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Trip Report Kentucky Bourbon Trail and more for spring break!

Sue reporting for Chip & Sue on the Bourbon Trail. Just got back from our trip. Over three days on the Bourbon Trail we visited 8 distilleries, including the 6 on the official trail passport: Buffalo Trace, Four Roses, Wild Turkey, Barton's, Markers Mark, Heaven Hill, Woodford Reserve, and Jim Beam. It was a good time for Chip, the bourbon drinker, and myself, the bourbon ball and history lover.

We booked too late and ended up at the Best Western. This would be great for a guys trip...but for me, not so much. It was a good location, clean but old, no room at the sink, a little musty, and it is actually a motel style where you walk outside to get to rooms. The free breakfast is definatly a "you get what you pay for" experience. At least we got to experience Mammy's and the yum yum. I will say that the girl at the desk, Angle, was an Angle and very sweet and helpful. The old jail looked like a good spot in town and I think Bardstown is a great location for touring the distilleries, because it has easy, quick access to everything.

Find a good place to eat was a challenge. Do not expect fancy anywhere. We just wanted descent food...and a place that was open! The one place that everyone suggested as the best place to eat in town, Circa, was closed till April. This really is a summer place. Lots of things closed and these small towns close down early. Tip...eat early, they may close or run out of food! Even at the bar they were putting things away at 9pm and locked the door...guess that means drink up and go...it was a Monday, but still.

The Rickhouse, which we ate at one night, was wonderful but it was only open one night that we were there (open Wed-Sat.). It was Wine down Wednesday with 1/2 price wine. They give you a lot of food... and it was all good. Chip had a steak with bourbon baked potatoe and salad. I had crab cakes, 7 cheese macaroni and salad. We share bruschetta...that was amazing. Chip had his Pappy VanWinckle bourbon and I enjoyed the 1/2 price wine! I took most of my food home and was wishing I could have had room for the bourbon bread pudding. Mammy's was wonderful for breakfast. They serve a great hot brown and the best pancakes. Hadorn's Bakery has the most wonderful thing called a yum yum...and it is!! We also really liked a little deli in Lawrenceburg, Heavens to Betsy...great soups and sandwiches!

The location was great for us because it was convenient to St. Joseph's pro-cathedral for daily mass, which I enjoyed attending. Got us off to a good early start each day. We felt welcomed into the community, everyone was so friendly. I felt so at home. We even met the local artist who did some painting at the church and the pictures you see in the tasting room at Heavens Hill. His wife was fun to talk to ...go to the Bardstown Art Gallery to check out his art. Mass at 6:30am, Mammy's for breakfast (they have a regular crowd), and then we hit the trail and were at a distillery by 9am so we could get to all of them in three days.

Let's talk bourbon trail. Our favorite overall distillery experience was Makers Mark. They just have the money to do it right. The grounds, the tour where you get to dip your finger in the brewing bourbon, the tasting, the gift shop with the dip your own bottle experience just put it over the top. I definately could have spent more time here looking around.

Our first stop, Buffalo Trace, was also a great experience. Learned a lot about the history since it is the oldest working distillery, and the guide gave a good tasting experience. The White Dog experience was great!

We also were impressed by Barton's Distillery in Bardstown which is new to the touring scene. Again, the tour guide had such a love and family history with the bourbon industry it really made a difference. Learned all about the Bourbon Festival...we have to go! The tasting was good.

Four Roses, Heavens Hill, and Wild Turkey were good but found the experience less personal, more business. We ended up going to Woodford Reserve to complete our passport. We did the tour a couple of years ago. The drive there is beautiful, love the horse farms. The gift store and grounds are very nice as is the tour...but $5 to do what everyone else does free cheapens it and since we already did it, we skipped it. They did offer us a taste. Jim Beam was our least favorite. At the door they discouraged us from going on the tour and to just do the tasting. The tasting was rushed and they actually told us that they didn't even like the bourbon balls that they were giving us but preferred the more expensive ones that we could buy, really? The workers really seemed disinterested, didn't want to answer questions, and it was just a job for them all...and I don't think they liked it. It really makes a difference. Most of the guides were good and knew what they were talking about. Some were exceptional, Buffalo Trace and Bartons.

I did like going to all the distilleries and taking the tours. Each offered a different look at the bourbon industry and history. It was fun and I love that bourbon smell. I even tasted some bourbon and I actually liked the White Dog! The best for this none bourbon drinker was the Bourbon Cream at Buffalo Trace (kinda like Bailey's). When you mix it with their root beer, it makes one heck of a root beer float! At Buffalo Trace they actually sold me on the White Dog with a fun demonstration of using it as hand lotion...you had to be there, but I can't wait to have fun with it at my next get together with my friends. I actually came home with 2 White Dogs (Buffalo Trace and Makers Mark). I got bourbon balls everywhere, except Jim Beam.

If you don't get enough bourbon at the tastings there are options. The Rickhouse was a great place to try those hard to find bourbons. They have about 100 different bourbons including Pappy VanWinckle which Chip is in love with but can't find anywhere. Old Talbott Tavern also has a good selection of bourbon, food not good. Chip got the $29 ,5 flight bourbon tasting. He got to pick the ones he wanted and the bartender knew enough about bourbon to help. It was a good deal with some high priced bourbons and heavy, to the rim, pours...plus a souvenir shot glass. To purchase those hard to find bourbons try Toddy's in town or Liquor World where they give some tastings. Chip was able to find a few bourbons that we can't find at home.

It was a great trip. We also went to Churchhill Downs museum and did the behind the scenes tour...a fabulous guide! On the way home stopped at The Abbey of Gethsemani. Beautiful grounds, gift shop, and a short movie about the monastic life. I am going there on a silent retreat this summer.

Kentucky is a beautiful state to visit in the spring. I look forward to going back for my retreat and hopefully someday the Bourbon Festival and the Kentucky Derby too!!

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