Bourbon Country is the birthplace of America’s native spirit — bourbon. Bourbon Country encompasses the entire state of Kentucky, with more than 70 distilleries sprawled across the commonwealth. While one weekend in Bourbon Country may not be enough to truly appreciate the craftsmanship and heritage of the spirit, it’s a good starting point for future trips back!
Get the lay of the land, where to stay, where to eat, how far the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® reaches and how it’s best navigated. Then use our sample weekend itinerary to start planning your own weekend in Bourbon Country. We recommend you reserve your bourbon tours well in advance to ensure a premium experience.
Start in Bourbon City: Louisville
While “The Bourbon Capital of the World” designation belongs to the city of Bardstown, Louisville is an ideal place to start your weekend getaway in Kentucky’s Bourbon Country. (More about Bardstown in a bit.) Louisville has more than a dozen bourbon experiences, including 10 distilleries, and it is home to the Frazier History Museum, which is the official starting point of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail®.
Distilleries located in Bourbon City include Old Forester, Angel’s Envy, Evan Williams, Michter’s, Rabbit Hole, Peerless and several others that’ll keep your party busy with tours, visits to the gift shops, tastings and so much more. Plus, Louisville is known for its foodie scene, with dozens of restaurants that boast extensive bourbon lists and even incorporate bourbon into some of the menu items. And it’s here where you’ll find the Urban Bourbon Trail, a fun experience that involves stopping by dozens of bourbon bars and collecting stamps along the way.
Louisville’s past is tied closely with the bourbon industry, especially since the very first distillery in Kentucky was founded here in 1783 — not too far from where the current Evan Williams Bourbon Experience sits today. The city was known for its Whiskey Row area, which had hundreds of bourbon-related businesses at one point before Prohibition. And that area has been renovated today with modern bourbon experiences like the Old Forester Distillery, Hotel Distil and Doc Crow’s Bourbon Room.
Bounce into Bardstown: “The Bourbon Capital of the World”
Bardstown boasts 11 distilleries within 16 miles of the quaint, historic city center square, which is always bustling with tourists and locals alike. Bardstown is the one and only “Bourbon Capital of the World,” as you’ll see on signs around the charming town. And it has even been named “The Most Beautiful Small Town in America” by Rand McNally and USA Today.
With all the distilleries located in this one area — including Heaven Hill, Bardstown Bourbon Co., Willett, Maker’s Mark (Loretto, Ky.), James B. Beam (Clermont, Ky.) and Lux Row — you could spend an entire weekend here, which just goes to show you how vast and immersive a trip to Bourbon Country can be.
Along with the distillery experiences in Bardstown, there’s also the My Old Kentucky Home State Park, named after composer Stephen Foster’s ballad and home to a 200-year-old mansion. The Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History is located in Bardstown as well and features a 50-year collection of rare artifacts and documents from the American whiskey industry dating from pre-Colonial days to post-Prohibition years.
Where to Stay for a Weekend in Bourbon Country
If you’re staying for a long weekend in Kentucky’s Bourbon Country and you’ve chosen Louisville as the place to start, here are a few options for your stay. We’ll also give you some names of great places in other parts of the state if you want to spread the weekend getaway around.
Some of the best hotels in Louisville are located downtown, which is also where most of the bourbon distilleries and experiences are found. The Omni Louisville Hotel is a recent addition to the downtown landscape and offers an intimate and upscale experience for couples visiting Bourbon Country for the weekend. The entire hotel is bourbon-themed, and it includes restaurants and bars like Bob’s Steakhouse, Neighborhood Services and Pin & Proof.
Other larger hotels in the downtown area with similar bourbon-centered décor and themes include 21c Museum Hotel, Hotel Distil, Aloft, The Brown Hotel, The Seelbach Hotel, The Galt House Hotel, AC Louisville Downtown, Louisville Marriott Downtown, The Moxy, and the Cambria Hotel.
But if you’re wanting a quaint boutique hotel type of experience in Louisville, then you’ll want to check out The Grady Hotel and the Hancock House in downtown, the Louisville Bourbon Inn in Old Louisville (about 10 minutes from downtown), The Bellwether Hotel in the bustling Highlands neighborhood, or Chateau Bourbon B&B on the east side of the city.
If you’d like to stay in other parts of Bourbon Country, here are a few options. If you’re looking at Bardstown, check out the brand new Bardstown Motor Lodge, a boutique hotel in downtown Bardstown that is sprinkled with incredible amenities like fire pits, a swimming pool for the summer months, a poolside bar, and even a retro-styled rec room for socializing with your party and with others along the Bourbon Trail.
There are also a handful of chain hotels located in Bardstown as well as a wide array of charming B&Bs. If you’re on a couple’s weekend getaway in Bourbon Country and are in Bardstown, we recommend the unique and historic stylings of the Talbott Inn, the Bourbon Manor Bed & Breakfast Inn, the Jailer’s Inn or the Springhill Plantation B&B, to name a few.
Another hotspot lodging option near Bardstown is The Samuels House, a premium vacation lodging steeped in bourbon legacy and American history. Owned and operated by the founding family of Maker’s Mark, this house can accommodate up to eight people.
Other hotel highlights for a weekend in Bourbon Country are 21c Museum Hotel, Griffin Gate Marriott, The Campbell House and the Origin Hotel in Lexington, Hotel Covington in Northern Kentucky, and The Kentucky Castle in Versailles, Ky. And one last stay opportunity to mention: You can actually spend a few nights at a distillery at Dant Crossing, home of Log Still Distillery in Gethsemane, Ky.
Where to Eat During a Weekend in Bourbon Country
Of course quality food experiences go hand in hand with bourbon distilleries, so there is a plethora of great restaurants dotted throughout Bourbon Country. We’ll highlight some of the well-known ones, but finding a dining gem along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® isn’t hard to do.
We’ll start with Louisville and its many bourbon-themed restaurants. If it’s fine dining you’re after, you can’t go wrong at Repeal, Proof on Main, Bob’s Steakhouse, Jack Fry’s, Barn8 Restaurant or Jeff Ruby’s. And we’d be remiss not to mention Bourbons Bistro, which is one of the city’s top bourbon bars and restaurants and offers great cocktails and top-notch food.
If you’re looking for a more casual spot, you have to try the hot chicken and bourbon cocktails at Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen; the oysters and large bourbon selection at Doc Crow’s; North of Bourbon in Louisville’s Germantown neighborhood; the vast whiskey collection at the Silver Dollar, which is also known for its brunch; and the Rooftop Bar & Restaurant at Copper & Kings Distillery.
In Bardstown, the restaurants of choice range from casual, historic spots like the Old Talbott Tavern, Mammy’s Kitchen & Bar and The Grill at Maywood to contemporary places like the newly opened Toogie’s Table and The Rickhouse Restaurant & Lounge. Also worth mentioning, several of the distilleries in Bardstown offer dining experience on campus, including The Kitchen Table at the James B. Beam Distillery, The Kitchen & Bar at Bardstown Bourbon Company, The Bar at Willett, and Star Hill Provisions at Maker’s Mark.
Lexington is known for its delicious Southern cuisine as well, and some of the stars here are Carson’s, Distilled on Jefferson, Lockbox, Jeff Ruby’s, Cole’s 735 Main, Bourbon on Rye, and OBC Kitchen, among many others. And near Lexington is the Holly Hill Inn in Midway, Ky., The Stave in Frankfort, Ky., near Castle & Key and Woodford Reserve distilleries, and Ricardo’s in Versailles, Ky. The latter two are great lunch spots to pop in during your journey out on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail®.
Finally, there are some great bourbon-centered foodie spots to unearth in Northern Kentucky including Rich’s Proper Food & Drink, Goodfellas Pizzeria/Wiseguy Lounge, Chart House, The Purple Poulet, and Bouquet Restaurant.
Things to Do in Bourbon Country (Besides Sipping Bourbon)
For a long weekend getaway in Bourbon Country, it’s not uncommon to want to take a short break from all the bourbon experiences. The good news is Kentucky is chalk full of beautiful state parks, hiking trails and lakes. And in fact, one of the state’s most popular tourist attractions is Mammoth Cave National Park in the south central area of Kentucky. It is the world’s longest known cave system and offers cave tours, lodging, hiking trails, kayaking and much more.
There also is a hiking area and park directly across the street from the James B. Beam Distillery in Clermont, Ky., known as the Bernheim Arboretum & Research Forest, which encompasses more than 16,000 acres of land. More than 500,000 visitors a year stop by to connect with nature and clock those steps.
Besides bourbon, Kentucky is synonymous with two things: horses and fried chicken. And you’ll find a bounty of both scattered throughout the commonwealth. If it’s the former four-legged creatures you’re interested in, you’ll want to spend some time in Horse Country visiting one of the numerous horse farms. You can visit with future and former Kentucky Derby racehorses and even see some of the frolicking foals in the spring months.
Visit the famous Horse Racing Tracks and Musuem
And speaking of Derby, Louisville is home to Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby Museum — both great spots to visit for race lovers. And Lexington has Keeneland, which offers live horse racing during certain months.
If you’re visiting Bourbon Country during Derby Week in early May, you’ll want to book everything well in advance (we’re talking 3 to 6 months in advance). You can visit Bourbon Country and Horse Country on a Derby Week tour with Mint Julep Experiences, take part in many of the Derby festivities, gather with others for a sunset social Thurby party at Hermitage Farm, and take in the fastest 2 minutes in sports at the track or join one of the many watch parties,
Take in the Craft Beer Scene
Of course bourbon is the main draw to Kentucky for those looking to imbibe, but the state also has a substantial craft beer scene from Lexington to Louisville and beyond. In Lexington, you can download the Bluegrass Trail passport and hop around sipping hops to collect points. And in Louisville, you can explore the Louisville Ale Trail, which features more than 25 breweries. There’s even an award-winning brewery in Bardstown called Scout & Scholar where many partake in barrel-finished stouts, ales and all the usual craft brews.
Do Some Shopping and City Sightseeing
And finally, Bourbon Country is a great place to shop till you drop with a nice balance of chain retail stores, mom-and-pop boutiques and antique shops. You can’t go wrong strolling around Bardstown’s court square, where you’ll find lots of locally owned shops, including one that fashions furniture from used bourbon barrels.
Visiting the Distilleries of Bourbon Country
While there are more than 70 distilleries spread all throughout Bourbon Country, there are four main regions that help simplify your itinerary if you only have a weekend in Kentucky. We will get more detailed into which distilleries fall into which regions in a bit, but first we’ll try to create a verbal map of sorts.
The four regions are the Northern Route, also known as The B-Line, which includes the cities of Covington and Newport; the Louisville Route, which just focuses on the urban distilleries in Louisville and the surrounding area; the Southern Route, which includes Clermont, Bardstown and Loretto; and the Eastern Route, which encompasses Shelbyville, Lawrenceburg, Frankfort and Lexington, to name a few.
If our starting point is Louisville, these routes can be anywhere from 50-100 miles long, meaning with no stops, it would take, at most, 90 minutes to two hours from Louisville to the furthest point on each of these routes. A good rule of thumb is most distilleries along these routes are about an hour’s drive or less from Louisville, unless you’re headed north to The B-Line, which will take about 30 minutes longer.
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Regions of Bourbon Country and the Distilleries in Them
Here’s a quick look at each of the four regions and the bourbon distilleries you’ll find in them. Again, there are so many more than these scattered throughout Bourbon Country, but because you only have a weekend, we’re narrowing them down for you.
Northern Route: The B-Line
- Augusta Distillery
- Boone County Distillery
- Neeley Family Distillery
- New Riff Distilling
- Old Pogue Distillery
- Second Sights Spirits
Louisville Route: Bourbon City
- Angel’s Envy
- Brough Brothers
- Copper & Kings
- Evan Williams Bourbon Experience
- Kentucky Artisan Distillery
- Kentucky Peerless Distilling
- Old Forester
- Prohibition Craft Spirits
- Rabbit Hole
Southern Route: Bardstown & Beyond
- Bardstown Bourbon Co.
- Barton 1792
- Heaven Hill
- James B. Beam
- Limestone Branch
- Log Still Distillery
- Lux Row
- Maker’s Mark
- Preservation Distillery
- Wilderness Trail
Eastern Route: Lexington Bound
- Bluegrass Distillers
- Buffalo Trace
- Castle & Key
- Four Roses
- Fresh Bourbon
- James E. Pepper
- Jeptha Creed
- Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co. (Town Branch)
- Whiskey Thief Distilling Co. (formerly Three Boys)
- Wild Turkey
- Woodford Reserve
A Weekend Itinerary to Bourbon Country
Here are a few ideas for a weekend getaway in Bourbon Country. Most of these itineraries are offered by Mint Julep Experiences either through custom tours or on public excursions.
Friday Visit the South Route of Bourbon Country:
We suggest you sign up for a public bourbon tour with Mint Julep Experiences out of Louisville and choose a bourbon tour that takes the Southern Route. One such tour includes guided transportation in a VIP vehicle to and from the Bardstown area (from Louisville’s Omni Hotel) with stops at three distilleries and lunch from a well-known Southern-style restaurant. The first stop on this tour is Lux Row Distillers in Bardstown, where you’ll get a full tour and tasting experience at this award-winning distillery. It’s then going to be time for lunch, so your group will be treated at the legendary Grill at Maywood, which is part of the Bardstown Country Club, where you can fuel up on Southern-style fare like the Hot Brown, burgers, wraps and more.
Next, you’ll head over to Heaven Hill in Bardstown for a VIP connoisseur tasting experience that includes tastings of five premium brands from the company. Finally, you’ll end your day at the James B. Beam Distilling Co. with another full tour and tasting at the No. 1-selling bourbon distillery in the world. After that, your friendly and knowledgeable driver and guide will drop you back off at the Omni. This tour runs from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Saturday Go the Eastern Route of Bourbon Country:
Today is a good day to head east on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail®, and we recommend booking a custom tour with Mint Julep so that you can see some of the best distilleries the Eastern Route has to offer. You don’t have to go with our picks here, but we’ll just create a sample itinerary of what your day might entail. With VIP transportation pick-up and drop-off at a location of your choice, your day will start at Buffalo Trace Distillery with a tour and tasting of several of these famed bourbons from this world-renowned distillery.
Next, it’ll be time for lunch, so we’ll cruise on over to The Stave in Frankfort to enjoy some Southern-style fare and load up before our next bourbon excursion. The second bourbon tour and tasting of the day will be at the esteemed and historic Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, which dates back to 1812. And finally, on the way back to Louisville, we’ll stop at the newly branded Whiskey Thief Distilling Co. (formerly Three Boys), where you can sample bourbons and whiskeys straight from the barrel.
Sunday Funday with a Boozy Brunch and Bourbon Adventure:
If you’re staying in Louisville, sign up for Mint Julep’s Boozy Brunch & Bourbon Adventure, which incorporates tasty libations and food with distillery experiences. The all-day affair starts with a classic brunch at one of Louisville’s mainstays, The Café, and, of course, your choice of a mimosa, Bloody Mary, Bellini or mocktail. You’re then transported in a VIP van or transit to a tour and tasting at the renowned Kentucky Artisan Distillery in Crestwood. And from there, you head to the Bulleit Visitor Experience in Shelbyville for another tour and tasting. The Boozy Brunch starts and ends at the Omni Hotel in Louisville and runs from 10:15 a.m.-5:45 p.m.
Have an extra day in Bourbon Country? Here’s our recommendations on how to fill it!
If you’re in Louisville, why not take an extra day to check out the city and the many urban distilleries it boasts? Mint Julep Experiences can create a custom tour here for you as well, or you can navigate it on your own since the distilleries aren’t too far apart.
The No. 1 benefit of going with Mint Julep Experiences, however, is that they’ll take care of the tour tickets and times, lunch reservations and transportation so you won’t have to worry about any of that! You can enjoy the day to the maximum, and leave the coordination and navigation to them!
We recommend starting the day with a tour and tasting at Old Forester Distillery, which is located in Louisville’s famed Whiskey Row. You’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at a working distillery from barrel to bottle. Next, we recommend a lunch pitstop at Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen directly across the street from Old Forester, where you can enjoy everything from Nashville-style hot chicken and green chili tacos to bacon on a stick.
After lunch, we recommend you do another full tour and tasting at the recently expanded Angel’s Envy Distillery just a few blocks down Main Street. And to end the day, we suggest you stop by the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience for the Speakeasy Tasting Experience that transports you back in time to the 1930s.
About The Author
Sara Havens has been a bourbon enthusiast and educator long before the boom began. As a Louisville-based writer, her work has appeared in various national and regional publications, including Bourbon+ Magazine, The Bourbon Review, Alcohol Professor and Food & Dining Magazine. In 2020, Havens was one of 10 finalists in the World’s Top Whiskey Taster competition held by the Bardstown Bourbon Co., beating out more than 400 contenders to represent the Kentucky region. She maintains her own website, barbellelou.com, covering the bourbon industry and local nightlife scene, and in her down time, you can find her leading tours along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® for Mint Julep Experiences.