Exploring Kentucky Bourbon

The 6 months we lived in Cincinnati, we had designs on exploring the bourbon trail. We never made it. While we visited Louisville once, we traveled with Samantha so we never made it into a distillery.

Being in Frankfort positioned us well to explore the bourbon trail and while we had limited time, we managed to squeeze a few visits in on the weekend.

Scene along the bourbon trail
Scene along the bourbon trail

First, even if you don’t like bourbon or don’t drink,  I still highly recommend driving along these bluegrass roads. The scenery is simply stunning and I haven’t tired of it yet. I really do love the gently rolling hills with miles of horse fences.

If you do drink, you’re in luck. The distillery tours are pretty reasonable and give you a lot of great information. We ended up doing 3 and each highlighted a different part of the process which I enjoyed.

Four Roses Distillery
Four Roses Distillery

Our first stop was Four Roses, a spanish mission-style architecture outpost in Kentucky. For $5 per person, you go to walk through the working distillery and if you were brave enough – even get to try some fermented mash. Only a handful took this opportunity, and it really wasn’t bad. I teetered on a ladder to dip my finger in the huge vat of mash and it kinda tasted like watery cornflakes. Sure glad it improves later in the process. A few tastings later, we were on our way to the next distillery.

Inside Four Roses Distillery
Inside Four Roses Distillery

Buffalo Trace has several different free tours available, but we took the really basic tour. It was lead by Jimmy & let me tell you – if Jimmy was my high school history teacher I may have enjoyed history a lot more! We learned about the prohibition era and the effect it had on the bourbon world, along with other interesting historical moments that has made the industry what it is today. We got to stop in one of the rick houses & breathe in the magical Angel’s Share of bourbon, which is what the industry calls the percentage of bourbon lost to evaporation.

Inside the Rick House
Inside the Rick House

What I really liked about Buffalo Trace was the historical grounds. It was really a beautiful industrial complex and we braved the chilly weather to walk around it. We also got to see the hand bottling process for one of their lines of bourbon. We also enjoyed the tastings here & made an unexpected purchase. Our last taste was of a bourbon cream. I’m not usually fond of sweeter drinks but a shot of the bourbon cream sold me – creamy, smooth texture with a nice finish of bourbon – it’s my new after dinner drink.

Hand bottling process for one of Buffalo Traces lines of bourbon
Hand bottling process for one of Buffalo Traces lines of bourbon

Our final distillery was the next day & a special trip. Keith & I are both huge fans of Bulleit Bourbon after tasting it in mixed drinks in Cincinnati and we decided to take the drive into Louisville instead of visiting other distilleries we weren’t familiar with. Even though the tastings at the end of the bourbon and the rye were nothing new to us, we enjoyed touring the complex and getting to hear more about the background of the historic Stitzel-Weller distillery and how Tom Bulleit revived his grandfather’s old recipe.

Bulleit at
Bulleit at Stitzel-Weller 

This distillery allowed a peek into an old cooper where they used to repair the leaking barrels (most work now can be done inside the rick houses with better equipment than what used to be available). Barrels are pretty important to the bourbon world and there is a list of what is required to be able to say you make bourbon. One of the requirements is a brand new oak barrel that belongs only to the whiskey that is in it. The lengths they go to to repair the barrels, along with weighing & recording the whiskey they take out of the barrels was pretty impressive.

Old Cooper Building
Old Cooper Building

We also found why Bulleit really shines for us as a bourbon. It has a higher rye percentage than other bourbons which gives it a nice, sweet touch. We really need to find the 10 year Bulleit to try that out but we were told it tends to sell out quickly (they didn’t even have any available at the distillery.) P.S. Keith found the 10 year at a local liquor store & it’s awesome.

Bulleit Burbon Barrel
Bulleit Burbon Barrel

All in all, it was a nice opportunity to get a view into making spirits in Kentucky. Oh yes, we also learned that there are more barrels of bourbon in Kentucky than people, a helpful fact to keep in mind when the zombie apocalypse strikes.

Wicked Weather in Kentucky

You know you are in bad weather when The Weather Channel picks up your picture & features it on TV! For hours yesterday, we were in a line of storms through Kentucky that were capable of producing tornadoes – not ideal when you are RV living!

My image being featured on TWC!
My image being featured on TWC! 

The crazy thing  is the picture featured on TWC was not even close to the worst that we saw last night. We had to grab the animals and run to shelter twice but thankfully this area made it through with minimal damage and no confirmed touchdowns. I don’t think I will ever forgot 1. exactly how loud tornado sirens are and 2. how absolutely freaky the skies looked with green and purple shades of scary.

This was snapped about 2 minutes before the tornado watch turned into a tornado warning.
This was snapped about 2 minutes before the tornado watch turned into a tornado warning the first time.
Crazy skies
Crazy skies
Something wicked this way comes...
Something wicked this way comes…
The picture that TWC featured.
The picture that TWC featured.

First stop, Kentucky!

To make our first leg back on the road easy, we decided to make a short jaunt to Frankfort, Kentucky. Even though it is Kentucky’s capitol, there is a nicely wooded campground just a few miles away from the city center.

Old Capitol in Frankfort, KY
Old Capitol in Frankfort, KY

We’ve been driving around beautiful Bluegrass country and the miles & miles of fenced, manicured grounds is pretty impressive. We’ve had a chance to walk around Lexington and Frankfort along with exploring a few smaller towns like Midway & Versailles.

Old Flour Mill
Old Flour Mill

Our first week here, we also met up with a local ingress group to create a level 8 farm, followed by pizza & beer at a local pub. If you haven’t heard of Ingress, it’s a delightfully geeky game where, as Keith likes to say, “everything’s made up & the points don’t matter”. I got interested in Ingress the last few months we were in Cincinnati as they just introduced the game for iphone folks and leveled up pretty quickly because OTR was a pretty contentious area between the Enlightened and the Resistance. What I like most about it, especially in a new area, is the portals are often interesting things like historical signs or pieces of art. If you see a cluster of portals, chances are it’s an area you want to walk around in!

Historic home in Lexington, KY
Historic home in Lexington, KY

In Lexington we enjoyed an afternoon walking & driving around the city. We found two awesome dog friendly spots – always a plus! Third Street Stuff is a funky coffee shop with some pretty decent sandwiches. We sat outside with Samantha in a shaded, colorful outdoor patio. We also continued our brewery exploration and stopped by West Sixth. Not only were the beers delicious (although admittedly we’ve had West Sixth while in Cincy), the brewery has two areas. One inside that was air conditioned and one outside, that was pup friendly. Luckily the outside was still covered allowing us to hang with Samantha, have a few beers & not get overheated.

West Sixth Brewing
West Sixth Brewing

We’ve also walked around Frankfort some and have visited the old & new capitol building. One of the best views of the capitol complex is from Daniel Boone’s grave in Frankfort cemetery and the first day we were here we stumbled upon quite the classic car show in old downtown.

View of the capitol building from Daniel Boone's gravesite
View of the capitol building from Daniel Boone’s gravesite

We’re here for another few weeks and plan on hitting a few distilleries on the bourbon trail and who knows, maybe even see what the fuss is about horse racing. Next weekend I am in Miami for a company retreat so this upcoming weekend will be jam packed trying to fit everything in!

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