Hitting the Bourbon trail
If you know anything about Bourbon, you’ll almost certainly have heard of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, which covers a multitude of distilleries mainly based around the Louisville/Lexington area of Kentucky. There are companies that run tours lasting up to 8 days that take you round a host of distilleries where you are guided through the bourbon making process and afterwards take part in a ‘tasting’ of several of their products. I was on a short timetable and (as probably the case with most visitors) decided to pick out a couple of distilleries that I had heard of to see how their particular products were produced.
Number one on my list was Buffalo Trace distillery, based in Frankfort, KY, which is particularly known for the highly sort after brands such as Pappy Van Winkle, Weller and Blanton’s to name but a few from their impressive list. Most of the tours for that day had been booked up well in advance but there is a general tour of the distillery followed by a tasting that does not require a reservation you just walk into the gift shop and sign up for the next tour.
The gift shop opens at 9am (occasionally a little earlier) and there is always a line outside waiting to snatch up whatever is the ‘favoured’ bourbon they happen to stock on the shelves that day. On my first visit I was lucky enough to be able to purchase a Blanton’s which was the particular offering that morning (it disappears off the shelves very quickly, even limited to one bottle per person).
On subsequent visits the offerings were Eagle Rare and E.H.Taylor, both of which I snapped up as these brands are hard to find in the shops and even then they are usually marked up to a high premium compared to their release prices. The tour was very informative, a walking tour through some of the warehouses (where the barrels of bourbon are aging), the bottling plant and of course the tasting of some of the bourbons afterwards.
Next up was Angel’s Envy, a relatively new distillery in downtown Louisville, although the actual building that houses it was converted from an old brick warehouse. One thing to note is that most distilleries charge to take a tour, usually around $20, however Buffalo Trace tours are free.
Angel’s Envy bourbon is a little different from most bourbons as following the normal aging in oak barrels it is matured in port casks to give a it a distinctive colour and flavouring. The qualifying statement on the bottle says ‘Straight Bourbon matured in Port casks’.
I highly recommend visiting a few of the distilleries, book ahead for tours, I don’t recommend driving yourself if you are going to do several tastings of course, and if you want to know what the ‘product of the day’ is at Buffalo Trace just call them and ask!