Monday, February 15, 2016

On the Bourbon Trail

Peter Cottontail might be hopping down the bunny trail, but I was out exploring the Bourbon trail.  Kentucky has finally realized that distilleries  make good tourist attractions, especially if the distilleries are allowed to sample and sell their products onsite.  There has been a huge expansion in the number of distilleries that offer tours.  Many have built new visitors centers and updated production facilities.  The tours are no longer just a peak into an agricultural industrial chemistry workshop,  the tours show the production process with lots of gleaming stainless steel and copper.

We visited Willett's near Bardstown Kentucky.  I like Willett's pot still reserve, it is very smooth and has a mild flavor like a wheated bourbon (it is not, they are aging their first wheated bourbon for release in a few years. ) We arrived in time for the noon tour on a very cold Saturday morning and were told they were sold out, they had one spot available on the last tour at 4:00 PM.  Sorry!  As I explained this to Jay, the women standing next to me said, "we have three people stuck in traffic trying to get here, I can give you two spots on the noon tour."  She handed me the tickets, I paid her for them ($10 a head.)  It is a nice tour, starting with the scale room and mill, then the fermentation room (top picture) and the pot still.  They use a two step distillation process, the first step is in a column still in a confined space that is not part of the tour, then one to three trips through the pot still.  This is a modified pot still with column plates in the riser.  From there you walk across to the barreling room, and then into an aging warehouse.  It is larger than a craft distillery, and smaller than the industrial operations. The aging capacity is about 48,000 barrels, that sounds like a lot, but all of it would fit inside on of the new barrel houses at Heaven Hill across the street. They produce half-a-dozen varieties with differing mash bills (grain mixtures.)  Where ever a barrel is placed in the aging warehouse, is where it sits for it's life, they don't rotated like a lot of larger distilleries do.

The entrance to Willett's is just past Heaven Hill, on the left.  You can't see the buildings from the road, the entrance drive is steep, winding, tree lined and unpaved.  If you think you have made a wrong turn, you are probably on the right road, follow the signs. it is worth it when you get to the top of the hill.

There are two onsite sales exclusives.  A single barrel rye and a jumbo 1.75 liter bottle of the pot still reserve.  I am not a big rye fan, the big bottle will be a little cumbersome to pour from.


  1. spo would be in heaven on this tour!

  2. Anonymous2/15/2016

    I spy with my little eye Travel Penguin's hubby (1st photo).

    ~ Freckles

  3. Spo is indeed mad-jealous. If you are poo-pooing the rye, I will drink it for you.

  4. I'll pass on the whiskey as I've had enough of it in this lifetime for several more lifetimes yet to come. You enjoy!