All aboard the whiskey train!
Whether your preferred pour is bourbon, moonshine, or Scotch—there’s a whiskey train ready to take you for a spin on the rails while you sip your favorite spirit and enjoy the passing scenery. A number of whiskey-making regions around the country (and around the world) are offering train rides as a way to tour the area, usually with a glass of something special—and often local—in hand. Similar to wine-country trains, these excursions typically offer food and drinks, with onboard guides ready to talk about the spirit and note key points of interest rolling by.
Sure, you can learn a bit about the history or production of whiskey, but most often, it’s an opportunity to sit back and connect with the landscape at a relaxed pace. You may spot fields of grain or local springs that may have contributed to what’s in your very glass, while some tours take visitors past or directly to the distilleries.
Even for non-whiskey geeks, these excursions offer a great way to discover a new favorite dram while enjoying stellar views. Take a spin on one of the following eight whiskey trains, from casual hour-long jaunts to multi-day luxury experiences.
INSIDER TIPLeave the kids at home for this one. All of the following restrict passengers to the local drinking age.
Bardstown Bourbon Train
2.5 hours, $127
Set in a restored 1940s vintage dining car, the Bardstown Bourbon Train ride through the central Kentucky countryside features America’s native spirit, bourbon. The experience includes a four-course prix fixe meal and bourbon pairings guided by a master distiller. Starting in Bardstown, home to numerous bourbon distilleries, the train travels north through Bernheim Forest to Limestone Springs and back. Keep an eye out for sights, including the Jim Beam distillery and Jesse James’ safe house.
Carolina Shine Moonshine Experience
WHERE: North Carolina
4.5 hours, $119-$129
Ride along the scenic Nantahala River to the Nantahala Gorge and back while enjoying a “shine and dine” package within a copper-lined First Class train fleet car called The Carolina Shine on the Carolina Shine Moonshine Experience. The journey includes a lesson about the history of bootlegging and moonshine in the Appalachians, followed by samples of flavored moonshines from North Carolina craft distilleries (moonshine-based cocktails are available for purchase). A meal (selected when purchasing a ticket) also is included.
INSIDER TIPThis excursion runs from May 27-October 31, with slightly higher prices for the eye-popping fall foliage peak in October.
Cincinnati Bourbon Train
1 hour 15 minutes, $35-$45
The Lebanon Monroe Railroad (LM&M Railroad) anticipates its Cincinnati Bourbon Train rides will return in fall 2023, although full details are currently unavailable. Similar to past excursions, expect to ride in a vintage passenger car behind a historic diesel locomotive. The Lebanon Monroe train boasts views of rural farmland that accompany at least two different bourbon pours (a past event featured whiskey from Lawrence, Indiana’s Rossville Union Distillery) plus light food pairings (such as Amish meats, cheeses, and a variety of nut mix). Additional snacks and beverages will be available for purchase. Since 2023 events are still in the planning phases, a representative says, dates are not yet confirmed, and all details are subject to change.
French Lick Bourbon Tasting Train
1 hour 15 minutes, $200/table, for up to four guests
About an hour away from Louisville, Kentucky, the spiritual home of bourbon, you’ll find French Lick, Indiana, and this French Lick Bourbon Tasting Train, operated by the Indiana Railway Museum. Two excursions are planned in 2023, in July and October. While details are subject to change, based on past outings, participants can expect pours of four bourbons–usually well-known Kentucky names, plus an Indiana craft local–paired with small bites. The experience departs from French Lick Depot, a historic limestone depot constructed in 1907, and travels round-trip into the corner of the Hoosier National Forest and through the 2200-foot-long Burton Railroad Tunnel to Parsons Falls.
Litchfield Hills BBQ & Whiskey Special
3 hours, $74.50
Litchfield Hills BBQ & Whiskey Special is special because it’s operated in conjunction with the Railroad Museum of New England, meaning plenty of educational commentary on the journey through the Naugatuck Valley. Before boarding the train, the event starts with a BBQ appetizer buffet and bourbon “social hour” at the historic Thomaston station. After departure, the train stops at Thomaston Dam for a bourbon toast overlooking the Naugatuck Valley, disembarks briefly in Torrington for dessert, music, and more bourbon, then returns to the station. The year’s inaugural whiskey ride is anticipated for April or May and repeats monthly. The whiskey selections are different every time since the event has plenty of repeat guests.
INSIDER TIPTake care not to over-indulge; no restrooms are on the train!
Royal Scotsman Scotch Malt Whisky Tour
5 days, 7,500 euros
Starting from Edinburgh Waverley, this luxury trip spans four nights aboard the Royal Scotsman Scotch Malt Whisky Tour, developed in partnership with The Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Guided by a “whiskey ambassador,” this train makes stops to allow tours of venerable Scotch distilleries (Tomatin, Macallan, and Tullibardine; the exact distilleries may be subject to change). Aboard the train, expect single-cask Scotch tastings, a full Scottish breakfast and other meals, and bucket-list-caliber views, including Loch Luichart and the Torridon Mountains.
INSIDER TIPThis train tour runs from April to October and quickly books up. Next year’s 2024 dates are currently available.
Tennessee Central Railway Museum Excursions
3.5 hours, $80-$150
Enjoy round-trip excursions from Nashville through Hermitage, Mt. Juliet, and Lebanon in a restored 1950s-era vintage train cars on Tennessee Central Railway Museum Excursions. Two whiskey-centric trips are planned for 2023: a Valenshines Moonshine Sippin’ Excursion (Feb 11) and a July “Moonshine Run.” The February event includes six moonshine samples from Tennessee’s Ole Smoky Distillery, a souvenir mason jar, and a box lunch from Smith’s Catering. Select coach or diner seating ($80) or glassed-in dome seating ($150) for maximum parkland and small-town scenery along the way.
Whiskey on the Tracks
1 hour 20 minutes to full-day trips, 29 euros to 95 euros
Established in March 2022, Whiskey on the Tracks spotlights Irish whiskey, with day trips of various lengths starting in Dublin to various points around Ireland. While the 2023 calendar isn’t yet confirmed, the fledging operation anticipates returning to locations visited in 2022, with the first excursion likely taking place in March. Previous trips included short round-trip jaunts to Maynooth and Belfast (40 minutes each way) and longer outings in partnership with various distilleries, such as a Northern Ireland expedition featuring Bushmills Distillery. Once onboard, passengers are treated to a guided whiskey tasting, and a talk from the train manager about the locomotive and railway cars used that day. Food and entertainment options vary with each trip.