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.
Exploring Nelson County’s abandoned T.W. Samuels Distillery
At the end of the 19th century, Kentucky’s Nelson County was the undisputed bourbon capital of the world. No other region even came close. By 1896, roughly 26 distilleries spread throughout the county were actively distilling, aging, bottling and distributing whiskey for national consumption. But over the decades, Prohibition, consolidation of companies, changing liquor tastes and the rise of the highway would take a toll. Some 120 years later, there are just four bourbon companies headquartered in that same county today. And one of those is actually distilling in downtown Louisville, two counties away.
What’s been left behind is a number of abandoned but stunning factories that serve as dusty monuments to distilleries forged in another era. Each in a varying degree of decay and each with a long history connected to a once-beloved bourbon brand such as Old Tub and Old Charter. And, if you know just where to look, many are remarkably easy to find. Local residents will tell you that the crown jewel of these crumbling remains can be found roughly halfway between Clermont and Bardstown in the center of a tiny little community named Deatsville. Just beyond the eastern edge of the massive 14,000 acre Bernheim Forest and less than a ¼ mile north of the bustling Kentucky State Route 245 sits the T.W. Samuels Distillery and Warehouses.
The first thing most people notice when they approach the property is the massive collection of aging warehouses that flank the distillery. The afternoon sun reflects off the metal exterior of these old rickhouses showcasing a unique shape and design that’s been long abandoned in lieu of modern warehouses that allow for larger storage. Despite its dilapidated condition, the buildings that make up the privately-owned distillery complex are surprisingly well preserved for a location that hasn’t produced bourbon in several decades. The complex has new locks, boarded windows covering original panes and several rusted signs that clearly indicate the original function of each building. Some areas look like somebody might have just visited yesterday while others look like they haven’t been so much as dusted in years. While quiet now, these grounds were part of a long history of several once-beloved brands – all of which have been forgotten, discontinued or relegated to the back of the shelf with limited availability. However, in the dust of all the whiskey ghosts, one global brand today can trace their origin to the T.W. Samuels Distillery: Maker’s Mark.
The namesake of the distillery, Taylor William Samuels established a distillery in 1844 just down the road from the buildings you can view today. The Samuels family had already been making whiskey in America for three generations, but T.W. and his son decided to make the leap from family pastime to commercial business. Success soon followed. By the 1860’s, the company warehouses held over 14,000 barrels of aging bourbon – considered to be a massive stockpile at the time. A prominent businessman, T.W. wore several hats including “High Sheriff” of Nelson County. It was during his tenure as Sheriff in 1865 that he persuaded the last remnants of confederate soldiers in the area to surrender. The father/son duo operated the distillery for over fifty years and eventually upgraded the facility by moving it down the road to the current location. Their most popular brands were the top selling Old Deatsville and T. W. Samuels bottles which carried the memorable slogan “There’s a barrel of satisfaction in every bottle.”
In 1909, the distillery and six warehouses were destroyed by fire with a reported loss that included 9,000 barrels of whiskey. Just four years later, The Star Distillery Co. from Ohio purchased a majority of the company in what would be the first of several ownership moves. During the dark days of Prohibition between 1920 and 1933, most of the buildings were razed for salvage; many of the buildings left behind today date to the “Post Repeal” period of around 1933.
The Samuels name would later be intrinsically linked with another bourbon brand when T.W.’s great grandson, Bill Samuels Sr. would give up the family business in 1943 only to start his own bourbon brand ten years later in Loretto. Using a recipe that includes wheat instead of rye and bottles dipped in red wax, Maker’s Mark would soon eventually become one of the most recognized liquor brands in the country. Today, the Chief Operating Officer at Maker’s Mark Distillery is still a Samuels (Rob) and the great, great grandson of T.W. Meanwhile, The T.W. Samuels distillery plodded through the back half of the 20th century crafting low-end whiskey and even bottling spring water as recently as the early 1970’s. In more recent years, the T.W. Samuels line of bourbon has been sold under the Heaven Hill label with sporadic releases.
Today, the distillery sits idle but nine of the warehouses have been rehabilitated and are being used by two major bourbon brands to house thousands of barrels of sleeping whiskey. Occasionally, a barrel truck off-loading fresh barrels (and branded with a familiar logo) will make an appearance. Otherwise, all is quiet in the shuttered space. And the only train traffic that the once busy rail line which faithfully served the distillery carries today is My Old Kentucky Dinner Train. However, the T.W. Samuels Distillery could one day undergo a massive transformation to restore the facility to former glory like the one currently occurring roughly 70 miles away in Woodford County at the Old Taylor Distillery. For now, the sign out front says “The Olde T.W. Samuels Distillery & Samuels Springs” but it probably could say “Watch this space.”
Written by Phil Kollin – Mint Julep Tours Driver & Guide
Mint Julep Tours can create the perfect itinerary for your bourbon adventure. While the T.W. Samuels distillery remains closed at all times to all visitors, Mint Julep Tours can arrange a drive-by past the distillery (or other abandoned Nelson County distilleries) on any custom tour. Call 502-583-1433 or visit us onlinetoday to begin planning your trip and to receive more information on custom experiences.
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
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