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Kentucky Bourbon Trail: Four Roses Warehouse tour

Posted on by Eric Burke

It was around 10 am when we rolled into the Four Roses Cox's Creek Warehouse and Bottling facility. You stop at the guard house which is shaped like a large barrel. The guard comes out, you sign your name to the visitor register, they open the gate, and invite you to drive down to the gift shop. 

It's a nice drive. It's at the back of the property so you get to drive past a good number of their single story warehouses. By the time we got back to the stone house which houses the gift shop (we'd stopped/slowed down to take photos) our tour guide was outside waiting for us. Looking at my wife, he smiled "You must be Robin," he said. (I think he knew her name because we had scheduled a tour way back when they still required that.) We introduced ourselves. His name was Terry. We chatted a bit as Terry walked us over to the van that was going to drive us around the property. We got inside and he drove us to the first stop.

As we exited the van at the dumping and bottling building, he warned us that there are cattle roaming the property and to be sure we watched where we stepped since they often leave evidence of their visit. Reminded me of the pastures I snuck into as a child so I had no problem with that. 

Empty barrels waiting to be shipped off to Canada

When we got into the building, Terry gave us a brief run-down on the equipment that we were walking past. It was the barrel filling stations. As we walked across the room to the barrel dumping station (yes, they were in the same room) he explained how the tanker trucks bring in the new make and where things are unloaded. All I could think was that all that tasty bourbon goes through that one room twice. And I was standing in it! 

When we got to the dumping station Terry gave us a quick explanation of how they take out the bung, put in the breather and dump it in the trough in the floor. And then he did something amazing. He asked us if we wanted to try some from the barrel in front of us! Even though it was maybe 10:15 am, of course we said yes. He tipped the barrel and poured us each a quick sample and told us this was destined to become part of a batch of Four Roses Small Batch. I probably don't have to tell you, but I will anyway. Even though it was in a little plastic cup, that might have been the tastiest bourbon I'd ever had. The experience of tasting my favorite bourbon straight from the barrel? I'd have been happy if the tour had ended there.

Barrel with breather in it ready to be dumped. I tasted out of this barrel

But it didn't. We looked at the filtering system and then walked through a door and into the shipping area. We saw another filtering system for the yellow label and then entered the bottling area. 

I was shocked at just how small the bottling area was. We got to walk up to the line in various areas. Close enough to touch things, though that might have gotten us hurt and probably escorted off the premises. But in any case close enough to see exactly how everything worked. We said hi to a couple of the people putting the labels on and the guy running the capping machine. There were maybe 8 people in there. 

Bottle filling machine filling Yellow Label

After taking a bunch of photos, we went back the van and rode to one of the warehouses. Terry explained a lot to us while in there. Things like: Four Roses ages in single story warehouses to minimize temperature variations between the barrels at the top and bottom of the building. 

After the warehouses, the tour was over and it was back to the gift shop for a brief tasting and some shopping. I bought a signed bottle of a 17 year old Single Barrel (OSBV) and the new-to-the-shelves-that-morning 2012 Limited Small Batch. 

I loved this tour. I had a lot of good tour guides, but Terry might have been the best. Top two at least. He was awesome! The tour was also probably my favorite. But, if you are going to do it, make sure you go do the distillery tour first. This is the second chapter.