The Kentucky Bourbon Trail

by Evan

Back in October of 2017, Andrew and I visited Kentucky and a number of distilleries around the state. In late March of 2018, I ran a Bourbon tasting and showcased whiskey from the distilleries we visited on the trip.

That was the lineup from the tasting, and each bottle featured comes from a distillery we visited.

1 - Maker’s 46 - $70

From Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto, Kentucky comes the Maker’s 46. For years, this distillery only produced one Bourbon – the titular Maker’s Mark.

Maker’s Mark has been bottled since 1959 – though this distillery was built in 1889. Before being sold to Bill Samuels Sr. and becoming Maker’s Mark Distillery it was called Burks Distillery. Bill Samuel Sr.’s wife Margie Samuels named the whiskey, created the label and came up with the idea for dipping the neck of the bottle in red wax. Maker’s Mark’s Mashbill contains Red Winter Wheat instead of Rye.

Maker’s 46 was introduced for the first time in 2010. While it it is distilled and aged in the same way as the regular Maker’s Mark, it eventually undergoes a unique cask finishing before it is bottled. Maker’s 46 is finished in barrels with specially made heads which hold a group of French oak staves in place, immersed in the whiskey that is added.

2 – 1792 Small Batch Bourbon$69

Formerly called Ridgemont Reserve, the 1792 Small Batch Bourbon is made at Barton Distillery which resides just outside of Bardstown, KY.

The distillery is owned by Sazerac Company, who also own Buffalo Trace Distillery. The whiskey brands that are made at Barton may not have the same prestige as those from its sister distillery which makes Weller, Pappy Van Winkle and George T. Stagg amongst others, but the juice they produce here is excellent. The regular 1792 Small batch is great bourbon, but it would be great to see more of Barton’s whiskey hit Canada and Alberta down the line.

Barton also creates other whiskey brands that we do not see such as Very Old Barton, Kentucky Gentleman and Kentucky Tavern.

3 – Rittenhouse Bonded Rye$55

This was our only “Bonded” or “Bottled in Bond” whiskey of the night.
Bottled in Bond Rules:
- All whiskey in the bottle must be produced by one distillery and by one distiller over the course of one distillation season.
- The whiskey must be at least four years old.It must be bottled at 100 proof / 50% ABV
- The whiskey must be aged in bonded warehouses under United States federal supervision.
- The label on the bottle has to state which distillery it comes from and also where it was bottled.

4 – Valinch & Mallet Heaven Hill 8yr$185

Both the Rittenhouse Rye and Heaven Hill Bourbon were made by Heaven Hill Distillers. Heaven Hill has a few properties in Kentucky. We did not visit their main distillery in Louisville which is usually not open to the public, however, we did visit the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in the same city.

We also visited Heaven Hills’s Bourbon Heritage Center outside of Bardstown. This is also the location of their rickhouses holding ageing barrels of whiskey. This was home to the main Heaven Hill Distillery up until a massive fire in 1996 destroyed the distillery and seven warehouses on the property.

The Heaven Hill company was started by a group of investors after the repeal of prohibition in 1935. It was eventually bought entirely by the Shapira family. It is now the largest family-owned distillery company in Kentucky.

5 – Blanton’s Gold Label$102

Blanton’s Bourbon is made by Buffalo Trace Distillery near Frankfurt, KY. The tour we were given was the best one of our trip. That is saying a lot, as the other distilleries we visited were all hosted by friendly and informative staff as well.

Buffalo Trace Distillery was once called the O.F.C. Distillery and then George T. Stagg Distillery. Buffalo Trace is the oldest continuously operating distillery in the United States. It is one of only a few distilleries that managed to stay in operation during prohibition, obtaining a license to make whiskey for ‘medicinal purposes.

Our Buffalo Trace tour was lead by Freddie, an awesome guy full of the knowledge of the property and the day to day workings of the distillery as well. Freddy has worked at Buffalo Trace for years and knows the distillery inside and out.

Blanton’s was the first modern Bourbon brand focusing solely on single barrel bottlings when it was introduced in 1984. It is usually between 6-8 years old and aged in Warehouse H. This is the only metal-exterior warehouse at Buffalo Trace.

6 – Michter’s 10yr Single Barrel Bourbon$240

Michter’s Distillery in Lousiville is not usually open to the public and requires a private booking set up well in advance. Everything we were shown on the distillery tour spoke of Michter’s push for quality and attention to detail. This isn’t a hodgepodge of old and grimy industrial buildings like Buffalo Trace or Barton: it is new and kept incredibly clean. The building that houses Michter’s seems to have been picked with the thought of future expansion in mind – there definitely is room to expand.

Michter’s Distillery is relatively young. Many of Michter’s current releases are made from spirit sourced from elsewhere. Michter’s 10-year Single Barrel Bourbon does state that it is a Kentucky Straight Bourbon, so it was distilled in Kentucky.

7 – Knob Creek Single Barrel$65

Knob Creek Bourbon is made at Jim Beam Distillery in Clermont, Kentucky. Originally introduced in 2010, the Knob Creek Single Barrel used to carry a 9 year age statement, however, the number has been removed in recent years.

The Beam family has a storied history in the Bourbon and whiskey world, with family members working for many different distilleries and playing a prominent role in both Jim Beam and Heaven Hill.

Similar to Heaven Hill – Jim Beam also has a distillery experience located in downtown Louisville that is worth a visit.


8 – Wild Turkey Rare Breed$51

Wild Turkey was named such by an executive from Austin Nichols, who poured some barrel proof bourbon for friends on a wild turkey hunt. The whiskey was a hit and the next year he was asked to bring more of that Wild Turkey bourbon for the annual hunt.

Wild Turkey Distillery in Lawrenceburg, KY was the distillery I was most excited to visit. Over the past few years, the whiskey that Wild Turkey makes has made me stand up and take notice – especially the 101 Bourbon and Rare Breed.

Wild Turkey Rare Breed is created by marrying batches of bourbon aged 6 to 12 years old.

And that was our tasting! Favourite of the night was a tie between Blanton’s Gold and Knob Creek Single Barrel.

Cheers and until next time,
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