One recent Saturday afternoon, Mike and I were looking for something to do that didn’t involve baking in the ridiculously high temperatures. Always eager to blow off chores for something more fun on a Saturday, we decided to flee the coup and take the picturesque, winding country roads of our very own small town in Woodford County, Kentucky to one of the most beautiful and oldest distilleries in the state. Woodford Reserve Distillery is nestled among the rolling hills of historic thoroughbred horse farms, and the drive itself is awe-inspiring. You might even spot the Instagram-worthy, heart-shaped tree stump along the route.
I was born and raised in bourbon country. Actually, I was raised in Bourbon County, which is not named for the alcohol, believe it or not. I was fortunate to grow up amid a rich tapestry of thoroughbred horse racing, bourbon distilleries, and college basketball (University of Kentucky Wildcats). However, because I grew up here, I haven’t always been quick to see the tourist side of Kentucky. I’m trying to change that. And Mike and I would like to take you along for the ride, starting with a picturesque bourbon distillery located just a few miles from where we live.
Woodford Reserve Visitors’ Center (and Gift Shop)
Immediately upon arriving at the visitors’ center, you get a sense of just how important of a brand Woodford Reserve really is in the bourbon industry. From the rich array of bottles of bourbon and photographs of the distillery that are displayed throughout the center to the southern hospitality shown to each and every guest, you know you are in for a memorable, hour-long journey and storytelling of the making of Woodford Reserve Bourbon.
And who doesn’t like a good story well-told?
Don’t forget to browse the small gift shop before or after your tour for gifts. Some of the Master’s Collections of bourbon can only be found in stock at the distillery.
The tour is an educational look into the history of bourbon and into the bourbon-making processes that allows Woodford Reserve to create their own unique colors and flavors of bourbon. And let me tell you: every distillery has their own secrets of special touches into what makes their bourbon unique. If you pay close attention during each tour, you will notice the subtle, and sometimes the not-so-subtle, differences that sets each bourbon apart from its competition.
The Iconic Copper Pots
One distinguishing feature of Woodford Reserve is that they are the only distillery to use three copper pots in the making of their bourbons.
The Bourbon is Aged in New Charred Oak Barrels
The aging process is unique to all bourbons. And Woodford Reserve has its own aging process and time for each type of bourbon the distillery produces.
When you enter the storehouse where barrel after barrel is stored and aged for (at least four) years, you are bathed in aromas of bold grains, charred wood of the barrels the bourbon rests in, and the rich, complex flavors that come from many spices, fruits, and floral notes, including citrus, cinnamon, cocoa, toffee, caramel, and chocolate, just to name a few.
At the end of the tour, you are given a sampling of the Distiller’s Select and the Double Oaked brands of bourbon, as well as a lovely, chocolaty and creamy Rebecca Ruth Bourbon Ball made with Woodford Reserve bourbon. Sipping the bourbon while enjoying the bourbon ball will have you gifting your entire family a box of chocolates and a bottle of bourbon for their next birthday celebration. And they will love you for it.
By the end of the tour experience, you’ll come to realize how Woodford Reserve developed into a tour de force in the bourbon industry in just a few short years. And why it’s a prominent stop along the famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
One final note: If you time your tour right, you can stop in at the café for lunch, or head up the street to The Stave, a recently opened Millville restaurant located just two miles north of the distillery on McCracken Pike. The Stave serves a menu of traditional Kentucky food with a twist.
Be sure to check the website for special add-ons and other can’t miss tours and events.
Have you ever been to a bourbon or whisky distillery? We’d love to hear your experiences.