Ironically, most of the distilleries are located in dry counties which affects how they are able to operate on Sundays. We visited these three distilleries on a Sunday, but saw no noticeable difference in services available. They did however, have abbreviated operating hours so we were hustling to get around before they closed.
Heaven Hill is more museum than distillery. We did a short 30 minute tour which only took place in the museum. I believe that they no longer produce onsite, but age and bottle in Bardstown. I kind of liked the museum-y quality, especially because all distilleries operate in pretty much the same way, so once you've seen one...you've kind of seen them all ... except for those tail boxes!
And that's what the black mold/mildew/fungus looks like on white warehouses!
The interior of the Heritage Center is built like a warehouse. All warehouse have this rack style with the cross beam support. The exteriors are generally just sheet metal and if a big storm or tornado comes up it will rip of the sheet metal, but leave the racks and barrels standing.
How to read the Bourbon barrel
Rule 3 of Bourbon is that the White Dog must be aged in virgin oak (generally white oak), charred barrels for at least 2 years. This means that a barrel must be used first for bourbon and then be discarded. (Many distilleries will sell used barrels to other liquor produces because whiskey, wine, and other spirits can be aged in used barrels).
Prior to prohibition there were lots and lots of Bourbon producers. Prohibition shut down all except four distilleries (they were allowed to produce for medicinal purposes only), and the others shut their doors and most sold their equipment. After prohibition many never returned to operation and many were not financially successful. The remaining strong distilleries bought failing or out of production labels and recipes from their competitors. This is one of my favorites...but I think it should belong to Wild Turkey.
Evan Williams is one of the more famous labels Heaven Hill produces.
We didn't tour or taste at Jim Beam given the seen 'em all philosophy. We wandered around a little, took some pictures bought some merchandise.
Saturday during the awful Derby waiting in line for hours and hours there were two young couples in front of us. Eventually they started about ditching their chairs and entering through another gate (The Derby only had one gate available for anyone bringing in chairs, coolers, etc. - RIDICULOUS!) and then they kind of just disappeared. We saw them at Jim Beam and commiserated about the Derby madness and told them what we had found out about the ticket line once we made it to the gate.
I'm a sucker for a mint julep mixer, and the honey is produced on the grounds as well.
I'm also a sucker for these little mini-gift packs everyone had. They saw me coming a mile away.
Four Roses is the most different distillery. It is entirely Spanish Mission style which is completely out of place and unusual for Kentucky, but they take their name very seriously and there are roses everywhere on the property.
Because bourbon barrels can only be used once you see a lot of barrel flower pots, barrel garbage cans, etc. This was the only barrel porch swing we saw.
Four roses makes these glasses for their tastings only. You can't buy them anywhere including off the shelf of their gift shop. So, of course, I got suckered into getting mine.