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Bourbon Trail Distillery Tour Review: Heaven Hill

Posted on by Eric Burke

It’s raining. Oh boy, is it raining. I’m sitting in the hotel because I don’t have anything planned until 10 am. I need to be at Heaven Hill at 10 to fulfill my reservations for the Behind the Scenes tour. It’s a $25 tour. Per person, but I think it’s going to be worth it. This one doesn’t have a distillery in it, just aging warehouses and a bottling facility. But, we didn’t get to see the bottling facility on the other in depth tour so it’s all good.

It’s 9:15. I’m impatient. It’s going to be a good day. I can feel it. And I really want to get it started. So I do. It’s not even a ten minute drive away from the hotel so I drive around for a while. Driving in the rain isn’t very exciting, unless it is. Then it get’s a bit too exciting. So I go back to the parking lot and just wait. It’s less than a half hour, I have the iPad, so I’m set for a while.

At about 9:55 people start gathering around the door. I’m thinking that I better get up there too. My tour starts as soon as the doors open so it doesn’t hurt to be up there when they do.

When the doors open at ten a older gentleman says to us: “Who’s here for a tour. We have a deluxe tour starting at 10:10. Here’s a sticker to show you’re on the tour. What’s your name? Where are you from?” He works his way through the group until he gets to my wife and I. 

“I actually have reservations for the Behind the Scenes tour.” 

He frowns. “Well, I have some bad news for you. We aren’t running that tour today. Whoever took that reservation shouldn’t have” I’m thinking he’s kidding. Trying to be funny. Why would a company take your reservation, email you a confirmation and then not contact you if the tour was cancelled?

“But I received an email confirmation. It has today’s date and this time.” I counter. 

“Sorry. Do you want to go on the Deluxe Tour? What’s your name? Where are you from?”

Well, I want to do a tour at each so I decide to try to make the best of it. My wife is extremely upset. She doesn’t think that good customer service is too much to ask or that bad should be rewarded. She has a good point, but it’s my call so I decide to move ahead with what we’re handed. 

Compared to the other tours, what we are handed is not very much. (Looking back, I hope that my experience was not colored too much by my disappointment.) The tour starts out as they all do, with a movie. It is basically a big commercial for their business with a bit of history of Bourbon and Kentucky thrown in for good measure. Not a bad movie. But, I’m still upset, otherwise I might actually enjoy it.  

After the movie we get up and follow the tour guide outside. We walk along a path that has very pretty flowers along it to a crosswalk where we cross the street to go into an aging warehouse. Along the way the guide is giving us a bit more of the history of the company and a run down on the products they make.  

Once we get into the warehouse, I’m immediately less mad. Who could be upset with the wonderful smell that surrounds you when you are in a building like that? This is a good warehouse tour. Every company handles their barrels a different way. Some store them in one spot for 10 years, others rotate them as they age so they get the benefits of all the various climactic conditions in the building.

Then it is back outside and back across the street. Another run down of the products they make. Or actually a continuation. They make a lot of stuff.

Once we are back in the center the guide proceeds to show us the signage inside the building. The parts of the tour that you could see on a self guided walk through the building. 

Finally it is time for the tasting. Now, this part really is really well done. Heaven hill really goes in depth to make sure you know what you are tasting and quizzes you on the flavors. To show you that you really don’t have the training to taste for a living, they test you on two scents that are stored in small vials at your seat. Most folks get them wrong. I did.

After you smell the samples and look at them in the light you are allowed to taste them. Really well done. The only part I really don’t like is the contestant sales pitch about other products. But I can forgive it in light of the quality of the tasting.

Then on to the gift shop to give them some of my money. You know reward them for the disappointment. 

So, overall I probably wouldn’t do this tour again. I’d probably just go into the gift shop to get my passport stamped and visit the gift shop. Especially if you are taking other tours. A movie, an aging warehouse, an explanation of the self guided tour signs and a tasting were not really worth my entire morning. 

I still think that the Behind the Scenes tour sounds great, but I probably won’t try again. If you do, please call ahead to confirm that you actually have a tour. After the tour guide asked who took my reservation (I didn’t answer, I didn’t know) he told me that the person tried to get ahold of me, but couldn’t. Strange since they were able to get ahold of me to send me the email confirmation. 

So far, not a good day.