The roads leading up to the distillery are narrow. They wind between rolling hills covered with grass, green and glowing, in the early morning sun. Horses stand together in the distance enjoying each others company. And I’m sitting in the passenger seat of the family van, amazed at just how unexpectedly picturesque the scene was.
When we got to the distillery, the only people in the parking lot were workmen who where there to install the new copper gutters. We had reservations for the 9:30 am Corn to Cork tour. I got there at 8:55 am. The doors were unlocked so I walked in. I immediately felt underdressed. I knew I would be walking through some factories so I dressed for comfort in a T-shirt, jeans and a hoodie. I was the only customer in the building not wearing at least a sport coat.
The lobby of the distillery is all shiney wood. There are educational displays, some tables, and a tasting bar. The employees are in logoed polo shirts and a pair of khaki pants. This is a place that seeps quality. Every detail has been looked to.
As I said earlier, I had reservations for the Corn to Cork tour. This is a small tour. There were seven of us. My wife and I, two other couples and a baby. A very good baby I might add. The tour started with a short movie. Basically a commercial for bourbon, Kentucky, and Woodford Reserve. After the movie, we got a small lecture on the history and science of bourbon. This tour was huge on the science.
After the movie we took a short bus ride down the hill to the actual distillery. After we disembarked we were informed that we would not be able to see the last part of the tour. It seems that for us, Corn to Cork would be Corn to Aging Warehouse. I’d have liked to get a partial refund due to this, since we were aguably missing about a third of the tour and this was a $10 tour.
After the initial disappointment, the first thing I’m struck with is how pretty the historic stone buildings are. We are shown a line of freshly filled barrels and the information on them is explained to us. After that we go inside the fermenting building.
Inside the fermenting building the guide explains the three grains they use and where they come from. (Minnesota Rye and Wisconsin Malted Barley, w00t!). Then we travel up a set of stairs to look at the mash cooker and the fermenting tanks. The tour guide pulls a sample from the tanks and we’re given a taste of the fermenting beer.
After the tanks, we go onto their lab. There we are given a demonstration of how distilling works in a bit of lab equipment. We are shown yeast through the lab’s microscope and we see how they test the grain once it arrives at the distillery.
After we see the small demonstration we get to see the real thing taking place in the three copper stills out in the distilling room. We get an explaination of the barrels, a soft sell on the possiblities of buying an entire barrel and see how a barrel is filled.
After that it is a short walk to the aging warehouse. If you have never been in an aging warehouse it is probably the best smell a bourbon lover could smell. The barrels make the flavor and all you smell is wood and alcohol.
After that would be the bottling, but we didn’t get to do to that. Instead we walked up the hill to the tasting. Along the way the tour guide, told us a bit about the fossils in the steps. And a bit about the rocks that make them up. Loved that.
The one knock on this tour, and I didn’t know it at the time (since it was the first one), was that we were sort of left alone to go get our tasting. At other distilleries, we got an explaination of the stuff we were tasting along with the tour guide. Since Woodford Reserve makes one bourbon, you could say that the entire tour was that. But we were just sort of pointed to the bar as he rushed off. To the next tour? Maybe. Who knows.
So, overall aside from the shortened tour, this was great. So much fun. I loved all the science that the tour guide gave us. I really felt like we were being taken good care of and if I decide to do it again, I would ask if I could request the same guy. He was excellent. Great tour. Might have been the best. Definately top two out of the seven I went on.