At any given time, the number of barrels of bourbon being aged in Kentucky is greater than the number of residents—the state produces 95% of the world’s bourbon, so it’s safe to say bourbon is a way of life out here. Nine distilleries have teamed up with the Kentucky Distillers’ Association to create the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, which showcases the best bourbon the state has to offer. The Bourbon Trail, combined with central Kentucky’s rolling green hills and scenic views of Thoroughbred horse farms, makes for an unforgettable—and quintessentially Kentucky—experience.
What Makes It Great
Established in 1999, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail includes some names you’ve definitely heard—think Maker’s Mark, Evan Williams, Jim Beam, and Wild Turkey—along with a few that only true bourbon aficionados are probably familiar with. The Kentucky Distillers’ Association has mapped and published directions for three bike tours of the Bourbon Trail: a 50-mile tour that includes three distilleries, plus 115-mile and 150-mile tours, both of which take cyclists to six distilleries. Maximize your experience by splitting one of the longer tours into two days—the longest route travels through a couple of historically significant towns, along with the Perryville Battlefield and Old Fort Harrod State Park, where Abraham Lincoln’s parents were married.
Be sure to pick up a free Kentucky Bourbon Trail passport at your first stop, then get it stamped at each subsequent destination. Completed passports (you’ll need all nine stamps) earn a free special edition t-shirt from the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. Between distilleries, you’ll ride challenging terrain. Services are available, on average, about every 20 miles of each route, and the official cue sheets note when lodging is available for those divvying up the tour into multiple days.
Who is Going to Love It
Anyone is welcome to ride the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, regardless of age or interest in the bourbon itself—there’s no age limit on distillery tours, though visitors must be over 21 to sample bourbon or participate in the passport program. The ride itself is best suited to experienced and confident cyclists. In addition to long distances and challenging, hilly terrain, roads on the tour occasionally pass through heavily trafficked areas.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Since biking the Bourbon Trail is officially sanctioned, distilleries won’t be fazed when they see cyclists pull up, though they do ask that visitors bring a change of shoes rather than wearing cycling cleats on a tour. There’s no fee for riding the route or participating in the passport program, but some of the distilleries charge a small fee for admission on a tour (all between $5-$15).