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Mixed Results on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour

Posted on by Eric Burke

One of the things I like to do in Kentucky is visit distilleries. To this end, when I heard a couple years ago that the Kentucky Bourbon Trail was organizing an offshoot passport program for craft distillers, I was not only intrigued, but excited. I owe my entire love of whiskey to one of the founding members of this tour (MB Roland) and so the very first opportunity I had to pick up a passport, I did. The reward is a julep cup. I really love free stuff.

My first stop was the Willett Distillery in Bardstown, KY. The Kulsveen family has been selling amazing bourbon out of this facility for many years. The current craft distillery is relatively new though. So new that they only recently released the first product distilled there, a two year old rye. This is a beautiful place. I highly recommend stopping in for a tour. (I did a review of my first visit back in 2012, though I know some things have changed in intervening time).

The second stop on my Craft Tour experience was at Old Pogue. Old Pogue was as much of a history tour as it was a distillery tour. And I loved that about it. Good history, good bourbon, a pretty drive. It hit all the right notes for me. (I did a separate review for this one as well.)

Barrel House Distilling was kind of an impromptu stop for me. I was trying to get over the disappointment that was Town Branch and found I had just a little time to kill before my planned drive to the Party Source to do some shopping. They were literally minutes away from where I was. Barrel House Distilling is located in the barrel house of the old James E. Pepper distillery on Manchester Street in Lexington. I was a bit unsure what to expect as I drove up to what looked like an abandoned building. But, ever the adventurer, I parked the car and made my way to the door. 

Upon entering I was greeted by Noah Brown, Operations Manager for the company. There was no one else there so even though we didn't have enough time for a full tour, we chatted a bit about what they were working on. I saw the still, some of the experiments they were conducting and did a tasting. Along the way, I decided I needed to do a little shopping before heading out of town and bought a bottle of rum. All in all, I found the place fascinating and need to get back to do the full tour.

Fast forward almost a year between stops in my journey to complete the passport and you'll find me driving southwest from Elizabethtown toward Bowling Green in search of a visit to Corsair Artisan. Corsair is one of those places that I've admired for a while. They literally wrote the book on experimental whiskey recipes. And while I've never had the opportunity to buy one of their liquid products, I do own the book. And have enjoyed it the numerous times I've read it. 

Corsair is located just off of a lovely little park/commercial area in Bowling Green. The space they are in is beautiful and spaceous in a manner that suggests that it had a previous life, maybe light industrial or retail. (A little searching of the internet suggests that my theory on the retail is correct.) Exposed brick and polished wood floors abound in the gift shop and tasting area. I have a feeling I may be stopping here again.

Paul and Merry Beth Tomaszewski at MB Roland Distillery are two very fine folks that I consider friends. I try to either stop in for a visit or meet up with them every time I pass near their place. The distillery is on the grounds of an old Amish farm just a mile or two north of I-24 in Southwestern Kentucky. Tours are available (and I would encourage you to take one), there is a gift shop and tasting room and several times throughout the summer they host a concert series named Pickin' On The Porch at the distillery. If you visit, you will not be disappointed. Great people that make great products.

I will admit to bias, but I love the stuff they make. I currently have bottles of their bourbon, white dog, Kentucky Black Dog, Pink Lemonade and St. Elmo's Fire on my shelf (or in my fridge). 

I just posted a review of Limestone Branch Distillery last week. But I will give you the 30 second synopsis. Great people making tasty products. Visit them next time you are near Lebanon. You can team it up with a visit to Independent Stave's Kentucky Cooperage and Maker's Mark if you wish.

And since that was my last stop, I got my julep cup. It was smaller than I expected. And had some rust/discoloration on it. Disappointing, but I’m not one to complain to loudly about how my free thing isn’t perfect.

Because I picked my passport up fairly early in the life of this endeavor, my passport only had seven distilleries on it. There are currently two more and someday soon I hope to visit those as well. But wait, you might be saying, you've only listed six above? You are correct. I couldn't bring myself make this next one look nice.

You see, I find people that use women as accessories to be offensive and I go out of my way to not give them money. This is the only weapon I have in the fight to get companies to treat women as if they are equal human beings worthy of equal respect. In this case, in order to get my stamp, I had pay up. You see, the only way to get a stamp is to go to the distillery. The only way to go to the distillery is to buy a $7 ticket. You are free to make your own choices, but I won't be visiting here again. 

I'm going to be a little judgmental here. Silver Trail is reason that I can't recommend participating in the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour passport program. I think that every other one of the distilleries that I visited are worth visiting in their own right. They make great products and you absolutely should visit them all. But Hardin is very far out of the way, the company at least presents itself as misogynistic, and it will cost you $7 per person to get your stamp. I recommend saving that money. Maybe spend it at one of the other distilleries to buy…oh, I don't know...a non-rusty julep cup?