Wait, What's This About a Bourbon Trail? Sign Us Up! Plan Your Next Trip Around These 16 Kentucky Distilleries

Many hours can be happy hours at the best distilleries in Kentucky.

Kentucky has a few claims to fame: A derby that brings out some of the best hat fashion this side of the pond, a top-notch men's basketball team and bourbon to write home about. It's no wonder there are plenty of Kentucky distilleries and tours to visit and experience!

The Bluegrass State is home to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, which includes a main trail and a "craft tour." Try all of them, and you'll get a T-Shirt. But there are more than 30 — pro tip: do it on multiple trips. It's a sprint, not a marathon.

A trip to the best distilleries in Kentucky (and the hidden gems on the trail isn't just about tasting some of the best bourbons (though, let's be real, that's a draw). Bourbon distillery tours and tasting room experiences give visitors a look into the history of bourbon and how it's made. It's so educational, it should be a tax write-off. Even though it's not, these 16 Kentucky distilleries along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail are worth putting at the top of your bourbon-tasting bucket list.

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16 Best Kentucky Distilleries and Tours on the Bourbon Trail

1. Evan Williams Bourbon

Evan Williams opened Kentucky's first commercial distillery in 1783. Today, guests can still experience the distillery, conveniently located in downtown Lousiville. The chic loft bar On3 serves flights, straight pours and hand-crafted cocktails. Tours are also available.

2. Angel's Envy

<p>Angel's Envy</p>

Angel's Envy

This distillery, founded in 2010 by late Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson, holds the distinction of downtown Louisville's first fully operational whiskey production facility. The passion for bourbon remains part of Angel Envy's spirit. Experiences peel back the curtain on the bourbon-making process that finishes with a beverage.

3. Michter's Fort Nelson Distillery

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Set in the heart of downtown, this Main Street distillery makes for a perfect digestif after a visit to the nearby Louisville Slugger Museum & Bat Factory. Tours, tastings and a chance to clink cocktail glasses at Bar at Fort Nelson are all potential items for your itinerary.

4. Wild Turkey Bourbon Distillery

About an hour outside Louisville in Lawrenceburg, Wild Turkey is part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and American Whiskey Trail. The man behind the beverages, Jimmy Russell, is the bourbon industry's longest-tenured master distiller, with six decades of experience under his belt. His expertise and care are on full display during tours and tastings, rivaled only by the distillery's Kentucky River vistas. The distillery is currently undergoing a refresh but has a pop-up at Station Master’s House.

5. Bulleit Distilling Co.

<p>Bulleit Distilling Co.</p>

Bulleit Distilling Co.

One of the most recognizable names in rye whiskey, Bulleit became a stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail when it opened its distillery to the public in June 2019. The Shelbyville spot has sampling opportunities, a cocktail bar and the chance to use a 43-inch touchscreen to design your own Bulleit label to place on a bottle.

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6. Jim Beam Distilling Co.

Around since 1795, Jim Beam has aged like, well, really good whiskey and bourbon. A trip to the distillery, located in Clermont and called the home of the First Family of Bourbon, is an essential pilgrimage. A 90-minute interactive tour includes family secrets on how the Beams have made Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey for more than two centuries.

7. Maker's Mark Distillery

Another name-brand bourbon producer, Maker's Mark, offers tours for beginners and bourbon enthusiasts ready to go beyond the basics at its Loretto location. Guests can also visit the so-chic limestone cellar, a classy space created to better age Maker's 46 and Private Select in a temperature-controlled setting. In addition to history lessons and tastings, guests can also "dip" a bottle into red wax themselves to create the brand's signature look by themselves. You may also spot Rafael, the lovable new truffle-harvesting pup.

8. Buffalo Trace Distillery

This Frankfort-based distillery is one of the oldest continually-operating distilleries in the United States, having been in the bourbon business for more than two centuries. Tours reveal the history of the distillery and the science behind the bourbon. Like a neat pour of bourbon, the best part is the finish, when you get to sample the brand's famed spirits like the signature Buffalo Trace Bourbon and Eagle Rare Bourbon.

9. Castle & Key Distillery

Considered a top-flight Frankfort activity (it's ranked as the No. 1 thing to do in the area on TripAdvisor), Castle & Key is situated on 113 acres of rolling hills in a literal castle setting. Guests can learn about the distillery's history, which dates back to the 1800s, and even tour ruins. Private experiences are available, too (advanced notice required). The first Wednesday of each month from May to September brings live music, drinks and local food to the lush Springhouse lawn.

10. Bardstown Bourbon Company

This sprawling distillery is situated on 100 acres of active farmland and is home to bourbon that's full of sizzle and spice and everything nice. Think the Fusion Series #8, Bardstown Bourbon Company's take on the Kentucky Straight bourbon. An onsite kitchen and bar with light bites and full entrees ensure your stomach is well-coated.

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11. Heaven Hill Bernheim Distillery

This distillery opened in 1935, a toast to the end of Prohibition. Though headquartered in Bardstown, the distillery experience takes place at 17th Street and Breckenridge Street in downtown Louisville sits Heaven Hill's Bernheim. Though many top producers have sold out to larger companies (literally, not a diss), Heaven Hill remains the largest independent and family-owned distillery in the world. Visitors can learn about the process, which involves producing more than 1,300 barrels daily.

12. Woodford Reserve

<p>Wofford Distillery</p>

Wofford Distillery

This whiskey producer has been in business since 1812. Today, guests can take a full tour or a faster tasting option for time-pressed guests who want to cut right to the chase. A mixology experience blends history lessons with how-tos, teaching you how to make a toast-worthy cocktail.

13. Four Roses Distillery

TripAdvisor reviewers hail a trip to Four Roses Distillery as the No. 1 thing to do in Lawrenceburg. The happening Bar 1888 serves Four Roses' 10 recipes on a rotating basis — stop by often for a chance to sample them all. Year-round tours are offered.

14. Willett Distilling Company

This family-owned distilling company provides distillery tours and has a tasting room. Take notes on the family history, see the turn-of-the-century belt-and-pully fan system that still runs through the distillery and visitor center and sample some spirits during a memorable visit.

15. Green River Distilling Co.

This indie distillery is considered the best thing to do in Owensboro. Learn about the traditional whiskey-making process from grain to glass. Speaking of glasses, grab one at the cocktail lounge post-tour.

16. Limestone Branch Distillery

This Lebanon, Ky., mainstay is one of the founding fathers of the Kentucky Bourbon Craft Trail. Founded in 2011, the spot offers tours and tastings. Sample gins and whiskeys are made in classic Kentucky style – perfect for modern drinkers with an "it-wasn't-broke-so-don't-fix-it" mentality.

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