Bourbon Trail 2014:
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Bourbon Trail 2014: [Day 1 - Friday] [Day 2 - Saturday] [Day 3 - Sunday]

Saturday, July 26, 2014: We headed to the outskirts of Lawrenceburg to get to the Four Roses Distillery.
We arrived just as they opened at 9:00 AM, ...
... and only had a short wait in the gift shop for the first tour to begin.
We watched a film about making bourbon and about the history of Four Roses, ...
... and filed past a framed print of this famous photo on our way out of the room, noticing for the very first time the large "Four Roses" text at the top center (partially obscured here by the light reflected in the glass).
Here's the beautiful main distillery building, featuring Spanish Mission-Style architecture.
Here's a pretty display just outside of the main doors.
All was still inside. Our guide explained that their distillery was shut down for the summer, but there was still plenty of see.
Here was the multi-story still, ...
... and here was the tail box, beautifully decorated like all the others we saw.
As expected, the lovely grounds featured many gardens of red roses.
After a 45-minute tour, we headed to the beautiful tasting room, ...
... where we sampled Four Roses Single Barrel bourbon, Four Roses Small Batch bourbon, and Four Roses bourbon. Of all the distilleries we visited, we liked Four Roses' bourbons the best. We still weren't bourbon fans though.
We got to keep our pretty tasting glasses, which featured a rose pattern in the base of the glass. At the gift shop, we picked up a mini bottle of Four Roses Single Barrel bourbon, two packs of matches, and a Four Roses Distillery candle. Each distillery had their own version of this brand of candle, so Four Roses like as good a place as any to pick one up.
From Lawrenceville, it was less than an hour's drive to Loretto, Kentucky, home of Maker's Mark.
We had purchased our tickets online and were added to the next tour departing after we arrived at around 11:15 AM.
We were invited to help ourselves to pink lemonade and wait on the front porch for our tour to be called.
Moments later, our group was walking along the tour path next to this tiny creek.
The grounds were beautiful and little Maker's Mark touches were everywhere, such as in the design of these shutters.
We started at the distillery building.
In we go!
Our guide told us about the bourbon-making process, which we were quite familiar with by now.
We visited this large room filled with vats of mash in various stages of fermentation.
Here's a vat being filled with fresh mash.
We were encouraged to sample the vats, which ranged from very sweet to very sour.
Next, we passed through this little building where special edition bottles were on display, ...
... and we saw a vintage press cutting out labels that we were allowed to take as souvenirs.
The labels here are cut a few sheets at a time.
Here's a pretty display of Maker's Mark barrels.
Next, we went into one of the warehouses (on the right in this photo) ...
... where we saw the real thing up close.
Again, we enjoyed that heavenly "angel's share" aroma. This photo shows where the bourbon leaks out of the barrels. The leaking ends up sealing the barrel shut again.
Here's a cool little grate in front of one of the racks.
A friend described Maker's Mark as the Disneyland of distilleries, and it is easy to see why. There were lots of colorful, interesting things to see.
The bottling room was on break when we visited, ...
... but there was still lots to see, ...
... including these bottles both before and after the famous Maker's Mark dipping process.
Next, we went into the tasting building.
Wow, this brightly-lit wonder was incredible. Three tasting rooms filled this space, separated by glass walls.
We each sat at place settings containing four tasting glasses on a tasting mat. Our guide walked us through each of the different samples, ...
... including Maker's White, Maker's Mark Fully Matured, Maker's Mark Over Matured, and Maker's 46. The first three gave us the opportunity to taste the bourbon before it is barrel-aged, when it is ready, and when it is overly done. We could taste the difference, but we're still not sure we could like any of them.
After our tasting, we filed out of the room, picked up a delicious bourbon ball, and walked through another warehouse that featured Dale Chihuly glass in the ceiling.
Looking closely, you can spot little yellow cherubs: the angels who are getting their share.
We had the option to go back and see the bottling line in action, but we were hoping to fit in another distillery tour so we needed to get going. So we hit the gift shop, ...
... but took a minute to watch someone dip their own bottle.
Our gift shop purchases were a pen and both large and small bottles of Maker's Mark Gourmet Sauce.
We headed to the Toll Gate Cafe just outside the entrance ...
... and had a quick, delicious lunch of bourbon pulled pork sandwiches, plus a complimentary chocolate cookie.
It was a 25-minute drive into Bardstown for our next stop at Willett Distillery.
Here's the gorgeous distillery building, ...
... and here's the visitor center and tasting room.
As usual, our luck held out and we were on a tour in just a couple of minutes. Check out our excellent tour bands.
In the lobby of the distillery building, we got an overview of Willett's history, ...
... then we headed into the building. Like Four Roses, they were on summer shutdown, ...
... so all of the large metal mash tubs were empty.
Here's the distinctively-shaped copper pot still that inspires Willett's logo.
Here are the head and tail boxes.
Our next stop was the barrel filling room.
Here's a stencil leaning against the wall.
We visited one of the warehouses. Note the copper still outline stenciled on this barrel.
Look! It's a tiny barrel! No idea why this was here.
The tour was just under an hour in length, and then it was time for the tasting. We each were allowed to select two different bourbons to try, including Rowan's Creek, Kentucky Vintage, and Johnny Drum shown here.
No. Still not a bourbon fan.
That didn't stop us from hitting the gift shop and going home with one of their stunning copper still-shaped bottles of Willett Bourbon.
Behold its beauty. We also got a miniature of Old Bardstown bourbon for our son-in-law.
Our last stop of the day was Heaven Hill Distilleries and the Bourbon Heritage Center.
The museum was airy and impressive, ...
... but not as impressive as the extensive gift shop. With a product line that spans many different brands, there were a lot of bourbons to choose from.
Some of the best known are Evan Williams and Elijah Craig.
However, Heaven Hill's product lines aren't limited to bourbon. They also make gin, tequila, and the Hpnotiq brand of liquor.
We had tickets for the 4:30 PM Portrait of Heaven Hill Tour, but since we had arrived early, we arranged to get on the 3:45 tour instead. It really wasn't a tour -- just a film followed by a guided tasting, ...
... but the tasting itself was easily the most educational of them all. First, we started with Elijah Craig, ...
... then we sampled Henry McKenna.
In both cases, our guide walked us through sampling them, adding a drop or two of water, taking another sip, and then having a third sip after the bourbon and water had a few minutes to mix. The difference in taste at each step was noticeable.
After the tasting, the rest of the group went on to tour some buildings, but we were done and headed back out to the museum to get a look at some of the sample barrels on display. This handy chart helped to decipher the information on each barrel.
Before leaving, we just about lost our minds in the food section where we purchased many, many items.
We picked up some some bourbon soap, bourbon garlic sauce, bourbon pecan brittle, berry marmalade, hot wing sauce, apple grilling sauce, and an candle, all Evan Williams brand, plus some mulling spices. Friends of ours had tipped us off to the bourbon garlic sauce, so we went home with several jars of that to keep and to share.
As we headed into Bardstown, we spotted this pretty deer enjoying the shade next to a Heaven Hill warehouse.
We checked into our hotel and then headed to Kurtz restaurant, recommended by a friend.
It's housed in an actual home, ...
... which is apparent from the inside, ...
... where they've been serving meals since 1937. We started with pimento spread and shrimp cocktail, ...
... and then filled up on Southern-style meats and sides. It was a nice way to celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary.

We were too full to have dessert, so we got two giant pieces to go and enjoyed them in our hotel room later that evening.

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