Why is Bourbon so big in Kentucky? Water. Lexington and the Bluegrass Region are located above an underground limestone shelf. It naturally filters the iron out of the water, making it perfect for distilling bourbon. The water is also rich in calcium, which is said to give the horses in Kentucky strong bones. This natural water source is used by distilleries and is the reason why many distilleries are located on near water along the Bourbon Trail. Check out some of our favorite bourbon attractions in and around Lexington.
James E. Pepper
The distillery reopened after more than 60 years of dormancy. The original James E. Pepper first started producing bourbon after the American Revolution and it stayed open all the way until 1958. The brand was relaunched in 2017 and is now producing award-winning whiskeys. The tour will take about an hour but takes you behind the scenes of one of America's first bourbon distilleries and its history. You also get a tasting at the end. It also is located in the Distillery District, aptly named because it is the original location of the James E Pepper Distillery campus. Today, the other buildings are occupied by restaurants, bars, breweries, and even another craft distillery.
Justin's House of Bourbon
This Jefferson Street bourbon retailer carries a large selection of rare, vintage bourbon available for purchase by the bottle. The shop also has a variety of bourbon-themed gift items. It is the perfect place to pick up a great souvenir and talk to some real Kentucky bourbon enthusists.
Located off Henry Tandy Park in downtown Lexington, Bluegrass Tavern is one of the reasons why Lexington is the best place in America to grab a drink. And while every bar is a bourbon bar around here, Bluegrass Tavern takes that title to heart. With more than 800 bourbons available to drink, this is also your best bet for finding small batch and single barrel releases. Cozy up to the bar and chat with the knowledgeable bartenders to sling bourbon cocktails all day long.
Recognized by the state of Kentucky as the First African Americans to make Kentucky bourbon since slavery, Fresh Bourbon's downtown tasting room is a unique experience. beyond tasting their bourbon - which they describe as gently sweet and approachable, Fresh Bourbon encourages you to try bourbon your way by offering sensory tastings with food and aroma pairings, mixology classes, and more.
Buffalo Trace Distillery
Buffalo Trace is a big operation and the oldest continuously-operating distillery in America. During the Prohibition, Buffalo Trace was permitted to make whiskey for “medicinal purposes” and Kentuckians had a staggering number of prescriptions for whiskey.
Buffalo Trace Distillery offers six different tours where you can opt to spend an entire day. The tours range from a National Historic Landmark Tour that focuses on the architecture, to a behind-the-scenes Hard Hat tour or even a Ghost Tour. There is something for everyone. And importantly, the tours are always free! This is a popular spot so make sure to book a tour as early in advance as possible!