Table of Contents
- Region: Louisville Bourbon Distilleries
- Region: Loretto, Clermont, & Bardstown
- Region: Versailles, Lawrenceburg, Franklin
- Final Thoughts
Ready to sip your way through the best bourbon trail tours in Kentucky?
This in-depth bourbon distillery tour guide will take you through the best Kentucky distillery tours like Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, Old Forester, Evan Williams, Buffalo Trace, Jim Beam, and more.
The Kentucky Bourbon distilleries listed below are grouped within each region and then ranked for their tour and bourbon quality. The majority of the bourbon distilleries are spread throughout the regions of:
- Loretto, Clermont, & Bardstown
- Versailles, Lawrenceburg, & Franklin
Due to the distance between these regions and potentially conflicting tour times, it might be difficult to tour 2 to 3 of your favorite bourbon distilleries in one day. So here are my top three tips for planning your bourbon trail trip.
1. When you are planning, ask yourself: What is my favorite bourbon brand (or the one I’d like to know more about)?
Once you settle on those favorites, see what other distilleries are located nearby that you might enjoy touring and tasting then reserve those to fill in the rest of the day.
2. RESERVE IN ADVANCE.
As soon as you know that you’re taking this trip, start reserving bourbon distillery tours immediately. The best tours book up fast, particularly on the weekends. On my most recent trip in July of 2023, I had to adjust my trip to a day earlier because so many of the tours I wanted to take were already booked.
That being said, if there’s a distillery tour you would like to take that’s located on “Whiskey Row” in downtown Louisville but you can’t book it online, my advice is to go in person and talk to one of the guides at the reservation desk. They might not be able to get you in on a specialty tour, but they can typically get you a space on the regular tour.
*Also note that most distilleries in July (and for some in December as well) close their fermentation facilities for maintenance, meaning you won’t be able to tour those areas.
3. Base yourself in Louisville in a hotel on or near Whiskey Row.
From here, you can easily walk or Uber / Lyft to 4+ amazing distilleries, which is a great option if the time on your trip is limited. I most recently stayed at Hotel Distil on Whiskey Row, and I would gladly stay there again. It’s an ideal location for walking to all major downtown attractions and distilleries. Plus the Hotel Distil also houses one of Louisville’s best restaurants, Repeal.
Now, time to talk about the distilleries…
Region: Louisville Bourbon Distilleries
Evan Williams Experience
"Civilization begins with distillation." William Faulkner
The Evan Williams Experience is located in downtown Louisville on historic “Whiskey Row.”
The seamless tour features state-of-the-art films and interactive elements to relay the history of Evan Williams and the art of distilling bourbon. All tours conclude with a bourbon tasting in one of the upstairs rooms on the recreated street of “Whiskey Row.”
One tasting room is a “speakeasy” that once stood on that site with Prohibition-era replica tables where the bourbon could be hidden inside. An easy lift on the tabletop in front of you reveals the inner compartment that contains pre-filled bourbon glasses.
Although it’s one of the lower-priced bourbons, Evan Williams is remarkably good in its flavor profile, smoothness, and complexity, and Evan Williams Single Barrel is excellent. Whenever I’ve done a blind bourbon-tasting flight, their Single Barrel always ranks in my top 3.
GENERAL TOUR INFORMATION
- Traditional Tour & Tasting: $18
Evan Williams offers several more extensive tours as well as seasonal tasting experiences, so check their website for the most recent offerings.
Old Forester Distillery
"Always carry a flagon of whisky in case of snakebite, and furthermore, always carry a small snake." - W.C. Fields
The Old Forester Distillery Tour & Visitor Center opened on “Whiskey Row” in the summer of 2018. Although it’s a relative newcomer to Louisville’s historic downtown district, Old Forester is the only bourbon continuously sold by the same company before, during, and after Prohibition.
But that’s not the bourbon’s only claim to historic fame. In 1870, George Garvin Brown ensured his bourbon’s consistent quality by becoming the first distiller to sell the bourbon in a sealed glass bottle.
The general tour is a top-quality experience with one of the most memorable aspects being that you can see the meticulous barrel-making process first-hand. It’s one thing to look at a charred American white oak barrel stave, but it’s something else to see (and feel the heat) of that charring in person.
The Old Forester Distillery tour ends as most tours do in a private room with four bourbons to taste.
Paired with the tasting is Old Forester’s chocolate-dipped bourbon modjeskas, which are marshmallows wrapped in caramel and then dipped in bourbon dark chocolate, topped off with smoked sea salt. If you love them, you can buy a bag in the gift shop which is filled with loads of other great gifts.
If you’re in a hurry and can’t find the time to tour Old Forester, you can pay a visit to George’s Bar which is a cozy cocktail lounge offering cocktails and flights in the visitor center.
General Tour Information
- Old Forester Tour: $32
- Nothing Better In The Market Tour: $70
Angel’s Envy Distillery Tour
“I wish to live to 150 years old, but the day I die, I wish it to be with a cigarette in one hand and a glass of whiskey in the other.” – Ava Gardner
While I prefer both the Evan Williams Experience and Old Forester Distillery tours over this one, Angel’s Envy is still well worth the visit. The gift shop is large and well-stocked, and the facility is interesting to tour.
The standard tour is exactly that, “standard,” with not a lot of extras to experience, but you will learn the intricate process of making bourbon and why all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon.
What makes Angel’s Envy a standout from other bourbons and ryes is their emphasis on “finishing” the bourbon.
In addition to meeting the bourbon standard aging process (a minimum of two years in a new charred American oak barrel), Angel’s Envy then places its bourbon in port barrels and its rye in rum barrels to finish, lending each one a more distinctive flavor profile which you’ll explore during the tasting at the end of the tour.
500 E Main St, Louisville, KY 40202
STANDARD TOUR INFORMATION
- The Signature Tour: $25
- Private Select Tour: $45
Angel’s Envy offers several experiences and classes, so check their website for the most up-to-date offerings.
“Happiness is having a rare steak, a bottle of whisky, and a dog to eat the rare steak.” – Johnny Carson
Also located on Louisville’s historic “Whiskey Row,” Michter’s Distillery is a great option for those who prefer a tour that doesn’t involve a lot of walking, given that the entire tour takes place in one large room.
Situated across the street from the iconic Louisville Slugger Museum, Michter’s is a smaller facility with limited space, but the tasting is where the tour shines. The guide places an emphasis on tasting notes and the role that smell plays in how we perceive flavors.
801 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202
- The Discovery Tour: $25
- The Founder’s Tour: $50
- The Legacy Tour: $100
The 2nd floor features The Bar at Fort Nelson which is a relaxed space filled with leather club chairs where you can enjoy classic and creative cocktails. Click here for more information on the Bar at Fort Nelson.
Stitzel-Weller Distillery Tour
“It is true that whisky improves with age. The older I get, the more I like it.” Robert Black
The Stitzel-Weller Distillery is only a 20-minute drive from downtown Louisville, making it one of the most convenient and historic outlying distillery stops along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Originally opened on Derby Day in 1935 and reopened to the public in 2014, the Stitzel-Weller Distillery is one of the true cathedrals of the American whiskey industry.
Bulleit Bourbon (and their Rye) has long been one of my favorite Kentucky bourbons. It’s hard to miss that orange label, tilted just slightly as it curves around the lower half of the bottle.
In the past few years, I’ve enjoyed the Stitzel-Weller standard tour which guides you around the historic property and buildings, ending with a tasting of these four bourbons in a private tasting room:
- Bulleit Bourbon
- Bulleit 10 Year
- I.W. Harper
- Blade and Bow
Most recently, I booked their new progressive walking tour which combines the tasting with the tour. I really enjoyed this different take on the standard tour where periodically you pause, pull out the provided glass cairn (which is yours to keep as part of the tour), and sip the various bourbons and whiskeys offered along the way. The setting is also picturesque as you stroll from building to building.
3860 Fitzgerald Road, Louisville, KY 40216
STANDARD TOUR INFORMATION
- The Stitzel-Weller Experience: $25
- Progressive Walking Tour & Taste: $65
Stitzel-Weller offers a variety of additional classes and experiences, so check their website for the most up-to-date offerings.
Stitzel-Weller is also home to the Garden & Gun Club, located on the 2nd floor of their visitor’s center. Here you can rest your feet while enjoying a light bite and one of their curated cocktails. Click here for the Garden & Gun Club.
Region: Loretto, Clermont, & Bardstown
Maker’s Mark Distillery
"Nothing is so musical as the sound of pouring bourbon for the first drink on a Sunday morning. Not Bach or Schubert or any of those masters." Carson McCullers
The road to Maker’s Mark bourbon distillery in Loretto, KY, can be a little confusing. On my first visit here, the route guidance told me that I had arrived, and there was nothing but fields, barns, and a small house or two scattered about.
To avoid potential confusion and arrive in time for your tour, Maker’s Mark provides these instructions for getting to their distillery from Louisville:
Star Hill Farm is located at 3350 Burks Spring Rd., Loretto, KY, 40037. From Louisville: Driving time: Approximately 1 hour, 30 minutes.
• Take I-65 South from Louisville to exit #112, Clermont/Bernheim Forest exit. At ramp turn left onto Hwy. 245 South to Bardstown.
• Take Hwy. 245 to intersection of Hwy. 62, turning right, and continue on Hwy. 62 east for approx. 2 miles. Hwy. 62 runs into Hwy. 150 where you will turn left and continue approx. 2 miles and drive past My Old Kentucky Home State Park.
• At intersection of Hwy. 150 and 49, turn right onto Hwy. 49 South and follow the brown historical landmark signs to Holy Cross, which will direct you to go left onto Hwy. 49.
• Follow Hwy. 49 where you will turn left onto Hwy. 52 East into Loretto. Continue on through Loretto.
• Turn left onto Bill Samuels Jr. Rd. and historic Maker’s Mark® Distillery is straight ahead.
Regardless of which tour you reserve (they offer a wide variety and actively update them), you’re in for a great experience. Plus, Maker’s Mark is just a beautiful place. The grounds, house, and distillery buildings are picture-perfect.
At the end of each tour, you’ll have an opportunity to taste a selection of their bourbon.
I’ve had the opportunity to experience 2 of Maker’s Mark Distillery Tours, and if you only have time to tour 1 Kentucky bourbon distillery, make it this one. It was the hands-down favorite (on currently my 3rd trip) along Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail.
General Distillery Tour Bourbon Tasting
- Maker’s White (which is basically moonshine or “white dog”)
- Regular Maker’s Mark (the kind you can buy anywhere)
- Maker’s 46 (which is made by inserting seasoned French Oak staves into the bourbon barrels to add additional rich flavor)
- Maker’s Cask Strength (bourbon derived from a single barrel and my favorite of the 4).
After the tasting, you’re given a decadent bourbon chocolate to savor before you walk under the Chihuly glass ceiling of the hallway to the Maker’s Mark gift shop.
If you like, you can dip your own bottle of Maker’s Mark in their iconic red wax or buy an exclusive bottle of the Maker’s Private Select.
The distillery address is technically: 3350 Burks Spring Road, Loretto, KY 40037.
GPS will try to take you to the Business Office, but the Historic Distillery is more directly accessed using Bill Samuels Jr Road.
- General Distillery Tour: $24
- Behind the Bourbon: $65
Be sure to check the Maker’s Mark website for the most up-to-date tours and experiences.
James B. Beam Distilling Co. (Jim Beam)
“I have never in my life seen a Kentuckian who didn’t have a gun, a pack of cards, and a jug of whiskey.” – Andrew Jackson
It doesn’t get much more iconic than Jim Beam bourbon. With its instantly recognizable name and its best-selling brands including Booker’s, Knob Creek, Basil Hayden, Old Grandad, and, of course, Jim Beam, the distillery is an impressive one to visit.
Located 30 minutes from Louisville by car, it’s an accessible distillery to visit if you don’t want to drive too far afield. Due to the fermentation tanks, rickhouses, and bottling facility being situated fairly far apart, this tour involves riding a large comfortable bus to a couple of the locations, but it’s a quick trip each time.
Quite a lot of thought has been put into the design and aesthetics of the tour experience, with the first building of the tour featuring an indoor waterfall illustrating Kentucky’s natural limestone filtration which makes the whiskey taste better.
Towards the end of the distillery tour, you’ll walk the Knob Creek bottling line where you can hand pick and purchase a Single Barrel bottle and customize the warm wax seal with your thumbprint.
Finally, you return to the Visitor’s Center where you’ll be able to taste four of their most popular bourbons before being set loose in their two-story gift shop.
I really enjoyed this tour, and I would happily do it again. Due to the popularity of this bourbon brand, I feel it’s a great place to start, but the tours fill up fast.
General Tour Information
- Bourbon The Beam Way – Distillery Tour & Tasting: $28
Jim Beam Distillery offers several more tasting options and experiences that you can book, so check the website for the most up-to-date listings.
Another great feature of Jim Beam Distillery is their onsite restaurant, The Kitchen Table. Here you can order appetizers, salads, burgers, pizzas, brisket, fried chicken, and even dessert. The large cocktail bar in the center shakes and stirs up some great bourbon cocktails, or just order your favorite bourbon to sip neat.
If you’d like to make a reservation for The Kitchen Table, it’s available on Resy.
“There is no bad whiskey. There are only some whiskeys that aren't as good as others.” Raymond Chandler
Located about 30 minutes from Maker’s Mark is the Willett Distillery, perched on top of a hill overlooking the green valleys of Bardstown, KY.
One of the most recognizable aspects of Willett bourbon is their striking pot still bottle design.
This rustic family-owned distillery is beautiful and well-maintained from its photo-filled visitor waiting area to the final tasting room.
Because Willett Distillery functions on a smaller scale, only 1 tour experience is offered at this time, so if touring Willett Distillery is at the top of your wishlist, reserve early. They accept bookings 90 days in advance.
1869 Loretto Road, Bardstown, KY 40004.
- Distillery Production Tour with Tasting: $25
Willett Distillery also features “The Bar at Willett” where you can order up-scale small plates alongside classic and inventive cocktails. Reservations are required, so click this link if you’re interested in reserving The Bar at Willett.
Heaven Hill Distillery
"Whiskey is liquid sunshine" George Bernard Shaw
An official member of Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail, Heaven Hill Distillery is also located in Bardstown near the Willett Distillery.
While their gift shop and visitor center are top-notch with self-guided exhibits and an informative film in their 1935 Distillery Theatre, the actual general tour is not that exciting or enticing, especially when compared to the quality of tours offered by Maker’s Mark & Jim Beam.
Heaven Hill might not be a familiar name to you, but most likely, you’ve heard of some of their bourbon brands:
- Rittenhouse Rye
- Elijah Craig
- Evan Williams
While the website calls it a “tour,” it’s actually an informed tasting inside a room with a guide. You won’t be walking through rickhouses or seeing yellow bubbling mash unless you pay more for their “Bottled & Bond Tour & Tasting” for $35.
If you’re looking to sample more varieties of bourbon while giving your feet a rest from touring distilleries, or if you’re looking for a more “indoor” experience, Heaven Hill is a great option.
1311 Gilkey Run, Rd, Bardstown, KY 40004
- Magic of the Mashbill: $18
- Whiskey Connoisseur Experience: $25
- Bottled-in-Bond Tour and Tasting: $35
Heaven Hill also offers a bar experience on the 2nd floor of the visitor’s center called Five Brothers Bar which features bourbon flights and cocktails.
Dining Tip: Eat Lunch in Historic Bardstown
In between touring the many Kentucky distilleries, you’re going to want some lunch or dinner, and Bardstown has a lot to offer.
Perfect for lunch or dinner, Talbott Tavern, built in 1779, is a site steeped in history.
“The Talbott Tavern is a uniquely well-crafted early American stone building and as a young boy Abraham Lincoln and his family stayed here...There are noticeable bullet holes in the now faded paintings where legend Jesse James shot them.” | Dry Stone Masonry Institute of America
In keeping with the theme of the bourbon trail, Talbott Tavern offers a customized flight where you choose your tasting made up of the wide variety of bourbon and rye they serve sourced from the surrounding distilleries.
Another great option is the Scout & Scholar Brewing Company offering classic pub food and plenty of beer on tap if you’re looking for a break from all that bourbon. But if you’re not, they also offer Private Select Bourbon flights to expand your tasting profile.
Region: Versailles, Lawrenceburg, Franklin
Woodford Reserve Distillery
“A good gulp of hot whiskey at bedtime—it’s not very scientific, but it helps.” Alexander Fleming (Inventor of Penicillin)
The Woodford Reserve tour is charming in every aspect—from the old barrel railway used to move the freshly filled barrels to the rickhouse to the on-site bottling facility and visitor/tasting center. This tour was one of the most memorable I have ever been on over the years I’ve been touring Kentucky’s distilleries.
The Woodford tour ends, as all do, with the bourbon tasting. The tasting room is located on the other side of the fireplace wall of the visitor center, with a rectangular bar facing the fire. The guide stands in the middle, offering tasting note tips.
We were able to taste the regular Woodford Reserve and the Cask Strength (or dessert bourbon as they call it) combined with a chocolate bourbon truffle.
7785 McCracken Pike, Versailles, KY 40383
- Woodford Reserve’s Path To Flavor Tour: $32
Woodford Reserve offers several additional tours and specialty experiences, so click the link below to see their current offerings.
Four Roses Distillery
“Whiskey, like a beautiful woman, demands appreciation.” Haruki Murakami
Situated on top of a breezy hill is the most romantic of the Kentucky distilleries along the Bourbon Trail: Four Roses.
Established in 1888 originally on “Whiskey Row” by Paul Jones, a Louisville businessman, the Four Roses label is rooted in the story of his proposal to a Southern belle named Mary. After courting her for a number of years, Jones asked Mary to respond to his “final” marriage proposal by wearing a corsage of four red roses to a cotillion dance. This time she accepted and entered the ballroom wearing the corsage.
While Four Roses bourbon is smooth and the distillery, with its Spanish Mission style architecture, has a unique and interesting story from 1888 to the present, the tour itself can still use some work. It’s more of a “Cliff’s Notes” brief summary version of how they make their bourbon.
Their bottling facility is located at a different location as well, so that element of the process can’t be witnessed on-site. If you have the time, you can take your distillery tour ticket stub and visit the bottling facility for free if you’re interested.
You will be given four bourbons to taste: The Standard Yellow Lable Four Roses, The Small Batch, Single Barrel, and The Cask Strength.
Before or after your tour, browse the large gift shop fittingly accented throughout with roses or you can enjoy a cocktail or bourbon tasting in Bar 1888.
1224 Bonds Mill Road, Lawrenceburg, KY 40342
- Distillery Legacy Tour: $22
Four Roses Distillery offers several additional tasting experiences as well as seasonal offerings, so check their website for the most up-to-date tours.
Buffalo Trace Distillery
“Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.” Mark Twain
Buffalo Trace Distillery is a juggernaut in the world of bourbon.
Consider the brands they make; in addition to the standard Buffalo Trace Bourbon, they are also responsible for crafting Eagle Rare, Blanton’s (John Wick’s bourbon of choice), Pappy Van Winkle, E.H. Taylor, Stagg, Sazerac Rye, and Weller to name a few.
What sets Buffalo Trace Distillery even further apart from the competition is that they never charge for their tours. They are always complementary. That being said, you still have to reserve in advance, particularly if you want to go on a specialty experience like: The Buffalo Trace Hard Hat Tour.
Even if you’re not overly into bourbon, the grounds are beautiful, not to mention they have one of the largest and most interesting gift shops of the distilleries. The tours are also highly detailed and informative.
That being said, the bourbon tasting experience at the end of the tour leaves a little to be desired. Due to limited quantities, Buffalo Trace only offers a few brands for tasting and purchasing in the Visitor Center.
113 Great Buffalo Trace, Franklin County, Frankfort, KY 40601
- All Buffalo Trace tours are complimentary including tours for large groups or tours that require reservations.
- The Trace Tour
- The Hard Hat Tour
- The Expansion Tour
- Old Taylor Tour
Additional Tours are available focusing on the gardens and historic landmarks, so check their website for current offerings.
Wild Turkey Distillery
"There's no app for a bourbon buzz on a warm day in a cool, dark bar. The world will always want a drink.” Gillian Flynn
The Wild Turkey Tour is as industrial as it gets. Not that it makes the tour less interesting, but I prefer the smaller distilleries along the Bourbon Trail as opposed to the mass conglomerate operations.
The tour lasts about one hour, and you get to see where they make the bourbon as well as where they bottle the various vodka brands that they own. An impressive operation, to say the least.
The Visitor Center is a fun place to look around and learn a bit more about the history of the distillery location and the origin of the name. Currently, Wild Turkey is closed to visitors and tours as they refresh the visitor’s center, so I’m looking forward to see what updates they have in store.
1417 Versailles Rd, Lawrenceburg, KY 40342
“My own experience has been that the tools I need for my trade are paper, tobacco, food, and a little whisky.” William Faulkner
Every year, I look forward to more Kentucky bourbon trail tours and tastes, so check back for updates.
The next two bourbon distilleries on my hit list include:
While I did a tour and tasting of Bulleit when it was located at the Stitzel-Weller facility, I have yet to visit their new Visitor Center experience that opened in 2019 in Shelbyville, KY. Click here for more information.
And finally, the distillery that is currently intriguing me the most is Castle & Key, which I saw from a distance when I was driving to Lexington. It actually looks like a castle, and in addition to their distillery and grounds tours, they offer a rotating calendar of events. Click here for more information.
Everyone’s taste is unique and preferences differ, but hopefully, this guide helps you discover your go-to bourbon as you forge your own path along Kentucky’s bourbon trail.
If you’re planning on staying in Louisville, then be sure to check out the Go-To Louisville KY Guide for Best Hotels, Attractions, & Dining.