Planning a Road Trip? Consider Experiencing the Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Bourbon: Toronto’s love affair with the golden nectar is red hot, a frequent star on the trendiest cocktail lists across the city. The Old Fashioned, The Manhattan, The Mint Julep and The Boulevardier are just a few of the classics, with mixologists crafting enchanting new creations with the vogue whiskey everyday. 

For young professionals considering their next road trip, look no further than the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, notable for the traveller seeking the gastro tourism experience, your purpose fuelled by food and cocktail artistry. Wooooo-wee! Louisville, Kentucky; where the spirit leads you. First, a few notable facts:

– Less than a 10-hour drive from Toronto
– Has been listed as one of the “best foodie getaways around the world”
– The home of 95% of the world’s bourbon production
– Bourbon is a member of the whiskey family. In order to be labeled bourbon, it must follow a strict set of production rules. 

Kentucky is the most northern of the Southern States, a landscape of rolling hills, majestic horse farms and clear water creeks. The city of Louisville is polished and poised, greeting its visitors with unexpected luxury; Old South married with modern urbanism.

Days 1&2:

We began our visit enjoying the “Urban Bourbon Trail” of Louisville, a hand-selected list of the city’s most impressive bourbon bars. Restaurateurs, historic hotels and specialty bars have earned their position on the esteemed urban trail with their impeccable service, HUGE selection of bourbon and premier bartenders, each prepared to offer you their signature creation (which always comes with a story). With over 30 suggestions on the trail to choose from, visit six and you’ll become an “official citizen” of the county. Find yourself in some of the most striking venues where miles of whiskey and bourbon bottles drape the walls. Saloon décor and mahogany is the norm. The tour is walkable – thankfully – so you can afford to be indulgent. Tread at your own pace. It’s not an organized tour, simply a list of thoughtful recommendations that the experts know you’ll enjoy. Louisville is an historic city, its southern roots present in architecture and landmarks, but the farm-to-table dining, appreciation for presentation, contemporary design and impeccable service puts the experience at par with some of America’s larger and more obvious culinary destinations.

Days 3 & 4:

We hit the road. Following the winding paths throughout the Kentucky countryside, we visited some of most popular bourbon distilleries in America –Wild Turkey, Makers Mark, Woodford Reserve. All of the familiar names, and the less familiar too, open their doors for tours and tastings and all are located within close proximity of one another. Visitors can easily hop from one distiller to the next. The spectrum of distillers ranges from automated corporate to family-run, where they still roll the barrels by hand in the original barns from the prohibition years.

Accommodations are stunning. Set amongst the most prized horse farms in the world (after all, it is the home of the Kentucky Derby), country inns set in southern grandeur offer an opportunity for romance or fun – whatever your prerogative. It’s not uncommon to find live local bluegrass performing on the main floor pub during cocktail hour. Nestle yourself into one of the front porch rocking chairs – a staple throughout the state – and enjoy the tranquility and a taste of bliss.

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