Are you wondering where the best bourbon distilleries in Kentucky are located? Wonder no more! We are going to walk you through the best Kentucky distilleries so you can decide which are the best to visit.
But there is more to this state than just the great outdoors. Kentucky’s small towns are some of the cutest in America and the KY wineries and vineyards are well worth a visit. However, what this state is known for is its bourbon.
Going on one of the bourbon tours in Kentucky is an absolute must when you visit this state. It’s the perfect way to spend a Kentucky weekend getaway.
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail was set up with that in mind. So without further ado let us walk you through some of the best distilleries to visit in Kentucky. We also walk you through the best distilleries to visit on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and tell you everything you need to know about this trail.
Pull up a seat, pour a glass of something smooth, and let’s chat about all things bourbon.
Make sure to check out our list of the best resorts in Kentucky for more inspiration for your Kentucky vacation!
15 Best Bourbon Distilleries In Kentucky (Tours + Kentucky Bourbon Trail!)
What Is the Kentucky Bourbon Trail?
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is not just a trail of the best bourbon distilleries in Kentucky, it’s an organized program. It was created by the Kentucky Distillers’ Association in 1999 in response to the growing whisky and bourbon resurgence.
It was essentially created to promote the Bourbon whiskey industry in Kentucky and has proved hugely successful. You can collect stamps in your official Bourbon Trail guide and get free rewards.
Are There Distilleries In Kentucky Not On The Trail?
When the Kentucky Bourbon Trail started there were 7 distilleries at the current count there are 18. There are however somewhere in the region of 73 licensed distilleries in the state.
So yes as you can see there are distilleries in Kentucky not on the trail. Some of the top distilleries in Kentucky are not on the trail.
The trail isn’t a nod to greatness, being included isn’t necessarily an honor, it just means they have joined the gang so to speak. Some distilleries choose not to participate for many reasons but it’s mostly down to ownership and legal reasons.
The Kentucky bourbon distilleries off the tour tend to be cheaper and less crowded. So don’t rule a distillery out simply because it isn’t on the tour.
Average Price Of Bourbon Distillery Tours In Kentucky
All of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail distilleries charge a fee for a tour or a tasting. The price differs a lot ranging from $5 to $30.
Specialty tours are likely to cost more. The price also varies a lot depending on what tour you choose.
It is highly recommended you book your tours in advance as the trail gets busy. If you are on a budget some of the distilleries not on the trail will charge less.
Best Bourbon Distilleries In Kentucky You Shouldn’t Miss
Old Forester – Louisville
If you like your bourbon with a huge side of history then this is one of the best distilleries in Louisville for you. For over 150 years they have been making bourbon here, in fact, they produced one of the first bottled bourbons in America. Make sure to check out our list of the Best Restaurants In Louisville!
Located on 119 West Main Street, in what used to be considered Whisky Row, Old Forester is still in the same building it was before prohibition. Here you will learn about the history of bourbon and its ties to this area.
This is one of the best Kentucky bourbon trail distilleries for really getting a feeling of how it used to be. And make sure you stay a while as there is so much to do in Louisville.
Four Roses – Lawrenceburg
On the scenic Salt River sits the unique single-story rack warehouse and bottling facility of Four Roses. This distillery in Lawrenceburg is on the National Register of Historic Places so it’s also steeped in history.
This Kentucky whisky tour gives you history, incredible countryside, and a rich, flavourful and mellow bourbon.
Four Roses have some unique recipes which you will get to taste on your tour. If you are looking for something a little more chill then this is one of the best distillery tours in Kentucky for you.
Wilderness Trail Distillery -Danville
This distillery in Danville is located on 163 acres of land and began very recently. Opening in 2012 it’s one of the newer bourbon tours in Kentucky.
But don’t let how new it is put you off co-owners Shane Baker and Pat Heis have over 28+ years of fermentation expertise and a whole lot of passion.
The grains are locally sourced and the whiskeys are non-chill-filtered. Chill filtration is a cosmetic process whisky is put through so it doesn’t go cloudy in the glass. Many whisky drinkers believe non-chill filtered whisky is better but it’s a matter of taste and visual appeal.
Here the science of whisky making is at the heart of what they do and creates added interest for visitors. If you like to know the ins and outs of how whisky is made this is the best bourbon distillery tour in Kentucky for learning that.
Rabbit Hole – Louisville
This Louisville distillery is another fairly recent newcomer on the block. Kaveh Zamanian took his love for bourbon and whisky and risked it all ditching his twenty-year psychology practice to make authentic spirits.
And the risk paid off. This is one of the best distilleries to visit on the Kentucky bourbon trail if you love things innovative and different.
The distillery is modern and his whiskeys are made 100% in Kentucky. The tour here is a much more immersive impressive experience. It is perhaps a glimpse into what the future of distillers will look like.
This is one of the best distilleries in Louisville for something a little different and unusual. While you are at it, make sure to check out some of the best distilleries in Louisville!
Bulleit Distilling Co – Shelbyville
Bulleit Distilling Co might have only opened to visitors in 2019 but it’s one of the best Kentucky distilleries. It uses state-of-the-art technology to produce rye bourbon with a bold spicy taste.
The bourbon here is distilled and aged in the Bulleit family tradition. On the tour, you will learn about the cultural creators, entrepreneurs, and tastemakers that helped revive Augustus Bulleit’s high-rye whiskey.
Here you get an interactive tasting experience and it’s one of the best Kentucky bourbon distillery tours if you like bold flavors.
If you are visiting this distillery in Shelbyville make sure you check out the town it’s one of the best small towns in Kentucky.
Heaven Hill – Louisville/Bardstown
Heaven Hill is one of the largest independent, family-owned, and operated distilleries in America. The Shapira family has been at the helm of this Louisville distillery since 1953.
The distillery is at the historic intersection of 17th Street and Breckenridge Street in downtown Louisville. You can’t visit this distillery but they do have The Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience which is in Bardstown.
Here you can learn, taste and shop. Have a tasting in the classroom, create your own bottle and explore the hands-on lab. This is more than a tour it’s a real experience and it’s family-friendly.
The James B. Beam Distilling Co- Clermont
This distillery needs no introduction. No list of the top distilleries in Kentucky would be complete without mentioning Jim Beam.
This Clermont distillery has been running for over two hundred years and is one of the most recognizable names in Kentucky bourbon. This is one of the best distilleries to visit in Kentucky without a shadow of a doubt.
They offer the best bourbon distillery tour in Kentucky. The tour is a six-stage multisensory tour that is state of the art. Visitors also have the opportunity to fill their own barrel and put their name on it which sounds very cool.
Town Branch – Lexington
There is so much to see and do in Lexington and we believe one of those things is to visit a distillery. Bourbon tasting in Lexington is a must.
Dr. Pearse Lyons acquired the 200-year-old Lexington Brewing Company Town Branch in 1999. He resurrected this 1794 brewery and distillery and it’s back to its former glory.
It’s in the heart of downtown and a great stop on your Kentucky whisky tour. Don’t forget to check out some of the best restaurants in Lexington while you are here!
Angel’s Envy – Louisville
For a real family affair head to this distillery in Louisville. Angel’s Envy started as a conversation between father and son and ended up with three generations of Hendersons coming together to create a new distillery which opened in 2013.
This urban distillery on Main Street is one of the best Kentucky distilleries. On the tour, you will see the complete distillation process from beginning to bottle and then get to taste in the Finishing Room.
Here they keep their tours small and intimate so booking in advance here is an absolute must. This is one of the best Kentucky bourbon distillery tours.
Castle And Key Distillery – Frankfort
Castle and Key are considered one of the top distilleries in Kentucky, however, it is not on The Kentucky Bourbon Trail. We feel though that this is a must-visit on your list.
Why should you visit? Well, firstly this distillery has a castle. Yes, the castle was built in 1887 by Buffalo Trace’s E.H. Taylor to be his grand showplace and is believed to have put bourbon tourism on the map. However, in 1920 prohibition caused the distillery to shut and it was left abandoned.
In 2014 it was purchased and restored. There are 113-acre of estate grounds to explore here. There is so much to do here from a stroll along the botanical trail to trying the gin, vodka, and bourbon produced here. It is truly one of the best things to do in Frankfort Kentucky!
Maker’s Mark – Loretto
Marker’s Mark bourbon has been around since 1953 and is an iconic bourbon brand known for its red wax-dipped bottles.
At this brewery attention to detail is everything. The barrels are still rotated by hand, an old letterpress is used and the bottles are hand dipped in the iconic red wax.
This is one of the best distillery tours in Kentucky if you like to see things done the old-fashioned way. The distillery is a National Historic Landmark so expect your bourbon to come with a side of history.
Tours here last an hour and visitors can even hand-dip their bottle in the classic red wax.
Bluegrass Distillers – Lexington
If you fancy some bourbon tasting in Lexington then pop into Bluegrass Distillery. Founded in 2012 and opened in 2015 it’s a relatively new edition to the Bourbon Trail.
The bourbon is complex yet smooth and tours take 45 minutes.
Buffalo Trace – Frankfort
Most agree this is one of the best bourbon distilleries in Kentucky and yet it is not on The Bourbon Trail. It’s the oldest continuously operating distillery in Kentucky and even stayed open during prohibition by producing medicinal whiskey.
Here you will find old brick buildings, rolling hills, and a landscape that might just take your breath away. It’s a beautiful distillery.
Buffalo Trace is also a National Historic Landmark and even has a landmarks tour that takes in all the historic places on the site.
Put a visit here high on your list.
James E. Pepper – Lexington
At one time Lexington was the hub for all bourbon distribution in the state but prohibition put an end to that. What remains is a lively Distillery District that is well worth a visit.
James E. Pepper is one of the best Lexington distilleries in this district. Originally founded by the family behind Woodford Reserve it shut in the 1950s as demand wained and then reopened in 2008.
In 2018 the distillery started producing its own whisky after briefly distilling in Indiana. The 1776 whiskeys are very smooth and well worth trying.
This distillery is not on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
Evan Williams Bourbon – Louisville
Heaven Hill’s portfolio also includes the world’s second-largest selling Bourbon, Evan Williams Bourbon. The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in Louisville is well worth a visit.
The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience is a multi-million dollar artisanal distillery, immersive tourism experience. It takes place in the building where Evan Williams’ distillery once stood and it celebrates the legacy of Evan Williams. If you are traveling with children they will love it here.
As you can see when it comes to the best bourbon distilleries in Kentucky, there are so many to choose from. Visit a few or just go to the ones that are closest to your location.
Whichever of these bourbon tours in Kentucky you decided to embark on we know you will have an amazing time. Please come back and tell us about your experience.