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My husband’s family met us in Cincinnati, Ohio for my graduation. The day before my graduation, we decided to explore the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky. A little bit about the area- The Ohio River separates Cincinnati, Ohio and Erlanger, Kentucky. The Cincinnati airport is actually in Erlanger, Kentucky. Confusing, I know. I spent 2 weeks each year for 3 years visiting Cincinnati for my residency. My husband met me a few times and has been on the Bourbon Trail three times as a result. He loves it. Yes, for the bourbon, but also for the beautiful sites. The first thing you will notice is that the Bourbon Trail is in what we call ‘ horse country’. Gorgeous horse farms are on either side of you as you drive the fence-lined roads. There is nothing like it. The horse ‘barns’ are exquisite pieces of architecture and these farms train the world’s prize-winning horses.
Our first stop was Four Roses Distillery. We didn’t do any tours on the entire trail, just tastings. We had a spunky man leading our tasting with about 15 other people, which made ours rather crowded. The tail this company tells is that founder, Paul Jones, proposed to a lovely lady. Said her answer would be ‘yes’ if she showed up at the ball with a corsage of 4 roses. When she arrived, surprise, surprise, she had 4 roses on her corsage. We certainly were not told the story that is mentioned on the Wikipedia page: The historical origin of the brand is not entirely clear. By some accounts, the brand was founded by Rufus Mathewson Rose and was probably named in honor of him, his brother Origen, and their two sons. Probably more plausible. But anyway- great bourbon nonetheless. Single Barrel goes great in Manhattans. This was the second best tasting we did that day. If they included chocolate, it may have been the first. 🙂 Also, there is no cafe located here, but their gift shop has some nicely branded items.
Our second stop was Woodford Reserve, my husband’s favorite bourbon. The distillery shop and waiting room are done in a modern farmhouse style (I’ve been watching some Fixer Upper, so I think I am right about this terminology). There are some great finds in the gift shop, including delicious bourbon creams and caramel- drool! This distillery does feature a cafe, and many were enjoying the surprisingly nice weather with a small sandwich. We enjoyed a tasting on their small porch our back, which was so fun. This was our favorite tasting because our knowledgeable guide walked us through every taste on the tasting chart during each sip and after tasting chocolate. The distillery has many historical stone buildings on the premises and the views from the porch are just beautiful. If you were to do a tour at one of the distilleries, I highly recommend this one. On our last trip to the Bourbon Trail, we did a tour and the buildings and bourbon tracks are so neat to see.
Lastly, we enjoyed a trip to Buffalo Trace, maker of Stagg, Blanton’s, and the famous Pappy Van Winkle. If you like bourbon, you know about Pappy, if you don’t, you can explore that rabbit hole when you are bored one day.
The grounds at Buffalo Trace are filled with some unique foliage and the autumnal (new vocabulary word) colors were a pleasant site.
The distillery campus has a cool industrial look with many buildings registered as historic landmarks. It has one of the best shops on the tour but there is no cafe here. All tastings take place on the second floor. There are a few bars located up there and it is just one giant room. We had a grumpy man leading our tasting without a whole lot of background on each of the bourbons. He just asked which ones we liked and yelled at us for grabbing the cups too soon. At the end, he through some chocolates on the bar in case ‘anyone wanted any’. We felt like animals- spoken to in simple terms, yelled at, and having food thrown at us. If you go, I hope you have a better experience. At least the grounds provided a good backdrop for photos?
We visited only 3 of many distilleries on the trail. If you have some favorites, we would love to hear about them for next time.