This is a great time of year to check out some of the distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Because bourbon's popularity is at an all time high, there's a special buzz around the places that produce more bourbon whiskey than anywhere else in the world. Add the festive atmosphere of the holiday season, the distilleries become a very special place to visit. Most of the Bourbon Trail distilleries have recently upgraded and expanded their visitors centers to give guest a more complete picture of how bourbon gets made, and the tours of the facilities are great this time of year too.
If Louisville is your base of operation, the new Evan Williams Bourbon Experience is a must visit. The Experience is part of downtown Louisville's rejuvenated "Whiskey Row", and you can enjoy the popular bourbon in an old-style saloon atmosphere of the tasting room after you check out the workings of the on-site artisanal distillery. If you want to learn more about where Evan Williams is produced, you can drive south to Bardstown where Heaven Hill Distillery is located. Heaven Hill is also home to the impressive Bourbon Heritage Center and its tasting room in the shape of a whiskey barrel. Heaven Hill also makes Elijah Craig, Fighting Cock, Parker's Heritage Collection, and the increasingly popular Larceny bourbon.
Just a few miles south of Heaven Hill, Maker's Mark distillery is nestled in a hollow just outside Loretto. The familiar red wax-sealed bourbon gets the hands-on treatment in a place that looks like a kind of dreamed-up version of a distillery complete with black buildings with red shutters around the lovely property, and it looks extra-special when it's decorated for the holidays. This is where you can dip your own bottle of bourbon in red wax if you wish to take home a souvenir of your visit.
In Versailles, just west of Lexington, Woodford Reserve is another beautiful example of the perfect marriage of a working distillery on a beautiful piece of property. The newly-expanded visitors center has a huge fireplace to take the chill off of a chilly Kentucky day. A nip or too of Woodford Reserve bourbon is a nice way to shake off the chill too.
There are several more distilleries on the trail, and you can't make a bad choice to visit.