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Bourbon Trail Distillery Tour Review: Wild Turkey

Posted on by Eric Burke

The second distillery we visited was the Wild Turkey distillery. I wasn’t expecting much from this one to be sure. I’d read a few things that had made me almost decide to skip it altogether. That would have been a mistake. This was a good tour. 

It is a fairly short drive from Versailes to Lawrenceburg. Warm sun makes for a cheerful drive. The drive ends just after the bridge over the Kentucky River gorge. On the other side was a big sign welcoming us to Wild Turkey. Turn the corner, make a left and you’re there. 

The gift shop is a small house. Brown painted trim and a rocking turkey greet you at the front door. That’s right, a rocking turkey. The gift shop is comfortably run down. Not like they don’t care,  it looked like it was intentionally so. The staff is dressed comfortably in t-shirts, work shirts and one had a pull over windbreaker. Not going to feel under dressed at this one. I’m immediately very comfortable. 

The next tour was about to start so I get my name on the list and look around for a bit. I see some bottles where you can get personalized labels. I make a note to pick one up later. 

The tour starts with a bus ride to the newly opened new distillery. On the way the tour guide apologizes for not having the landscaping finished yet. But says that they wanted to make sure we got to see the inside anyway. We are shown the grain receiving area and the silos where it is held until needed. This was certainly a bigger operation than Woodford Reserve. 

We went inside, went up the stairs and watched a movie starring Jimmy and Eddie Russell, the Master distiller and his assistant/son. After the movie we turn and look through the windows along the right side of the movie room and are shown the yeast cooker and the mash cooker through the windows. 

After that we leave the movie room and are shown to the fermenting room. Wild Turkey had the strangest looking fermenting product. It looked like brains on top and was the only distillery that had that pattern occurring. There were at least 20 30,000 gallon fermentation tanks (i have a photo of number 20, but there may have been more). The fermentation room smelled great. I love the smell of the fermentation rooms in these places. 

Through another window we are shown a control room where two employees can run the entire plant. Big plant for only two employees. That’s a lot of automation. 

The next part of the tour is the still. You can see and get a brief explanation of how the column still works (once again through glass). While we were looking through the windows, Master Distiller Jimmy Russell stops over and thanks us all for taking the tour. I don’t know if the does that for all the tours, but it was a nice touch. He seemed like a very nice guy.

Next we go back down stairs and across the parking lot to the barreling center. This is a pretty cool assembly line looking place (no assembly, it just looked like there should have been) where empty barrels come in off of one truck work their way through a series of conveyors and end up at the filling station. After that they go back out the door and into another truck which will take them to an aging warehouse. 

Speaking of which that’s where we went next. We took another short bus ride down to the old distillery where there are still a lot of barrels aging. We got a very quick tour of the grounds and entered the rick house. Once again you are hit with the excellent smell of old oak and alcohol. Angel’s Share smells awesome. After a short discussion about how long things are aged it is back to the gift shop for a tasting. 

We get to choose two of six different whiskeys. There are four bourbons, a rye and a bourbon honey liqueur. I got the Russell’s Reserve Rye and the Kentucky Spirit. The wife had the American Honey. We both liked our choices. She liked hers a lot.

After the tasting I bought my bottle of Rare Breed with a personalized label and headed over to the next distillery on the list. 

I liked this tour. The new distillery grounds will be very pretty once the landscaping is done. It was the only tour where we saw barreling actually occurring. The tour guide was very informative, even if he did seem a bit bored by the information itself. Overall, it would have been a mistake to miss this one.