It’s hard to believe that when the Kentucky Bourbon Trail first launched in 1999, there were only a handful of distilleries you could stop by when visiting...

Kentucky Bourbon Trail celebrates 25 years

It’s hard to believe that when the Kentucky Bourbon Trail first launched in 1999, there were only a handful of distilleries you could stop by when visiting Kentucky. Now, 25 years later, there are more than 45 you can experience and get a firsthand look at the bourbon industry up close and personal.

I’ve been to Kentucky many times now, and each time I visit I learn something new and meet someone who is integral to the bourbon industry. If you’re looking for a fun way to spend your summer holiday, I would recommend a week in Kentucky — especially if you’re a bourbon fanatic.

This topic is of particular interest to me because the growth of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and bourbon tourism is a testament to the growth of the overall industry.

What is the Kentucky Bourbon Trail?

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is a road trip-style experience where you can hop from distillery to distillery and collect stamps in your official passport along the way. Started by the Kentucky Distillers’ Association in 1999, the trail is a way to get people interested in learning about both history and bourbon while in Kentucky. You can pick up your own passport/field guide and any participating distillery, which is most of them.

The initiative has brought more than 2.5 million people to Kentucky from all 50 states and more than 25 countries, according to the KBF website. And at most of these distilleries, you can take tours, do tastings or just visit their grounds and gift shop. Some are located near larger cities like Louisville and Lexington, but most are scattered throughout Kentucky in smaller towns like Frankfort, Bardstown, Owensboro or Lawrenceburg, to name a few.

What distilleries are on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail?

The organizers of the trail used to categorize the distilleries as either Heritage or Craft depending on how big the operation was. I heard they might be eventually lumping them all together in the future, but for this piece I will list them in the two categories.


Heritage Distilleries include:

  • Angel’s Envy Distillery
  • Bardstown Bourbon Co.
  • Bulleit Distilling Co.
  • Evan Williams Bourbon Experience
  • Four Roses Distillery
  • Green River Distilling Co.
  • Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience
  • James B. Beam Distilling Co.
  • Lux Row Distillers
  • Maker’s Mark Distillery
  • Michter’s at Fort Nelson
  • Old Forester Distilling Co.
  • Rabbit Hole Distillery
  • Stitzel-Weller Distillery
  • Town Branch Distillery
  • Wild Turkey Distillery
  • Wilderness Trail Distillery
  • Woodford Reserve Distillery

Craft Distilleries include:


  • Copper & Kings American Brandy Distillery
  • Jeptha Creed Distillery
  • Kentucky Artisan Distillery
  • Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co
  • Limestone Branch Distillery
  • Log Still Distillery
  • Preservation Distillery
  • Willett Distillery


  • Augusta Distillery
  • Boone County Distilling Co.
  • The Old Pogue Distillery
  • Neeley Family Distillery
  • New Riff Distillery
  • Pensive Distilling Co.
  • Second Sight Spirits


  • The Bard Distillery
  • Boundary Oak Distillery
  • Casey Jones Distillery
  • Dueling Grounds Distillery
  • MB Roland Distillery


  • Barrel House Distilling Co.
  • Bluegrass Distillers
  • Castle & Key Distillery
  • Fresh Bourbon
  • Hartfield & Co.
  • James E. Pepper Distillery
  • RD1 Spirits
  • Whiskey Thief Distilling Co.

What about Buffalo Trace Distillery?

If you’re a bourbon aficionado, you might have noticed the esteemed distillery Buffalo Trace isn’t on any of these lists. That’s because they choose not to belong to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association and instead put that membership money toward providing free tours to guests.

Buffalo Trace Distillery, located in Frankfort, Ky., is the maker of Pappy, Weller, Elmer T. Lee, E.H. Taylor, Blanton’s, Eagle Rare and so many more. They’re owned by the parent company Sazerac, which also runs the Barton 1792 Distillery in Bardstown, and which also isn’t a member of the KDA or Bourbon Trail.

Buffalo Trace alone attracts more than 400,000 people each year, so it looks like they’re doing OK. Plus, it’s a nice gesture to offer free tours for their fans who continually make it impossible to find their products on the shelves.

Kentucky Bourbon Trail tip

If there’s one piece of advice I can impart, it’s to book your tours in advance, because they do tend to sell out in the busier summer and fall tourism months. Many people book their hotel rooms or Airbnb stays, thinking they can just walk into a distillery and jump on a tour. That might have been how it was 15 years ago, but now, with the Bourbon Boom in full effect, tours are sometimes hard to come by.

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