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.
Welcoming Louisville’s Angel’s Envy Distillery to The Kentucky Bourbon Trail ®
On a recent Monday afternoon, reporters, camera crews, politicians and members of Kentucky’s bourbon industry all gathered on Main Street in downtown Louisville across the street from Slugger Field to celebrate another bourbon milestone. The excitement was palpable. For many, this was the first visit to the Angel’s Envy Distillery since it had opened for operation and tours late last year. It was hard to believe that this gorgeous distillery, the result of a $27 million dollar multi-year project, was the same massive building that had housed the empty shell of The Vermont American Tool Company for decades. The big news of the day was that Angel’s Envy had officially joined The Kentucky Bourbon Trail ® becoming the 10th member distillery to join since 1999.
Mayor Greg Fischer took the podium and spoke enthusiastically of continuing to strengthen Louisville’s place as the gateway to The Kentucky Bourbon Trail ®. The distillery is the first new bourbon brand to join the program in over two years since The Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience came onboard in 2014. The announcement comes on the heels of yet another record year for attendance for distilleries. In 2016, visitors eager to take part in the modern bourbon boom logged over 1,000,000 stops at distilleries along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail ® and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour ®. With the addition of an Angel’s Envy (and the expansion of the Bourbon Trail Passports to include another page eager for a stamp) that number that is likely to increase.
The excitement for a permanent home for Angel’s Envy has been building for years. The massive facility underwent a long, enormous transformation that started with a groundbreaking by then Governor Steve Beshear in September 2013. But before that, the brand itself captured the attention of whiskey aficionados and casual sippers in 2011 when Angel’s Envy entered the market offering an intriguing industry first: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey that had been finished in port wine barrels for several weeks. The stunning glass bottle curved like a pair of angel’s wings certainly helped capture some eyeballs as well. Today the distillery offers tours, tastings, a gift shop and a chance to take home a bottle of their Angel’s Envy Bourbon, Rye (uniquely finished in rum barrels) and Cask Strength Bourbon. As an added bonus, guests can even personalize their bourbon with a date, message or name engraved on the bottle. Finally, a whiskey named after you!
A tour of Angel’s Envy takes you through a distillery that is modern, industrial and beautiful in its simplicity. Knowledgeable guides, many of whom have extensive experience with bourbon, proudly show off every step of the distilling process from the mash tanks, to the gorgeous Vendome still and the unique finishing room. Along the way, century-old walls are adorned with graphics regarding the art and science of distilling. The distillery is open for tours Wednesday through Monday from 10:00 AM (1:00 PM on Sundays) with the last tour at 4:00 PM. Note that tour groups are usually limited to a smaller size than other distilleries, so booking online in advance is requested. Like other stops on The Kentucky Bourbon Trail ®, Angel’s Envy offers their own signature experience and unique take on America’s native spirit. And, of course, each tour ends with a guided tasting on the second-floor bar area. After all, what would a bourbon tour be without a bourbon tasting? As we enter a new era for Louisville distilleries not seen in over 95 years since the days before prohibition, Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer Wes Henderson summed up his new home on Main Street best: “I think we have a special place…as one of the only full production facilities downtown. But we’re just one piece of an incredible pie.”
As one of Kentucky’s top destination management company, Mint Julep Tours can create the perfect itinerary for your bourbon Adventure. A stop to Angel’s Envy can be added to any personal custom tour Call 502-583-1433 or visit us onlinetoday to begin planning your adventure and get more information on custom experiences
Written by Phil Kollin – Mint Julep Tours Driver & Guide
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
Booking the Perfect Custom Adventure with Mint Julep Tours – We Do It All Y’all!
Recently, a guest suggested that our buses could benefit from a giant sign that reads: “We Do It All Y’All!” And while we prefer to keep our buses just the way they are, the passenger made a good point. When you spot a Mint Julep Tours bus crisscrossing the state, you may not realize that those onboard are often guests who have embarked on a made-to-order adventure. Did you know that Mint Julep Tours offers custom tours every day of the week and nearly every single day of the year? And that all of our custom tours are as unique as different batches of a tasty single-barrel bourbon? Maybe you’re interested in experiencing a bourbon tasting in the middle of a dimly-lit warehouse surrounded by thousands of barrels. Or perhaps a day that involves braving the zip lines at Louisville’s Mega Cavern and then traveling south to the Maker’s Mark distillery to tour, taste and dip a bottle in that signature red wax is more your speed. Or you might prefer an outing that combines a visit to a beautiful Kentucky thoroughbred horse farm, a leisurely upscale lunch in the town of Midway and then a stop to shop at the famed Zappos Shoe Outlet. In short, if you can imagine a specific, custom touring experience in Kentucky, Mint Julep Tours can make it happen! We are proud to be one of the top full service destination management companies in Kentucky. And the fun all begins with a phone call.
Many of the calls to Mint Julep Tours start out the same way. An excited voice on the other end of the line makes an enthusiastic yet cautious and curious declaration: “I want do the Bourbon Trail!” Each and every custom tour booking starts with a detailed conversation with one of our coordinators. Many first-time visitors to the area have endless questions based on bits of information they’ve read, a detailed inspection of our Trip Advisor reviews or second-hand stories from friends who have taken similar treks to The Kentucky Bourbon Trail ® , Horse Farms, Louisville and beyond. Our staff’s first priority is to fill in those knowledge gaps and better understand the precise type of outing our guests want to experience. From bachelor/bachelorette parties to corporate outings and everything in between, Mint Julep Tours can accommodate groups of all sizes by creating a tour with the right itinerary, length, style and tone.
One common pitfall among visitors is learning the hard way that Kentucky’s geography and state routes can be a touch confusing (just ask anyone who has attempted to travel to Loretto, KY without a quality map), and the perceived distances between major distilleries are sometimes much greater than anticipated. When you book a custom tour with Mint Julep Tours, we make sure that you don’t end up spending more time in the bus than you do at the distilleries. We also work to ensure that your planned stops are the best fit for your crew. With nearly two dozen top-notch bourbon distilleries scattered throughout the state, it can be a daunting process to choose the best options for you. Those who have a soft spot in their heart for Booker’s bourbon may be surprised to learn that the product is distilled at the Jim Beam American Stillhouse. Or maybe you want to up your dinner game and enjoy a private dinner in the Stone Room at Captain’s Quarters located smack dab on the Ohio River. We can even set up private bourbon tastings for groups ranging in size from 5 to 500! But custom tours with Mint Julep Tours are so much more than just bourbon.
Over the last eight years, our buses have logged more miles on Kentucky interstates, highways and back roads than we can count. We’ve created experiences for guests at the iconic Keeneland Racecourse just outside of Lexington, sessions at The Knob Creek Gun Range and scheduled visits to both the Independent Stave Cooperage in Lebanon, KY and the Brown-Forman Cooperage next door to the Louisville International Airport. Kentucky is home to everything from Mammoth Cave to the National Corvette Museum to Abe Lincoln’s Childhood Home – all places you can visit on a Mint Julep Tours excursion as part of a custom tour.
In 2015, Louisville was named among the “Friendliest Cities in America” by Travel + Leisure Magazine and we’ve helped guests experience that first hand. We’ve booked reservations at iconic Churchill Down’s Turf Club and set up tours at new attractions making waves like brandy distillery Copper & Kings. Mint Julep Tours can take you to the Falls of The Ohio State Park, Schimpff’s Confectionery, Bourbon Barrel Foods or we can even take you bowling at Vernon Lanes! If you want to go even further off the beaten path, we’ve set up Segway Races (complete with obstacle course, of course) and scavenger hunts that will have your group scurrying madly across town. Our staff can suggest the perfect restaurants and hotel as well as book reservations when needed. If you’re more interested in exploring some of the best Louisville has to offer, you’ll be hard pressed to find a staff that knows Derby City better.
A custom adventure with Mint Julep Tours is so much more than just bus a ride around Kentucky. Combine the strength of a custom tour with our professional, knowledgeable and award-winning Mint Julep Tours guides and drivers, and you’ve got the recipe for one amazing day…or maybe more! We may book tours, but we specialize in creating custom experiences and one-of-a-kind memories. And that’s why we believe “the purpose of fun is to have some.” Want to get started? The fun starts with a phone call to Mint Julep Tours today.
As one of Kentucky’s top destination management company, Mint Julep Tours can create an itinerary for the perfect custom. Call 502-583-1433 or visit us online today to begin planning your adventure.
Vendome Copper & Brass Works – Crafting custom copper stills for over 100 years
The smiling tour guide at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience stopped walking and gestured to a shining structure displayed prominently on the other side of the glass. “And this is our copper pot still,” she beamed proudly. “This critical component of our artisanal distillery can produce around a barrel of bourbon a day.” Her smile widened as her cheery tone took on just a hint of bragging. “And it was custom made just for us by the Vendome Company.” Similar scenes play out countless times across The Kentucky Bourbon Trail ® and beyond. One common name that you’ll find at more and more bourbon distilleries is the one that’s imprinted on the face of their stills, tanks and other distilling equipment: Louisville’s own Vendome Copper and Brass Works.
Vendome’s headquarters and manufacturing facility is a sprawling urban set up that is surprisingly easy to miss. Located just two blocks off busy Main Street and less than 300 feet from Thomas Edison’s 1866 Kentucky residence, Vendome Corp’s five buildings sit snugly between a city skate park and an imposing Ohio River Flood Wall. The manufacturer is almost always bustling with activity these days. The sound of constant hammering, pounding, and grinding of various components echoes across the street, while workers sporting shirts with the logo “The Power of Our Stills” move swiftly from one building to another. Beneath the downtown skyline, an open garage offers a sneak peek to half a dozen gorgeous, new copper stills of various sizes that are in various stages of completion. Business at Vendome is indeed good.
Building in-demand gear is nothing new to Vendome. The company was formed by W. Elmore Sherman, Sr. at the turn of the last century and has been family owned and operated for well over a hundred years. Vendome has had their share of challenges over their long history including significant downturns in whiskey production, The Great Flood of 1937, and even Prohibition. Over time and with some perseverance, the Sherman family name has become just as familiar among Bourbon aficionados as other industry lineages like the Beams, Samuels, and Boswells of the Independent Stave Company. Vendome’s prolonged success can be attributed to their craftsmanship, flexibility and service. Every single still is custom designed; no job is too big and no craft distillery’s needs are too small. Customers can even choose one of three different finishes for their still including an acid clean, satin finish or a labor-intensive high-polished mirror finish for that perfect distillery tour shine. Beyond visual appeal, copper has been the preferred metal since the time of even the earliest whiskey distillers. The copper generates a chemical reaction between the mash and the metal which pulls out unwanted sulfates and Sulfur. Today, new stills are regularly being installed at distilleries across the country. When The Old Taylor Distillery outside of Versailles, KY needed new equipment last summer as part of its ongoing complete restoration, Master Distiller Marianne Barnes commissioned Vendome. The result? A massive 24-inch copper column still coupled with a 375-gallon copper doubler. Today, far beyond The Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Vendome’s copper stills can be found in Guatemala, Canada, Ireland and even Romania. And while Vendome may be best known for their stunning stills, the company also produces stainless steel fermenters, cookers, condensers, coolers, receiving tanks and more. It could be argued that Vendome can build just about everything you might need to start a distillery except the corn, rye, barley and yeast.
Vendome’s roster of clients over the years reads like a who’s who in the world of Bourbon and American Whiskey: Michter’s, Evan Williams, Jim Beam, Angel’s Envy, Maker’s Mark, Four Roses and Buffalo Trace just to name a few. Vendome’s customers further extend beyond alcohol to pharmaceutical companies, confectionary businesses and dairy operators. Today, the waiting list for a custom still may be close to a year. All of this has made Vendome one of the most in-demand brass and copper fabrication plants in the nation.
Next time you visit a bourbon distillery, be on the lookout for Vendome’s signature plaque on new and old gear. Beyond Kentucky’s beloved limestone filtered water and the charred oak barrels, one common element that an increasing number of distilleries are sharing is custom gear from Vendome Copper and Brass Works. And, just maybe, the robust copper construction and a century of craftsmanship could make the bourbon that ends up in the bottle taste a little bit better than others.
Vendome Brass and Copper Works is located at 729 East Franklin Street Louisville, KY 40202 and currently does not offer tours to the public. A visit to the exterior building of Vendome may be requested on a personalized, custom tour with Mint Julep Tours. Many of Vendome’s stills and other equipment can been viewed at distilleries on and off The Kentucky Bourbon Trail ®. Call 502-583-1433 or visit us online for more information and to book a tour today!