You’ve been looking forward to this day for weeks. You are packed, planned and now you and your crew are all set for a day crisscrossing Kentucky. You’ve got the optimal route memorized to visit your favorite bourbon distilleries. You’ve already secured a handful of blank Kentucky Bourbon Trail ® Passports awaiting stamps. Your ride is loaded with everything you need from car snacks to phone chargers to barrel stave sunglasses.
Missing something? Ah, you’ve forgotten a magical mix of music to tackle the open road. Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. This small-batch handcrafted bourbon playlist was road tested over many hours in various Mint Julep Experience’s buses. We recommend the following eight songs to get your through those long hauls between distilleries and other stops. Play ‘em in order and play ‘em loud!
The Perfect Bourbon Playlist
Drivin’ My Life Away – Eddie Rabbit
Some of the most scenic (and most visited) spots in the state are tucked away just outside of small towns and far from the interstate. It’s tough to top this 1977 song for cruising down Kentucky’s gorgeous highways and byways. Eddie Rabbit’s toe-thumping track and easy melodies help put the initial miles of the day in your rear view mirror. An ideal song for cruising down the two-lane country roads and getting your journey off to a great start. Fair warning, make sure that you keep one eye on the odometer while driving your life away. The Kentucky State Police is famous for taking those posted speed limits seriously.
Highway Tune – Greta Van Fleet
Michigan’s Greta Van Fleet has managed to successfully resurrect the classic rock and roll vocals and screaming guitars of the past with a modern update for 2018. This audio gem doubles as a lost Led Zeppelin track from a parallel universe. If Louisville’s Copper and Kings brand distillery can barrage their barrels with music to assist in the aging process, we suggest doing the same on a larger scale. Simply roll down the window as you pass those behemoth bourbon aging warehouse. With new warehouses holding as many as 58,800 barrels, they could benefit from a little audio stimulation. Besides, haven’t you been curious to find out exactly how loud the car speakers can be cranked?
The Streetbeater – Quincy Jones
More commonly known as the theme song to the TV show “Sanford and Son”, this funky instrumental fits in perfectly right after your first distillery visit, tour and trip to the tasting room. Arguably, this instrumental is Jones’ most jubilant and catchy composition from a catalog that spans decades. (Soul Bosa Nova is a close second.) The full version is worth many repeated listens. If you’ve only ever heard the first thirty seconds, you’ve been missing out. As a bonus, this song is also just right for the legendary air harmonica superstar hiding in all of us.
One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer- George Thorogood
If it were up to us, this song would be called “One Bourbon, Another Bourbon and Yet Another Bourbon”, but you can’t win them all. This track clocks in at a robust eight and half minutes. Which conveniently covers the exact time it takes to trek the nine miles across Anderson County from the Four Roses Distillery to the Wild Turkey Distillery. Along with the endless bluesy riff, Thorogood weaves a fun tale of hard luck from the very first line: “Want to tell you a story about the house-man blues” and away we go. While George Thorogood didn’t actually write this song, his last name is so similar to our beloved state horse, we’ll let it go.
Cumberland Gap – David Rawlings
True, most of The Kentucky Bourbon Trail ® doesn’t lie all that close to the Cumberland Gap. But the gap is the very spot where all of this began. Decades before Kentucky earned statehood in 1792, frontiersman like Daniel Boone used the Cumberland Gap to forge through the Wilderness Road. Pioneers crossed over from Virginia and Tennessee. Often bringing homemade whiskey pot stills and distilling skills with them. And now we have a fitting song to honor the place where bourbon can claim some of its deepest roots. With a soulful voice that evokes a modern-day Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young vibe along you’d never Rawlings was from Rhode Island instead of Bardstown, Kentucky.
In God’s Country – The Infamous String Dusters
If U2 hailed from the hills of Kentucky rather than the Emerald Isle of Ireland, this is most certainly what Bono and the boys would sound like. Crank this song for visits to any distillery located amid those stunning horse farms like Woodford Reserve. With an estimated 17,500 thoroughbreds born in the state each year, you’re likely to see a young foal idly watching the world go by near the four board fences. Besides, what would a drive through the Bluegrass be without a little bit of Bluegrass? To dig deeper into banjos and mandolins, we recommend Alison Krauss & Union Station, Trampled By Turtles, Ricky Scaggs, and Nickel Creek.
Up All Night- Beck
It has been nearly 25 years since Beck released his first album and he still knows how to keep party going. In 2014, Beck headlined as the final act at Forecastle, Louisville’s signature summer music festival, and locals still talk about his astounding performance. If you’re feeling the afternoon lull following a lunch of Hot Browns, Burgoo and Ale-8-One, this is the song to toss on in order to catch a second wind. The colorful video also features a stunning silver chrome Corvette which is the official sports car of Kentucky. Why? Because every Chevy Corvette that has rolled off the assembly line since 1981 has been made in Bowling Green, KY.
Apache – The SugarHill Gang
First, let’s face facts. This song is completely ridiculous. But in the name of Colonel’s Sander’s goateed ghost, is it fun! Three rappers, best known for the iconic “Rapper’s Delight”, take on the confusing personalities of Tonto, Kemosabe and Custer while busting rhymes while a chorus repeatedly invites you to jump on it. Always popular with the bourbon bachelor party crowd, this is the signature song on which to end your day. Loaded with new found bourbon wisdom and a refined whiskey pallet, celebrate by wiggling in your seat. You can even do the Will and Carlton dance if the situation calls for it. You’ve done it! You’ve conquered Kentucky’s bourbon country. The Sugharhill Gang would be so proud.
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About the Author – Phil Kollin
Phil Kollin has been a Tour Guide & Host for Mint Julep Tours since 2015. He has hosted over 500 groups on bourbon adventures, horse tours and other custom experiences across the state. Phil is both a Louisville Certified Tourism Ambassador and a Certified Bourbon Steward through the Stave and Thief Society. Like Daniel Boone, Phil also believes that “Heaven must be a Kentucky kind of place.” He can usually be found wandering around distilleries while wearing fun socks.