Bourbon Whiskey was Invented Here
According to legend, Elijah Craig invented bourbon whiskey at his Kentucky distillery sometime in the late 1700’s. Although humans have been distilling whiskey for hundreds (and possibly thousands) of years, Craig was the first to age his whiskey in charred oak casks which gave the spirit its unique color and distinct flavor.
While Craig’s involvement in the invention of bourbon doesn’t quite meet the standards of historical fact, Kentucky’s place as the home of bourbon is beyond dispute. In fact, in 1964, the United State Congress designated bourbon as a “distinct product” of the United States, offering it trade protection from foreign competition, similar to spirits produced in other countries like Scotch whiskey or French champagne.
Today, Kentucky is home to more than 68 distilleries which, according to a study by the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, brings nearly $9 billion into the local economy and generates $235 million in state and local tax revenue. The drink’s popularity has also grown nationwide. In 2017, bourbon sales grew 8.1% to $3.4 billion, thanks in part to the country’s booming cocktail culture.
Traveling the Bourbon Trail in an RV
Unsurprisingly, a tourist culture has emerged within Kentucky focused on this distinctly American drink. Distillers throughout the state have created visitor experiences offering a peek into their production process and opportunities to sample and purchase their brands. Visitors can even travel a bourbon trail connecting Louisville to Lexington, allowing them to visit dozens of distilleries along the way.
If you’re a bourbon lover or fan of American history, this unique trip is a perfect opportunity to pack the RV, sample a bit of genuine Americana and see Kentucky’s natural beauty up close. With that in mind, we’ve designed a six-stop itinerary you can use to plan a bourbon tour of your own.
Travel the Trail Responsibly
Of course, drinking and driving never mix, which is why we recommend dedicating a full day to each portion of this trip. We’ve also selected campgrounds within close proximity to each stop on the itinerary so that cab rides or rideshare trips will be easy and affordable. What’s more, Kentucky Distillers have partnered with Uber and Lyft to offer ride discounts to new visitors.
- For Lyft, use promo code KYDISTILLERS for $5 off your first two rides between distilleries.
- For Uber, use promo code KYDISTILLERS for $15 off your first ride.
So as you travel the bourbon trail, catch a ride to and from each distillery and enjoy your vacation in safety and comfort after parking your RV.
Your Kentucky Bourbon Trail Itinerary
Day 1: Louisville
One-third of all Kentucky bourbon is produced in Louisville, making this city the perfect starting point. Set up your campsite at the Derby Park Campground and RV Park located in downtown Louisville. From there, you’ll travel in a circle visiting the Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience, the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience and the Angel’s Envy distillery before heading back home. In between tours, make sure you stop at one of the city’s many fine restaurants for a meal you won’t soon forget.
Day 2: Shepherdsville
Your second day begins with a short drive down I-65 to Grandma’s RV Camping in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. Once you’re settled, grab a ride to the Jim Beam American Stillhouse located just a few miles away. Billed as the world’s #1 bourbon, the Beam family has been distilling spirits for seven generations. Visitors to the American Stillhouse can get a guided tour of their manufacturing process, have a drink at the Jim Beam Bourbon Bar, grab a bite to eat at Fred’s Smokehouse and find the perfect souvenir at their gift shop.
Day 3: Bardstown
Day three starts with another short trip south down I-65, then east on Highway 62 towards My Old Kentucky Home Campground, sitting just next door to the Bourbon Heritage Center at Heaven Hill distillery.
Heaven Hill makes dozens of different spirits including well-known bourbon brands like Evan Williams and Elijah Craig. Visitors to the Bourbon Heritage Center can choose between two different tour options that each include a history of the distiller’s brands, a behind-the-scenes view of the production process as well as guided tasting experiences.
Day 4: Lebanon
As you leave Bardstown on the morning of day four, head southeast out of town on US-150 before heading south on KY-55. After about 25 miles, you’ll arrive in Lebanon, Kentucky at the halfway point of your bourbon tour.
Set up camp at the Marion Fair RV Park which offers full-service hook-ups, including 20/30/50 amp electricity, water, and sewer. Then catch an Uber or Lyft to the Maker’s Mark distillery just 10 miles up the road.
The distillery offers several different tours, each with its own distinct focus. The Maker’s Immersion tour lasts 2 ½ hours and provides an in-depth look at the distillation process “from grain to bottle.” Visitors will also experience a maturation-style tasting at the tour’s conclusion and walk away with two wax-dipped rocks glasses. This event only accommodates 12 people at a time, however, so call ahead to reserve your spot.
Day 5: Danville
An hour outside Danville sits the Cummins Ferry Resort, which is the second-to-last stop on this bourbon tour. The resort is located on the banks of the Kentucky River and features amenities every RV traveler will appreciate. When the time is right, take a ride to the Four Roses distillery in nearby Lawrenceburg.
For the last decade, the distillery’s namesake bourbon has been racking up awards, including multiple gold medals at spirits competitions around the country. Visitors to the distillery can tour the historic mission-style facility and participate in a guided tasting of their three award-winning bourbons. As with the Maker’s Mark tour, space is limited, so make your reservations in advance.
Day 6: Lexington
The final leg of your journey takes you east from Danville to the Kentucky Horse Park Campground just outside Lexington. From there it’s an eight-mile ride to the Lexington Brewing & Distilling Company. This stop is a bit different from the rest, which is fitting for your final day. Not only does Lexington Brewing make Town Branch bourbon, but they also brew a wide variety of beers aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels. This makes it one of the few joint brewing and distilling operations in the world.
Tours leave from the visitor center on the hour every hour and last about an hour and fifteen minutes. A number of other, more in-depth tours are also available.
Now You’re a Bourbon Expert
After six days and visits to eight different distilleries, you’re now officially a bourbon expert which will come in handy at your next cocktail party or important business dinner. More importantly, you’ll have spent an unforgettable week on the road, touring one of the most beautiful states in the country all while experiencing firsthand the unique culture surrounding the spirit Kentuckians have been perfecting for more than 200 years.
Kentucky Bourbon Trail in an RV Map
Here is a map of the distilleries and RV parks mentioned above, enjoy!