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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Top 5 Dream Days of 2018, On the Kentucky Bourbon Trail

In November, I visited the Kentucky Bourbon Trail with my friend, Dan, a great admirer and collector of bourbon. We toured 5 distilleries during our time in Kentucky Bourbon Country. We really enjoyed the tasting at Heaven Hill (where we purchased coveted Old Fitzgerald 14-year-old bottles to bring home) and doing the hard hat tour at the 1930s industrial complex still in use at Buffalo Trace. Yet, it was hard to top our visit to Wild Turkey in serene bluegrass country outside Lawrenceburg. One look at those rickhouses blackened on the outside from evaporation and you can sense the history. In fact, a distillery has been operating at this same site since 1869. We had a wonderful guide, Edwina, who showed us the whole process of making bourbon, from seeing the mash bills and fermentation tanks to walking inside one of those old rickhouses and eyeing all those barrels stacked to the ceiling. Outside, the rolling hills led to a bridge over the Kentucky River and the countryside was aflame in late fall foliage. 

 
Then we were back at the newly revamped Visitors Center tasting the wares and meeting the Buddha of Bourbon, 84-year-old Master Distiller Jimmy Russell, who's been working at Wild Turkey the past 64 years. "When I started here, bourbon was a southern gentlemen's drink. Now just as many women are buying a bottle as men," says Jimmy. He also notes that Wild Turkey is the top selling bourbon in Japan and Australia. We talked for another 15 minutes before getting Jimmy to sign a bottle of Russell's Reserve 10 year. Definitely a highlight of our trip. 
 
After meeting Jimmy, we drove on backcountry roads past the rolling hills of bluegrass and horse farms of rural Kentucky to reach The Stave, a new stylish roadhouse restaurant and bar recommended to me by a friend in nearby Lexington. The owner, Rebecca, has designed many restaurants in the region. One step inside the cozy interior and it's hard not be charmed by both the look and the folks working here. The Stave made its debut in September just down the road from the Woodford Reserve distillery, a National Historic Landmark, and the impressive circa-1887 Castle & Key distillery that just reopened this year making vodka, gin, and eventually bourbon. Start with warm black-eyed pea fritters with tangy sweet onion relish and cucumber salad, or the deviled eggs dusted with paprika and served on pickled greens. Then get ready for their version of the Louisville Hot Brown, this time served on corn bread instead of the typical white bread. Delicious!
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/10/19 at 06:00 AM
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Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk.

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