FODOR'S GO LIST 2015
The top 25 places we think should be on every traveler's radar this year.More
If you ride, bring your bike to the Bluegrass. Many of the rolling, two-lane roads that run along the horse farm boundaries are favorite routes for cyclists.
The denizens of central Kentucky don't really snack. They tend to savor sit-down lunches and dinners, very much in keeping with the region's small city, semi-rural pace of life. Naturally, an important component of dining and entertaining is the "sippage." Given the ready supply of corn for fermenting and white oak for making barrels, Kentucky became an important whiskey-making center early in its history. By law bourbon is distilled from fermented grain that must be at least 51% corn. Other grains in the formula (the "mash bill") are barley and rye or wheat; wheated bourbons tend to be fruitier, while those containing rye are spicier. After fermentation, the whiskey must be aged in charred, never-before-used white oak barrels for at least two years. (Most are aged for five to seven years.)
Bourbon is definitely the state beverage. Locals drink it before dinner with a splash of water ("bourbon and branch"), or in cocktails such as the Old Fashioned (invented in Louisville in the 19th century) or the Manhattan. Favorite brands are Woodford Reserve, Maker's Mark, and Buffalo Trace. After dinner, high-proof bourbons with multiple layers of flavors are savored in snifters. Pappy Van Winkle, Wild Turkey Russell's Reserve, and Booker's are among the best; a drop or two of water releases their complex bouquets.
By the way, you can be instantly marked as a "foreigner" if you go into a bar or restaurant and order a mint julep—outside of Derby weekend, no one touches the drink. Kentuckians know not to ruin good bourbon with mint-infused sugar syrup and too much crushed ice. In fact, all the juleps served at Churchill Downs are made with Early Times, which is technically not "bourbon" but "Kentucky whiskey" since it's aged in used oak barrels.