The List that I have says that there are seven bourbon distilleries open in Kentucky, but we learned there were eight open to the public and visited them all - becoming Bourbon experts in the process. In addition there are six distilleries that have banded together to create the Kentucky Bourbon Trail - these six have a "passport" that you can get stamped when you visit each distillery. Once you have all six you can send in your passport for a free T-shirt...sounds like fun, right?
We started the tour by visiting Barton's -1792 in the heart of Bardstown, KY. We did a full tour here and it was a great introduction to Bourbon. We had a great guide who knew a lot of fun facts about Barton's, Bourbon, and the area AND we were in a tiny little group so it wasn't a gazillion people. Since we were in Kentucky over Derby weekend I thought it might be crazy on the Trail, but overall we had a pretty quiet time.
Bourbon has very strict requirements in order to call it Bourbon. If you don't meet every requirement then you've made whiskey -- All Bourbon is Whiskey, but not all whiskey is Bourbon.
The first rule of Bourbon: you must use a minimum 51% corn. Most distilleries use quite a bit more, but 51% is the least.
I should've taken this from the other side...you'd be able to see their logo on the water tower!
Racks and racks of aging bourbon. Our guide told us that the warehouses can weigh a bizzilion (ok, not a bizzilion, but really a lot) and that as they are loading racks and moving barrels they have to constantly keep an eye on the plumb-bobs to make sure the building's weight is evenly distributed so the building doesn't collapse. She also told us that no one rotates their barrels - it is just too much work. Barrels are loaded and stay where they are until they are properly aged (except for occasional weight redistribution). All barrels are rolled and loaded by hand and weigh over 500 pounds when full.
She also showed us how the barrels weep, and told us that they lose a huge portion of product to evaporation over the aging process - that evaporated loss is known as the "angel's share". The weeping is mostly water, but does contain very minimal amounts of alcohol, at Barton's the occasional groundhog will get in to a warehouse and drink from little pools created by the weeping...and they get drunk. HA!
All of Barton's warehouses have the same number of windows, and all the windows are the same size (just smaller than a barrel, funnily enough), and the windows on the ground level were required to be barred after prohibition ended. The warehouses here are also all painted black because making Bourbon also comes with a weird (but not dangerous) black mold/mildew/fungus that grows on the outside of the buildings. If you're buildings are black you can't see it! (Sounds like my kind of taking care of business.)
It's too hot in the summer for production (no A/C) for both the mash and the people so they produce 24/7 during the cold months. However, they bottle for several kinds of liquor here and the bottling line runs year round.
Barton's isn't one of the passport sites so I don't have notes about it, but it was a great introduction to the trail.