked into the tour and found a still set up with clear as could be moonshine running out of it into a bucket sat on the ground? Now that’s something you don’t see too often! Or, ever really.
Besides the remarkable set up this location had, the tour guide tells quite an animated story of how it all began. You won’t want to miss it.
After sampling a few of the products from Limestone we hopped back on the bus and were taken to explore Maker’s Mark. This production facility was grand in stature and was spread out among several historic looking buildings on the property.
Upon arriving at the site, my first thought was “how come all of the buildings are brownish/black”?
Do you want to know why? It’s because the humidity from making the bourbon causes a mold to grow on the buildings. Interesting, right? Brown was a good cover.
Here’s another secret: look at the shutters on the buildings and you can find a Maker’s Mark bottle cut out. Feel free to use that one to impress your friends with your attentiveness to detail.
A good thing to note is that this location also has a restaurant for those needing to refuel or get some food in their stomachs.
Wilderness Trail Distillery
Our final stop along this one-day bourbon trail trip was to Wilderness Trails Distillery. While Wilderness Trails didn’t originate from a long history of family distillers, I was glad that it was on our list. This location stood out on the tour because it uses science, not legacy, to craft its unique spirits.
On this tour, we were able to take a peek into the lab where all of Wilderness Trails products are tested to ensure the proper yeast growth. I didn’t even know that was a thing! Did you know that distilling is a science? I was surprised to find that all of the pieces have to be just right to get a good end product. There is so much more involved in the process than I would have ever guessed.
Even though I went into this trip unsure of my worthiness to be there, I came out enriched with new knowledge! This tour isn’t just for those who already know bourbon, it’s for those curious about the methods and science behind it.
Newbies are welcome! I thought these tours were full of interesting facts, beautiful sights, and fun keepsakes. Plus, at the end of some tours, they give you a bourbon infused chocolate. I didn’t even know that existed!!
If you’re planning your Kentucky Bourbon Trail trip, be sure to check out Central Kentucky Tours. This is a guided tour bus that can pick you up at Shaker Village, drive you between locations, and bring you back at the end of the day. They also know the best stops to make and have tons more interesting information to share with you.
Be responsible. Happy trails!
Have you ever taken the Kentucky Bourbon Trail? Which stop was your favorite? Which would you recommend? Tell us in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.