For out-of-state visitors and locals alike, taking a tour of some of Kentucky’s scenic and historic sites is a surefire way to build a sense of pride in the state. Kentucky Life joined a group on Central Kentucky Tours’ Barrel to Bottle tour to find out what the experience is like firsthand.
“We started in December of 2014,” says Bruce Ashford, owner of Central Kentucky Tours. “We started the business as a retirement business. Me and my wife traveled a lot and we wanted to do the same things that we show here.”
The company has several different tours that take visitors to see landmarks of two of Kentucky’s signature industries: bourbon and thoroughbreds. The Barrel to Bottle tour highlights many of the steps of bourbon creation, from start to finish, beginning with the barrels themselves.
After visiting Kentucky Cooperage in Lebanon to see the barrel-making process in action, the tour stops at Maker’s Mark, one of the most well-known bourbon distilleries in the world. The scenic 800-acre Maker’s Mark campus includes an art installation by glass artist Dale Chihuly called The Spirit of the Maker, and it’s a visitor favorite.
From there, the tour stops at Limestone Branch, one of the state’s newest distilleries with roots in some of the bourbon industry’s standard bearers. Two members of the Beam family started Limestone Branch in 2011, using their family’s pre-prohibition recipe.
The final stop on the tour is another relative newcomer to the scene, Wilderness Trail Distillery in Danville. Wilderness Trail uses traditional methods coupled with newer science to improve the distillation process for their bourbon, rye, rum, and vodka.
Beyond seeing the bourbon process from start to finish, the tour brings visitors to the heart of Kentucky to enjoy the scenery of the commonwealth.
“I’ve found more appreciation from doing this for about a year,” says Central Kentucky Tours driver Donnie Lester. “You go out west and you look at the desert or you look at the ocean or you go to the Rockies, and you think, this is just Kentucky. But now seeing it through the eyes of people from all over, when they see the rolling fields and the beautiful barns and the horse farms and even just driving through the countryside, you do get a new appreciation.”
This segment is part of Kentucky Life episode #2402, which originally aired on October 13, 2018. Watch the full episode.