I came to Lexington, KY not knowing a thing about bourbon. There’s no escaping the relationship it has to the area, its people, and the history of Lexington. Located in Versailles (pronounced ver-sail) approximately 14 miles outside of Lexington, the Woodford Distillery tour is informative and a cool little trip to the past. The process of making bourbon at Woodford is serious business and hasn’t changed much since the first building was constructed in 1838.
As you start the tour you’re met with the dense aroma of mash (fermenting corn, rye and malted barley) and then led through the stages of birth of the bourbon. As with many places around Lexington, there’s lots of local color and stories abound. Our tour guide, Keith, shared some of those insights, including how the prohibitionists used to stand up on the “holler” and look for the tell-tale signs of black staining on the outside of buildings – which was often an indication of the evaporation of water from the distilling process. One of the most interesting aspects of the tour is that you’re guided through a working distillery in full production mode and not just a touristy replication of an earlier time.
There are three Woodford Distillery Tours that can be arranged by contacting the distillery at (859)879-1812:
The Bourbon Discovery Tour costs $5 per person and runs Monday thru Saturday: 10am, 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm and Sunday (April-December): 1pm, 2pm, 3pm
The National Landmark Tour is by appointment only, costs $25 per person, and runs Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday at 11:30am.
The Corn to Cork Tour is by appointment only, costs $25 person, and runs Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 9:30am.
The Horse & Barrel
The Horse & Barrel which is a part of deSha’s tavern in downtown Lexington is not just a fun little pub; it’s a true Kentucky blue whiskey bar where you can hone your bourbon knowledge with a flight of three bourbons. The setting is as you would imagine – dark wood with the original details of the old building left intact. As my bourbon knowledge is at a complete novice level, I took the advice of some well-versed locals who suggested a flight of: Four Roses, Woodford Double Oak, and Russels Reserve (10-year-old). All delicious, but the Woodford was this newbie’s favorite.