Woodford Reserve Distillery
The country road you take through the rolling hills of bluegrass and thoroughbred farms brings you to the historic Woodford Reserve Distillery, one of Kentucky's oldest and smallest distilleries. Back in 1812, Elijah Pepper began crafting whiskey and years later, on the same grounds, Master Distiller James Christopher Crow perfected his own whiskey-making methods, which today have become common practice, including the implementation of sour mash into fermentation.
As you enjoy the hour long, $20/person, distillery tour, it is like you are taken back in time with the 500-foot-long gravity fed barrel run, copper pot stills, 100-year-old cypress wood fermenters, and the 1800's stone structures.
My favorite part of the tour, besides the bourbon tasting at the end, was seeing the heat-cycled barrel house, where the bourbon ages, and smelling the delicious aromas of the charred and toasted white-oak barrels. The gorgeous grounds and the intimate tour of the distillery is truly like stepping back in time.
Original Old Forester Distillery
Nestled in downtown Louisville, the Old Forester Distillery dates back to before Prohibition and when Main Street used to be filled with 89 bourbon distilling companies, called Whiskey Row. Today, the only distilling company that is still operating from Main Street is Brown-Forman.
Bourbon is native to America and began in Kentucky with the earliest settlers. Each bottle of bourbon begins with three primary ingredients: grain (corn, rye, and malted barley), water and oak. The water is special in Kentucky since the state is full of limestone stream beds that filter the iron from the water while enriching it with calcium and magnesium. This is why more than 90% of the world's bourbon is made in Kentucky.
In order to be called Kentucky Bourbon, it must be matured in a new, charred oak barrel and Old Forester makes their own barrels. Their used barrels are sold to other markets to be used as aging barrels for Scotch, Irish, and Canadian whiskies along with rum, brandy and tequila. During the aging process of bourbon, the slang "Angle's Share" was coined meaning that an average of 20% of the volume of bourbon evaporates.
The distillery tour, $18/person, is very interesting to see the historic building and learn how bourbon is made by Old Forester. They were the first ones to bottle bourbon and they did so for medicinal purposes so there was quality control. That is actually how they made it through Prohibition...they were still able to distill, bottle, and sell bourbon since at that point in history, whiskey was used for all sorts of aliments.
Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby
The tour of the racetrack was my favorite part and here are some highlights of what we learned:
Mammoth Caves National Park
Mammoth Caves National Park is a really cool cave to see when visiting Kentucky since it is the world's largest! It is part of the Green River Valley and the cave has more than 400 miles of surveyed passages. The Mammoth Cave landscape shelters a long and complex underground labyrinth and is one of the natural wonders of the world.
There are a variety of tours to choose from when visiting and we decided on the Historic Tour since it was two hours long and provided a really good overview of the history of the caves.
"Entering the cave through the Historic Entrance, you will feel the excitement that intrigued the earliest explorers and visitors. Experience the history and the role Mammoth Cave played during the War of 1812. Large passages invite you to imagine what it would have been like for prehistoric discoverers who walked these passages more than 4,000 years ago. Descend into the lower levels of the cave to cross over Bottomless Pit and squeeze through Fat Man's Misery. Climb 155 stairs up Mammoth Dome and exit back through the Historic Entrance. Limited areas of the Discovery Self-Guided, Mammoth Passage, Star Chamber, River Styx, and Violet City Lantern Tours are visited on this route. This tour does not visit dripstone formation areas."
Besides seeing the caves, there are numerous short hikes around the park and you can even float the Green River! It is dotted with sandbars, islands and submerged springs. It runs 26 miles through the park and averages 200 feet wide and ten feet deep.
If you are looking for a place to stay when visiting Mammoth Caves National Park, you have a variety of options available! Within the park there are five different campgrounds to choose from and the historic Mammoth Cave Lodge. Outside the park there is the Diamond Caverns RV Campground, where we stayed, which is conveniently located right off of the interstate, has a friendly staff, clean restrooms, and well kept grounds. It is a pretty economical option for a private RV site!
While you make your way to Mammoth Caves National Park stop to tour the Diamond Caves, the "jewel of Kentucky's underground!" It is located right off of the interstate and is a beautiful cave of intricate drapery deposits lining the halls in cascades of naturally colorful calcite. There are thousands of formations that decorate the cathedral-like chambers. It has offered tours for over 155 years!
For the love of travel and new adventures, we live our lives for the next dream fulfilled!