In Kentucky alone, there are more than 9.3 million barrels of bourbon aging throughout the state’s lush landscape — equaling roughly two barrels per resident.
Kentucky is truly the bourbon capital of the world, and on a recent visit to the commonwealth by the CaskX team, we experienced firsthand what makes the spirit so special and so damn tasty.
CaskX CEO Jeremy Kasler picked a hot and humid summer week in June to tackle some stops along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and he got a hands-on, up-close-and-personal experience with all things bourbon — from sights, smells and sips to behind-the-scenes tours of traditional processes and breathtaking rick houses.
Stop 1: Kentucky Artisan Distillery
It’s no coincidence that the first stop for the CaskX team was Kentucky Artisan Distillery, which is also the first bourbon distillery the company purchased barrels from for its astute investors.
Kasler met with Distillery Director Chris Miller and Master Distiller Jade Peterson for a personal tour of the craft distillery located in Crestwood, Ky., just outside of Louisville. On that day, Peterson just happened to be distilling CaskX’s latest bourbon distillate, this time a wheated mash bill, which it is currently selling to clients.
Peterson gave us all a sample of the white dog (un-aged bourbon) coming off the still, and he proudly stated that it’s some of the best bourbon he’s ever made.
Typically white dog is too high in proof to enjoy, but this distillate was delicious on its own — reminiscent of a warm bowl of oatmeal at breakfast. You could taste the sweetness of the corn mingling with the smoothness of the wheat — it was a marriage made in bourbon heaven.
Miller walked us through the bourbon-making process at Kentucky Artisan, a distillery that began in 2013 as one of the state’s first contract distillers and has grown to producing more than 3,000 barrels a year. The distillery continues to make products for other brands, but it also produces its own brands: Whiskey Row Bourbon and Billy Goat Strut Whiskey.
Here’s a closer look at CaskX’s visit to Kentucky Artisan Distillery:
Stop 2: Wilderness Trail Distillery
Wilderness Trail Distillery, located in Danville, Ky., opened in 2012 as a secondary business for scientists and educators Pat Heist and Shane Baker, who also run Ferm Solutions.
The two spent years researching and helping fellow distillers learn how to make better products, so naturally they decided owning their own distillery would be another way to continue the hands-on education.
The CaskX team met up with Heist for a quick tour of the distillery and a guided tasting of some of its best bourbons and whiskeys. Kasler was intrigued by the hustle and bustle on the distillery grounds — with teams of folks busy mowing and landscaping and construction workers putting up new rick houses.
The distillery was well taken care of and spotless, and Kasler made fast friends with Heist as he led us through the still house and rick house. The owners’ passion for quality bourbon is on full display throughout the distillery grounds, and it was easy to see why Wilderness Trial bourbons and whiskeys have won numerous awards over the years.
The tasting was also eye-opening, showing the versatility of the medium-sized operation — from rye whiskey to a high-rye bourbon to a wheated bourbon and more.
Here’s a closer look at CaskX’s visit to Wilderness Trail Distillery:
Stop 3: Bardstown Bourbon Company
Since opening in 2017, Bardstown Bourbon Company is one of the newer stops on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and this massive, 100-acre distillery offers an experience like no other. Think “Napa Valley of Kentucky.”
Mostly a contract distiller, BBCo does have its own brands to tout as well, and its numerous column stills are running 24/7 to keep up with industry demand.
What’s also unique is the visitor experience, and since BBCo has a full bar and restaurant inside its operation, we decided to grab a late lunch here before our tour of the beautiful grounds. The cocktails are top-notch and the food is Southern-style, farm-to-table quality.
BBCo was one of the larger distilleries we saw on our trip, and it’s actually one of the biggest in Kentucky. Susie Garvin, director of distillery sales, showed the CaskX team around the distillery — from the stills and mash tanks to the modern rick houses, one that even features a bar inside.
There’s no doubt that BBCo is laying down some quality bourbon and whiskey, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to sample it straight from the barrel on one of the many tours held each day.
Bardstown Bourbon Co. is truly a sight to see, proving that by honoring traditions of the past, bourbon’s future is safe and secure through innovation.
Here’s a closer look at CaskX’s visit to Bardstown Bourbon Company: