2015 Kentucky Bourbon Trail

The Phelons crew tries to take a long weekend trip in the fall. Kind of a last 'hurrah' for the year. We decided to do the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. We did the tour in 2011 but since then they've added three more distilleries. The premise of the bourbon tour is that you visit all nine distilleries and get a stamp from each of them in a passport. Then you send in the passport and receive a free T-shirt.

The date was set for October 1-3, and we decided to stay at the Springfield Inn. We've stayed there a couple times before and it has been good to us. The Kurdzioleks won't be going...they will be leaving for a trip to Hawaii. Dogs!

After our Maggie Valley trip this year John decided he wanted to build a trailer like Pat's. He put his trailer for sale and sold it to a guy on the trike forum he likes to read. His new trailer is built and this will be a good road test.

The weather predictions for the trip are perfect. Sunshine. Highs in the mid/upper 70's. Come on October 1!

October 1

The plan was to leave at 5:30pm. The first thing you might notice is...no motorcycles. We awoke this morning to completely crappy weather predictions. Cold. Rain. The radar concurs. We waited until the last moment hoping for a weather reprieve but it didn't happen. This will be a Suburban trip.

When the subject of supper was brought up Donna mentioned the Huddle House in Austin. We've ate there a couple times before, so it was our first stop. I'm sad to report the food wasn't up to its normal standards. John's and my baked potatoes were undercooked. Debby's meat was dry and tough. This Huddle House might have found its way off our list.

As we motored south John & Debby decided to program our hotel into their navigation. Whenever they tried to enter Springfield, Ky the navigation didn't recognize the town. No problem. They'll call OnStar and have them download the directions. They tried calling OnStar several times but it just rang and rang.

They called OnStar's phone number and spoke to a representative. She said to call the emergency number if they were unable to get through on the normal channel. After several more failed attempts they pushed the emergency button. Same issue. It just rang and rang. Apparently OnStar is having some sort of problem. Oh well, we've been this way a few times. We can figure it out.

Most of the trip from Louisville to Bardstown is a little blurry to me. Donna's prediction that supper would make me sleepy was correct. At Bardstown near Walmart we came to the US150 intersection. John asked if we turned left here and I confirmed it. Off we went towards Springfield.

Fifteen minutes later or so I fired up the GPS on my phone to see how much further we had to go. Hmmmmm...that's odd. My phone shows us heading northward towards Louisville. Is my phone confused? About that time John asked "Are we headed to Louisville?" Apparently we were. We pulled over in a church parking lot to check things out. Yes, we had went the wrong way. Confusing.

We turned around and headed the twelve miles back to Bardstown. When we got back to the intersection with US150 we saw the error of our ways. This was not the intersection by Walmart on the south side of Bardstown. This was a different mall on the north side of Bardstown. So much for navigating in the dark. Now we were back on track. I might have napped again on the way to Springfield.

We arrived at the Springfield Inn without any further incidents. It sprinkly rained on us a couple times so the Suburban was already paying off. We checked in, settled in for about half an hour, then met downstairs to smoke and plan the next day. Here is a map of the nine distilleries:

We decided to start at the Town Branch distillery in Lexington since it was new to us. We would take the tour. Then we would go to the other area distilleries and just stamp the tour passport. Time would decide how many places we visit.

159 miles.

October 2

We met this morning at 9am for breakfast in the hotel. I've gotten used to Holiday Inn breakfasts this summer and by comparison this place was a little sparse. Cold cereal, bagels, pastries. That's about it. I had a bagel. We all complained about the beds. Thin covers, saggy mattresses, small pillows with no support. This didn't help my insomnia and I was awake until ~6am this morning.

The weather today is cold and rainy. Advantage Suburban. After breakfast John called OnStar and they did a test of his system. Everything checked out. John called OnStar and it connected. They gave us the directions for the Town Branch distillery in Lexington.

An hour later we arrived at the distillery. It was in the same area as the RJ Corman railroad depot Donna and I saw in the fall of 2013.

Town Branch is a small and relatively new distillery. They've only been producing bourbon for several years. Business is good, though, and they are expanding the distillery. The tour was shortened due to the construction. After the tour is the tasting. I gave mine to Donna.

We stopped at a convenience store for pops after leaving Town Branch. Donna needed something to wash down the taste after having two helpings of bourbon.

Our next stop was Woodford Reserve. The navigation led us down I-64 then through the country. The entrance it told us to turn on ended up being a service road so we backtracked and took the main entrance. Sometimes it's interesting where the GPS takes you.

The distillery was very crowded. Surprising for a Friday we thought. We used the restrooms, stamped our passports, and left.

Next we took off through the country to our next distillery...Wild Turkey. We were surprised to find they have built a new visitor's center. We walked through cold sprinkles to the center. Donna checked out the shirts. We found one for her daughter Shanon but they didn't have her size. We stamped our books and left.

The route to the Four Roses Distillery took us through Lawrenceburg. There was a Norfolk Southern locomotive sitting on a spur. I wasn't sure what the railroad situation was in this area. The line to Versailles was cut when the huge railroad bridge by the Wild Turkey Distillery was abandoned in the 1980's.

When we arrived at Four Roses we were again surprised to find they had also built a new visitor's center. We bought some shirts and stamped our passports. It took a long time to pay for our stuff. They only had one cashier and he was moving pretty slow.

We stood in the parking lot and pondered our next move. We had completed the four distilleries we had planned to do and it was only ~2pm. We had plenty of time to hit some more. On to Heaven Hill!

As we headed back to the main road there were lights flashing at a railroad crossing. Yes...train! A Norfolk Southern autorack train went flying by. I would look later and see that this is a Norfolk Southern main line between Louisville and Somerset and points south. The old line to Versailles tees into it in Lawrenceburg.

It was raining again when we arrived at Heaven Hill. We made a loop of the merchandise then got our passports stamped. We noticed they didn't have as much merchandise as they used to. We headed down KY-49 to our next destination. Maker's Mark.

We've been to Maker's Mark a few times before. We were surprised when the signage didn't match the road we thought we should turn on. Guess what? Maker's Mark has a new, two-lane road to the new visitor's center. The new visitor's center and parking lot are on a hill overlooking the distillery. They were setting up a tent in the parking lot for some type of function. It was drizzly.

We went to the new visitor's center and stamped our passports. They said they had only opened this building 11 weeks ago. We walked down the hill, across the old bridge we associate with Maker's Mark, then to the store. We browsed the store but everything was soooo expensive.

When we left the store we were fortunate and the shuttle was coming by, so we took it. No walking back up the hill in the drizzle.

It had been a good day. We had gotten six stamps! Only three more to go. Tomorrow can be an easy day.

We've definitely noticed a change in the distilleries. When we did the tour years ago Woodford Reserve was the only one who charged for their tour. Now they all do. A few of the distilleries have been purchased by foreign interests and you can tell emphasis has been placed on commericalism. In the past the distilleries presented a homier, historical, friendly feel.

Reminiscing not withstanding, we still have another mission for today. Mordecais! Our mouths have been watering for weeks thinking about the great home cooked food there. Mmmmmmmmm...prime rib. Back to Springfield we go! The navigation took us back through Loretto.

When we got to downtown Springfield we were slightly thwarted by parking barriers. It looked like they were going to have a festival or something. Too bad the weather sucked. We eventually found a public parking lot close by after scoping out the area for awhile.

The restaurant wasn't busy at all when we got there around 4:30. We all got the buffet and chowed down. Man it was good. Prime rib. Fish. Frog legs. Ribs. Too many sides to mention. It was all good. Dreams are made of Mordecais.

They have an attached banquet room and people kept going in there. Eventually we found out what the street blockage was about. They were having a BBQ contest sponsored by Jim Beam. The contestants had assembled in the banquet room where they were greeted and the guidelines were discussed.

We spent the rest of the evening lounging at the hotel. We sat in the dining area for awhile and watched TV. We discussed the plans for tomorrow. We'll meet here at 8:30am.

177 miles.

October 3

After another poor night's sleep we met in the dining area for breakfast. John had parked out back so it was a short trip to load up our stuff. I had a toasted bagel today smothered with butter and jelly. Debby tried some bisquits & gravy but it went into the trash.

The new visitor's center in the background.

The weather today was worse than yesterday. Rainy and even colder...46*. Brrrrrrr. When arrived at Jim Beam they too had changed their facilities. Their main tour was full so we took the rickhouse tour. It was cheaper.

We ended up being the only four people on the tour which was nice. Our guide, Shelby, is a direct decendent of the Beams. She was fun. At the end of the tour comes the sampling. I normally don't have any but today I did try their apple and maple flavored whiskeys. You could taste the apple and maple but it still tasted like jet fuel.

The final two distilleries of the tour are in the Louisville area. A course was plotted for the Bulliett distillery.

The Bulliett distillery is located on the southwest side of Louisville. I'm glad the navigation led us to it. There was quite a bit of railroad trackage around the distillery but I didn't see any trains. The gate guard chatted with us for awhile. He has worked there for 45 years.

Bulliett is a relatively new facility located on the grounds of an old distillery so there is a combination of new and old. Our tour guide gave a great tour. I liked the old smoke stack. It reminds me of the one at Rose-Hulman where I went to college.

I took a picture of this coach for Mike & Jerri.

I did not partake of the whiskey sampling but the other three agreed this was probably the worst bourbon they had drank.

On the way to the last distillery we stopped at McDonalds for lunch. The others needed something to get the Bulliett bourbon taste out of their mouths. My bagel had worn off a while ago and I was ready for lunch.

I got to see a short train moving about.

The Evan Williams distillery is in downtown Louisville. Just another business on a block. We found a parking lot on the other side of the block. The wind whipping through the city was cold.

We got our last stamp and had about a forty minute wait for the tour. The clerk said if we wanted we could walk down to the Louisville visitor center and get our shirts, so we did. It was only about four blocks away. When we got there, however, they only had the Kentucky Bourbon Trail shirts in 3XXX and small. That won't work for us. So, we walked back to the distillery empty handed.

This distillery is very low volume. Heaven Hill makes most of their bourbon. This place is mostly about the tour.

Back at the Potter's. John's brother Mike is here.

We had completed our mission of visiting all nine distilleries and our passports were full. Soon we were headed back to Indiana. I remember crossing the Ohio River. I remember turning off I-65. I remember going through Brownstown. The rest I slept so the trip home took almost no time.

Donna and Buford reunited.

It was a fun trip. The weather sucked but there are worse things than riding around in a comfortable Suburban. We've completed our second bourbon tour and are awaiting our shirts.

At only 140 miles away there might be more trips to Mordecais.

The Springfield Inn was a little run down this time. Hopefully some improvements are made.

It was nice revisiting the distilleries although the commercialism takes away from the experience some.

The Huddle House needs a new cook.

143 miles.

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