Bourbon Road Trip
In August, Nick and I decided to jump in the car for a quick road trip to Kentucky. With our growing love of bourbon, we thought a distillery trip was a must. Planning took a week - when I mention a trip to my husband, he jumps on the planning. Best part - our hotel stay was FREE! Say yes to reward points - free is my love language.
We jumped in the car after work on Friday, turned on The Podcask and the Bourbon Pursuit to get ready for some bourbon tasting, and headed to KY. Nick is a HUGE fanboy of the Podcask guys! So I can say that I was super educated by the time we made it to Bardstown, KY the next morning.
Barton Distillery was our first stop at 10am. We were literally drinking bourbon at 10. Best. Day. Ever. We didn't sign up for the tour because we had to make it to Willet Distillery by 10:45 so it was a quick stop. The employees in the gift shop were so so nice. They let us sample Very Old Barton, 1792, and their chocolate bourbon ball creme liquor. YUM!
We decided to go ahead and head to Willet and come back if we had time. We knew that we could find both, Very Old Barton and 1792, in Alabama and we really wanted to search for some bourbon that's hard to find back home.
Nick signed up for the tour at Willet Distillery online so we were there ON TIME - did not want to miss it at all! The family history behind Willet drew us. I have to give some huge props to our tour guide - she was incredibly knowledgable and had some heart for the company. You could tell from her storytelling that she had deep roots in Willet.
The rickhouses on Willet property are eye catching. Nick and I walked over to them and just soaked them in. We learned that they were placed far enough away from each other so that if one should catch on fire, the others will not be affected. Also if the barrel stacking is out of balance and one should actually tip over, it will not knock over the other rickhouses.
A part of the Willet tour included visiting the fermenting tanks. The mash was fermenting and you could see the yeast activating and bubbling. It was literally moving in the tank! We were told we could taste the mash at each stage - you could definitely taste the corn and it was so sweet! I had to taste it a couple of times to get the feel of the mash. It was almost like sweet grits or cornmeal.
The Heads and Tails tank is run by a couple of highly skilled employees who have to be able to taste and smell the good stuff. I can't imagine - they have to be healthy and any head cold or sickness will affect their sense of smell and taste. I didn't even realize what it takes to be a master distiller.
After distilling and drawing out the white dog (raw distillate un-aged alcohol), it is pumped into the barrels and stored in the rickhouses. Bourbon, which is made of 51% corn and wheat or rye and malted barley, has to be aged in new charred white oak barrels. The barrels at Willet are carefully placed in the rickhouses to be sure they're balanced. While we were in the rickhouse, we noticed some hams hanging to age. I bet those hams are fire. Too bad we couldn't try them!
Needless to say, this tour was the best. I plan to come back a few times! We left Willet with Willet Pot Still Reserve and Noah's Mill - personal side note: if you see some Noah's Mill, get some immediately. It is DELICIOUS. One of our top picks.
After leaving Willet, we made stops at the gift shops of Heaven Hill and Four Roses Distilleries before making our way to Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, KY.
This is the worst picture ever but I just wanted to catch the view of barrels in the windows of the brick warehouses cradling those precious barrels of bourbon. Buffalo Trace produces some of the best loved bourbons. If you've tasted them, you'll know what I'm talking about.
As I was searching through my photos, I realized that I have zero photos of this tour. Fortunately Nick took some. So the next bourbon whiskey post will be dedicated to BT and the delicious bourbons that they produce.
Good night and drink some good bourbon.