What bourbon can you buy on a Mint Julep Tours distillery visit that you won’t find anywhere else?
While you’re unlikely to see hard to find bourbon Pappy Van Winkle sitting on the shelf at Buffalo Trace, there are plenty of great ways to grab a special bottle to impress your friends.
Distilleries frequently offer rare bourbons for purchase in their gift shops. Sometimes, whiskeys or bourbons are only available for a limited time or solely at the distillery. So how do you find the best rare bourbon to bring home?
On a recent visit to Four Roses Distillery, a simple inquiry at the gift shop lead to a guest taking home a unique single barrel selection that was one of less than 60 bottles. Our guides have also spotted limited edition Wild Turkey Master’s Keep bourbon on the shelves in Wild Turkey’s shop – where Kentucky legend and master distiller Jimmy Russell is often on hand to sign the bottle before you go. Talk about a rare opportunity! Just this week, Woodford Reserve announced a blended rye which is only available at their distillery until June (if you are lucky enough to find it in a Kentucky liquor store!).
Even in Louisville city limits, you’ll find rare spirits unavailable anywhere else. At Copper & Kings, for example, you may find a beer barrel-aged brandy expression from their CR&FTWERK series or an experimental absinthe or gin. Over at Jim Beam’s American Stillhouse, they’re selling a new vanilla-infused expression before it hits national distribution later this year.
Want to expand your bourbon search?
Mint Julep Tours guides and drivers can also steer you toward the most helpful liquor stores in Louisville. You can also try calling a distributor in your state to see when that rare bourbon you want may hit the shelf. They may not hold if for you, but some will tell you when to show up for your best shot.
Celebrate Brown Friday with a Mint Julep Tours Gift Certificate!
We’re putting our own bourbon spin on Black Friday with a special Brown Friday deal! On November 25th, with every Mint Julep Tours Gift Certificate purchased, we’re giving an extra 10% towards the value of your purchase! There are no promotional codes or coupons, once purchased we will update your gift certificate with an additional 10%.
Mint Julep Tours Gift certificates are ideal for the holidays, birthdays, or any special occasion. They can be purchased in any amount and are good towards Public Bourbon Tours, Exclusive Experiences, or any Custom Tour you can dream up!
You can purchase Gift Certificates online by clicking below!
Scroll down for more information on our different tour types:
Public Bourbon Distillery Tours
Learn the art, history, and craftsmanship of “America’s Native Spirit” as you travel through Bourbon Country visiting two historic bourbon distilleries for guided tours and tastings with a third stop for a tasting only! We’ll also stop for a local lunch along the way. Tour departure times vary, prices ranges from $119 – $139 per person. Click below for more information. Public Bourbon Tours
Custom Tours Whether it’s a Corporate Outing, Bachelor/Bachelorette Party, Special Occasion, or VIP Transportation; you’ll work one-on-one with one of our Bourbon Country Tour Experts who will help you create a personalized itinerary that allows you to depart and travel privately with your guests. Mint Julep Tours enriches the experience with knowledgeable drivers, enthusiastic guides, and clean and comfortable vehicles. Click below for more information. The Fun Starts Here!
Exclusive Experiences Mint Julep offers some incredible Exclusive Experiences that you won’t find anywhere else! Whether it’s the Heaven & Evan Tour where guests receive tastings with Master Distiller’s as they pull straight from the barrel. If culinary is your passion, then Secrets of Bluegrass Chefs is a must. This exciting opportunity let’s you be a part of the live studio audience for the taping of WAVE 3’s “Secrets of Bluegrass Chefs.” Click below for more information on these experiences and more! Exclusive Experiences
Give the gift of a Mint Julep Tour! Whether you’re traveling with us through Bourbon Country, or joining us for an Exclusive Experience; each tour we offer is created by our inspiration and commitment to sharing Kentucky traditions. We have a love and passion for Kentucky that we are excited to share!
The Perfect Kentucky Bourbon Trail Music Playlist for Fall
You’ve been planning this bourbon adventure for over seven months and the day has finally arrived. When the local TV weather gurus cheerfully share the picturesque forecast for the day, they seem to be talking directly to you. The cooler is packed and you’ve picked the right attire for a full day in Bourbon Country. You have maps, snacks, and blank Kentucky Bourbon Trail passports ready for their first stamp. All your bases are covered. But do you have the perfect Fall Bourbon Trail Playlist?
Do not make the rookie mistake of forgetting the tunes! On an average day visit to Kentucky distilleries (or horse farms, for that matter) your ride might cover over 225 miles of Kentucky highways, byways and backroads all during the course of an 11 hour stretch. In order to avoid those sleepy lulls between stops, you’ll need great music. Just like bourbon needs ice and Honest Abe needed Mary Todd, any good road trip needs a quality playlist!
But you must come prepared. Trust us, playing DJ on the fly is the most thankless and unappreciated gig in the tour business. Many Mint Julep Tours guides and drivers have heard the unrelenting chorus of boos when a wayward song flops with the audience on the bus. Allow us to make things a little bit easier for you with the 10 best songs for your Bourbon Trail road trip. Taking a bit from every beloved Kentucky genre, there should be a little something for everyone in this epic set of songs:
Take Me Back to Kentucky – Mickey Clark & The Blue Norther
A strong candidate for a modern day successor to our beloved state song “My Old Kentucky Home.” Sorry, ole Stephen Foster. This tune showcases everything there is to love about our state in 3 minutes and 12 seconds. Mickey Clark and his crew provide a little fiddle and a little get up and go while helping you out with the correct pronunciation of a few local towns you’ll be visiting like Versailles and Paris.
The perfect track to have on tap as you shift into drive and start motoring down I-65 South or I-64 East to your first stop. This song might have been written for the sole purpose of getting people excited to sample bourbon. S.O.B. comes complete with a chorus that will make you double check the odometer. Just remember, it is considered bad form to pull into the Jim Beam Distillery at 80 miles per hours.
A recent cut from the modern master of twang, Steve Earle’s lonesome song about a solo, late night drive will help those miles go by a little faster. Perfect for soaking up the scenery as you stare out your bourbon bus window.
No bourbon trail playlist is complete without at least a little bit of over-the-top music coming straight from 1984. If so inspired, feel free to re-enact the scene in which an angry Kevin Bacon plays a high-stakes game of chicken with tractors in the movie Footloose. We guarantee everyone will be shouting along at top volume by the end of the song.
We may have tragically lost the Thin White Duke earlier this year, but it turns out that a large number of his songs are perfect for back road adventures. Take this little known mashup of “Rebel Rebel” and “Never Get Old.” You’ll be tapping your fingers immediately after hearing that recognizable, iconic guitar riff. The song is almost perfectly crafted for driving west on US-60 through Shelby and Franklin Counties. Could Bowie have taken secret trips to Kentucky to seek inspiration for his legendary catalog? Anything is possible…
Raise a glass to toast the ladies of the Bluegrass! Sure, the 75-year old Diamond is about as Kentucky as the Statue of Liberty, but the man sure does sing a heartfelt ballad about the girls that shine with their own kind of light. Besides, how many states can you name that have number one singles written about their beloved belles? That’s what we thought. (If you need to pinch hit with a more rockin’ version, we also recommend the Deep Purple rendition of this song).
Eastbound and Down sits high on the list of greatest country road trip songs ever written. Read’s banjo is as relentless as his harmonies. Conveniently, the title provides loose directions for those who have gotten lost on the way to Maker’s Mark from Louisville. As a bonus, this song served as the theme from “Smokey and The Bandit”, so you and your crew can take turns pretending to be Burt Reynolds, Sally Field and Jackie Gleason.
You didn’t think there would be an entire list of music designed for driving through the Bluegrass without a full-fledged Bluegrass song, did you? This North Carolina-based band takes this cover of The Boss’ legendary song to a whole new level. The tune invokes images of every knob and holler in the region. This one is perfect for those pensive, reflective moments when you’re trying to decide on your favorite bourbon sample of the day.
Since we can’t seem to go an hour in any bar recently without hearing this great tune, we’ll bet a bucket of burgoo that at least one person on your bus knows every word to this song. And enthusiastically volunteers to sing it. Loudly. Enjoy this one while trekking down the winding road through Marion County as you seek out Bathtub Marys along the road side.
All the Whiskey in Kentucky – Johnny Berry and the Outliers
The perfect song for the day’s end. Like any great country song, Berry covers love, loss and whiskey. As a bonus, this song name checks a number of bourbon brands ranging from Heaven Hill to Old Forrester to Wild Turkey. In other words, after a day in Bourbon Country, it may be the most relatable song out there!
Did we miss a song? Let us know what’s on your Bourbon Trail Playlist on Twitter or Facebook. Allow us to plan your next Bourbon Adventure tour! Mint Julep Tours is the only dedicated tour company focused on The Kentucky Bourbon Trail®. Based in Louisville, Kentucky we offer Custom and Public Bourbon Distillery Tours as well as unique Exclusive Experiences, Horse Farm Tours, Culinary Tours, and Louisville City Tours. As a truly one-of-a-kind tour and destination management company, Mint Julep Tours also offers transportation and event planning services with a focus on Special Events, Corporate Outings and Bachelor/Bachelorette Parties.
Specialty horse and bourbon-related gifts are available at the Mint Julep Tours retail store inside the Galt House on the third floor of the Rivue Tower at 140 North 4th Street Suite 326, Louisville, KY 40202. 502-583-1433 Ext. 106.
Written by Phil Kollin – Mint Julep Tours Driver & Guide
Bourbon’s Best Ambassador – Wild Turkey’s Jimmy Russell
On a recent sunny afternoon at the Wild Turkey Visitor’s center, a guest and bourbon enthusiast was idly browsing the gift shop when he suddenly spotted Jimmy Russell. One of bourbon’s most recognizable faces was quietly perched in his usual spot – a tall stool right next to the far window. The excited guest dashed as fast as he could over to the stool in hopes of getting a photo, signature on a bottle or maybe an opportunity to chat with what passes as the equivalent of Kentucky bourbon royalty. As he approached Jimmy with an outstretched hand he said, “Mr. Russell, I don’t know whether to congratulate you on your recent milestone at Wild Turkey or your induction into the Hall of Fame!”
Jimmy flashed his wide signature grin and warmly replied “Thanks” with the slight southern drawl that comes from spending a lifetime in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. In that moment, Jimmy looked slightly bemused at the attention and, frankly, a little humbled. After all, in the remarkable 62 years since he first walked through the door at Ripy Brothers distillery (the Wild Turkey name would come later), he has likely seen it all, done most of it and won nearly every accolade that the industry has to offer. In fact, when he was honored with the Parker Beam Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame on September 14th, it was actually his second time as an inductee. The first came as a charter member of the Hall of Fame fifteen years ago. After all, there are Master Distillers, then there are Bourbon Legends, and then there is Jimmy Russell.
Celebrating “The Buddha of Bourbon”
As guests approach the Wild Turkey Distillery, they are treated to an amazing view of the Kentucky River, the distillery and warehouses atop a nearby hill, and a giant billboard installed in 2014 that invites you to “See the House that Jimmy Built.” The bourbon community is notorious for embellishing already tall tales and manufacturing over-the-top lore around historical figures such as Elijah Craig, George Remus and Cassius Clay (not thatCassius Clay). But all would agree that, in this case, it’s not overstating things to say that Jimmy Russell is largely responsible for the success of the Wild Turkey brand today.
On September 9th, 1954, Jimmy walked in the front door of the Ripy Brothers distillery and started as a quality control employee. Jimmy was looking to join the family trade by signing on to one of the four area bourbon distilleries in Lawrenceburg – Ripy Brothers, Old Joe, Old Prentice (today known as Four Roses), and Hoffman Distillery. Under Jimmy’s watchful eye as Master Distiller, a title he’s carried since the late 1960’s, Wild Turkey has grown from filling less than 80 bourbon barrels a day to nearly 600. Today there are over 600,000 barrels aging in over two dozen warehouses across the distillery grounds on the eastern edge of Anderson County. The brand’s line up has expanded from the ever faithful Wild Turkey 101, the only product offered up until the mid-1980’s, to nearly a dozen brands today.
A Wild Turkey by any other name…
Jimmy has seen four different ownership groups come and go. In this latest era of Wild Turkey, much of the growth has been facilitated by Campari Groups who purchased the distillery from Pernod Riccard in 2009. From the distillery building to the bottling room, staff is working overtime to keep pace with international demand for Wild Turkey in places like Japan and Australia. But Jimmy will be the first one to tell you that as much as things have changed at Wild Turkey, a great deal has stayed the exact same. For example, the staff beams with pride when talking about how the exact same yeast strain has been used for their bourbons for over 60 years. Wild Turkey also shuns GMO grains for traditionally grown corn and rye. There is no more precious word to the seasoned Master Distiller than “consistency”.
These days, Jimmy Russell has a little family help in distilling. His son Eddie Russell works closely with his father as Co-Master Distiller, a role to which he was promoted in 2015. As a boy who once grew up using the giant warehouses as his own personal playground, Eddie started at the distillery in 1981 by mowing lawns. The younger Russell, who likes to joke that he started practically yesterday, has been working at the distillery a mere 35 years. Eddie was honored in June for his service with a tool any distillery worker would drool over – a brand new copper whiskey thief from Vendome Copper and Brass Works. While the duo may not be the only active father/son combo in the bourbon industry, their nearly 100 years of combined experience under their collective belts makes them the most tenured.
Aging to perfection and showing no signs of slowing down
Two years ago, the marketing folks at Wild Turkey decided to declare 2014 “The Year of Jimmy Russell.” A special Diamond Anniversary Bourbon with a high price tag was issued to commemorate this special milestone. But don’t mistake the celebration for a public ease into retirement. At nearly 82 years old, Jimmy still prefers to work six to seven days a week. As he’s fond of saying when asked, “I tell people when it becomes a job, I’ll retire.” It’s hard to miss Jimmy’s image today; his face is plastered on just about everything related to Wild Turkey except the label on the bottle. And, even then, the Russell name adorns their small batch collection “Russell’s Reserve.”
Back at the Wild Turkey visitor’s center, Jimmy was still in the chair hours later signing bottles with his silver Sharpie and answering questions from every angle of the Bourbon spectrum. Each question earned a thoughtful response, with Jimmy speaking slowly and deliberately. As the crowd around him grew, he poses for photo after photos. Three guests huddle in close and one ordered the group to, “Say Whiskey!” Jimmy Russell, flashing his big grin, says, “No, that’s Tennessee! We do bourbon around here. Say Bourbon!”
Mint Julep Tours offers an exclusive experience at the Wild Turkey Distillery as part of a Custom Tour. Guests visit a barrel warehouse where they receive a brief history and are shown the aging process, then travel to the Station Master’s House for a private tasting. Call 502-583-1433 or visit us online today to get more information on this custom tour experience.
Written by Phil Kollin – Mint Julep Tours Driver & Guide
Toasting to Bourbon Pioneer George Garvin Brown on his Birthday
You probably won’t find too many parents who settle on “Garvin” when naming their children, but that name has a long history and a deep connection with bourbon lore. If you’ve ever enjoyed a single drop of straight bourbon whiskey in your life, you likely owe a bit of gratitude to George Garvin Brown – the man who is credited with revolutionizing the way Americans bought and consumed bourbon in the 1870s.
A bourbon innovation that was clear as glass.
George Garvin Brown celebrated a milestone birthday this past Friday – The big 170. Born in 1846, he was contemporaries with other notable historic figures born that year such as Buffalo Bill Cody, George Westinghouse and, ironically, radical temperance movement champion Carrie Nation. Of course, Brown is long gone, but whiskey aficionados celebrate his birthday every year. Before Brown came along, distillers sold their whiskey exclusively by the barrel. And since most weren’t keen on the idea of buying upwards of 40 gallons of alcohol at once, many consumers brought their own jugs from home to fill directly from retailer’s barrels. In order to extend supply, less-than-scrupulous saloons and bars were known to add everything from prune juice to tobacco spit to rattlesnake heads to help fill up the jugs. “Rectifying” barrels in this manner was a common practice that allowed retailers to achieve the ideal coloring and consistency without the cost of adding more bourbon.
At the time, George Garvin Brown was a young Louisville-based pharmaceutical salesman. Glass bottles for packaging were a recent innovation and Brown saw potential for whiskey to be sold in pharmacies across the nation next to other medicines. George had a novel idea. A forward thinking idea that would turn the world of whiskey on its head: Put bourbon exclusively into glass bottles. Sealed bottles would assure quality and, 35 years before Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle”, it was among the first steps in making sure consumers knew exactly what they were taking home. With this innovation, Old Forester bourbon was born, and an iconic brand was launched.
The beginnings of the Louisville based distillery that’s still growing today
Soon after Brown’s innovation, he partnered with another George – his accountant George Forman – and established “Brown-Forman and Company” in 1870, just five years before the first running of The Kentucky Derby. Fast forward 146 years to today and Brown’s company is among the largest American-owned spirits and wine companies in the world- an incredibly impressive feat since the list of failed Kentucky bourbon distilleries over that time period reads like a laundry list of long lost whiskey brands.
Fred Noe, Master Distiller of Jim Beam Brands, likes to joke that Kentucky is the land of four million people and ten last names. So it comes as no surprise that today you’ll find Brown’s descendants everywhere in the Bluegrass. Louisville’s Frazier History Museum was founded by Owsley Brown Frazier in 2004. And, just two blocks down Main Street, you’ll find the 21c Museum Hotel which is co-owned by Laura Lee Brown. In fact, the current Chairman of the Board of Directors at Brown-Forman is none other than George Garvin Brown IV – George’s great-great grandson.
Break out the cake, candles and rock glasses!
We celebrate Brown’s birthday in September pretty much the same way we celebrate a lot of things in Kentucky: with bourbon. For the last 15 years, Brown-Forman has released a beloved special edition of their flagship brand known as “Old Forester Birthday Bourbon.” The oddly shaped bottle has become a “must have” for whiskey lovers who sample, collect, and trade limited edition releases. Each batch is different, each year brings a unique offering, and each release has earned a reputation as being among the most elusive whiskey for those seeking to find it on liquor store shelves.
This year’s Old Forester Birthday Bourbon release was patiently aged for 12 years (three times as long as the standard Old Forester product) entirely on the 5th floor of a single warehouse. These barrels were filled and then placed near the windows of the warehouse allowing them to soak up the heat of the sun. Master Distiller Chris Morris expects roughly 14,500 bottles to be released. While this year’s release is a smidge larger than years past, The Old Forester Birthday Bourbon is relatively miniscule. It takes timing and luck to stumble across a bottle. Considering most of us are lucky to end up with a cupcake and an off-key serenading of “Happy Birthday”, that is one great way to celebrate a man’s birthday.
And, beyond limited bourbon releases, Brown-Forman continues to grow. Projected to open in late 2017 will be the newest edition to The Kentucky Bourbon Trail: A $45 million Old Forester Distillery located right on Louisville’s historic Whiskey Row steps from where George Garvin Brown began the company. And Brown-Forman, makers of Woodford Reserve, Jack Daniels, Early Times and several other liquor brands, is already planning a celebration for their 150th anniversary in 2020. Now, that looks to be a party that George Garvin Brown would approve of.
So, next time you find yourself near a glass of bourbon, raise it high for a well-deserved toast to the man who had the wherewithal to put all that pure bourbon into a convenient, glass bottle. And we also ask you to consider extending some overdue thanks by considering naming your next offspring “Garvin.” Cheers to George Garvin Brown!
Mint Julep Tours can arrange visits to Brown-Forman’s Woodford Reserve Distillery or Brown-Forman’s cooperage as part of any custom tour. Call 502-583-1433 or visit us online today to begin planning your adventure!