The Best Distillery Tours In America

Bourbon has become a big business over the last few decades, with production in Kentucky alone rising by 250% since 1999. Plenty of drinkers have developed a taste for that sweet elixir that has grown from moonshine to high-dollar production.

True connoisseurs looking to take their love of bourbon whiskey to the next level may consider hitting the road to tour some of the country’s top distilleries, learning the production process and the history that has become synonymous with American history.

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Bourbon and Whiskey Distillery Tours

“Distillery tours are a great way to get a deeper knowledge of your favorite whiskies or discover new favorites,” says Drew Hannush, the author of Whiskey Lore’s Travel Guide to Experiencing Kentucky Bourbon: Learn, Plan, Taste, Tour. “There is something about seeing the process and the stories that create a strong connection. While many people will go because there is usually a tasting at the end, one of my favorite parts is going into the warehouse and smelling the angel’s share. This whiskey is being lost to the atmosphere as the spirit ages. Entertaining tours usually have a lot of camaraderie among the guests.

“If they are into the science and process of making whiskey, every distillery does things a little differently. In reality, one distillery can only make what another does, even using the same ingredients, equipment, and processes. Where the grains are sourced, the water used, the atmosphere where the whiskey ages – these all have an effect. For the history lover, every distillery allows hearing something about the distillery, the region, or the history of whiskey itself. Whiskey is built on stories, so it is a natural stimulant encouraging people to visit more distilleries.”

Ready for a road trip that involves some sipping mixed with some history of one of the country’s favorite spirits? Here’s a look at a few distilleries to check out.

Jim Beam Distillery (Clermont, Kentucky)

This famed distillery has produced bourbon since 1935 and offers daily tours and tastings. The Kitchen Table Restaurant is also located on-site. It features a full-service dining experience inspired by the original Beam family kitchen table with contemporary Southern classics like spiced pork rinds, duck poppers, Kentucky burgoo fried catfish, and pizza that uses the same yeast as the whiskey does. Rab a bite to eat and drink up.

Jack Daniel’s Distillery (Lynchburg, Tennessee)

This classic American brand dates back to the 1830s and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Take a trip back into the past when checking out this distillery facility. About 300,000 people tour the property annually, and the distillery offers daily tours that can include sampling a flight of Jack products, tastings in the historic George Green Barrel House drawn from individual barrels, and more. The Lynchburg Hardware & General Store is also worth a visit and is packed with a huge selection of Jack Daniel’s memorabilia.

Buffalo Trace Distillery (Frankfort, Kentucky)

This distillery has produced some of the finest bourbon for over 200 years. This location is home to Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, W.L. Weller, and more. The award-winning Pappy Van WInkle is also produced on-site, and the distillery oozes spirits history. As the property notes, this facility is the rare distillery that is an “intact example of a distillery operating before, during, and after Prohibition.” Book one of five different tours, depending on your interests. Better yet, work in some time for even more.

Enjoying a nice glass of bourbon is a wonderful to spend time with quality friends.
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Willett Distillery (Bardstown, Kentucky)

This private, family-owned-and-operated company dates back to 1936 and sits on the site formerly used as a farm by the Willett family. Production of Old Bardstown Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey began in the 1940s, and the distillery continues to produce other Willett brands more than a century later. A facility tour offers a little of everything and a real whiskey history lesson. The company notes: “From underground, spring-fed lakes to the Kentucky split-face limestone exterior, to our old turn-of-the-century belt and pulley fan systems running throughout the distillery and visitor center, it truly makes for a memorable trip.

George Dickel Distillery (Tullahoma, Tennessee)

This famed distillery is a giant among Tennessee whiskey producers and offers self-guided tours, tastings, and brilliant views of the beautiful southern Tennessee countryside. The brand’s namesake founded the distillery in the 1860s, and several tour options are available. A favorite is the Single Barrel Experience, which includes tastings of three 15-year Geirge Dickel single barrels, and visitors get to take home their favorite bottle. Front Porch Fridays can also be the perfect way to unwind, with an evening of live music, food, and cocktails. The distillery’s motto might apply to many of these heritage distilleries in Kentucky and Tennessee: “We learn from our past but are always thinking about the future.”

Looking for more articles on Booze and Smoke? Then give this a read: Learn to Make a Martini

A perfect martini is made with Gin not Vodka.
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