Insider’s 3-Day Bourbon & Culinary Tour of Kentucky | 2016


TRIP DATES:
Your choice of 4 tour dates (all are Sunday through Wednesday)

TOUR #1 ~ September 11-14, 2016 ~ SOLD OUT
TOUR #2 ~ September 18-21, 2016 ~ SOLD OUT
TOUR #3 ~ September 25-28, 2016 ~ SOLD OUT
TOUR #4 ~ October 2-5, 2016 ~ SOLD OUT

All tours max out at 56 guests as that’s how many seats are on the bus

RSVP
(619) 295-3939

COST
$1,075 per person based on double occupancy
$225 single occupancy upcharge

DEPOSITS
$175 non-refundable initial deposit due upon making your reservation
$300 non-refundable second deposit due 75 days before the tour start date
$600 non-refundable final payment (+ any single occupancy upcharges if applicable) due 45 days before the tour start date

INCLUDED IN COST:
1. All breakfasts
2. All lunches (including beverages)
3. All dinners (including beverages)
4. Three nights of luxury hotel accommodations
5. Motorcoach transportation
6. All distillery tours and tastings
7. A bottle or two of Kentucky’s finest for you to take home

NOT INCLUDED IN COST:
1. Air fare to and from Kentucky
2. Taxi or shuttle fares to and from airport
3. Optional extra cocktails or extra wine

>>> Please SCROLL DOWN for the hour-by-hour itinerary below, but here’s an overview of the highlights:

The tour will start and end in Louisville, Kentucky. Downtown Louisville is going through a major gentrification with tons of new hotels, restaurants, bars, specialty shops and micro distilleries popping up on every corner. It’s definitely a food and Bourbon lover’s paradise that I know everyone will enjoy immensely. We’re staying at the 18-storey, just-renovated downtown Hyatt all three nights. Sunday night we’ll meet at the top of the Hyatt for a welcome reception where we’ll take over the entire Spire, a revolving private restaurant (similar to Seattle’s famous Space Needle) with floor-to-ceiling windows offering jaw-dropping views of the city and across the Ohio River into Indiana. After stepping off our private elevator, you’ll be greeted with a specialty Bourbon-based cocktail followed by a Bourbon tasting paired with a Bourbon-friendly menu.

After dinner everyone will be free for the evening to sample Bourbons and collect stamps in your “Urban Bourbon Trail” Passport which we’ll hand out at dinner already stamped with your first stamp from Spire. (The Passport is a guide to the Bourbon bars and restaurants in Louisville. There are currently 32 establishments participating, of which 23 are within walking distance to the Hyatt. We’ll have a little contest at the end of the tour to see who collects the most stamps, but if you get at least 6 stamps, you’ll get a free Urban Bourbon Trail T-shirt. What’s nice about many of the bars is that they offer extremely reasonably priced Bourbon flights and smaller tasting pours so you can try lots of different Bourbons without getting trashed. And yes, I do hold the record for having stamps … and somewhat legible tasting notes … from all 32 establishments … yikes!)

After breakfast (included) at the hotel Monday morning we’ll head east towards Lexington. First stop will be at Woodford Reserve in the heart of beautiful thoroughbred country for a tour and tasting. Woodford County boasts more Kentucky Derby winners than any other place in the world. They attribute it to the high limestone content of the water which produces extra strong bones in the race horses (and presumably extra delicious Bourbon as it takes good water to make good Bourbon). We’ll let you be the judge of that but I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Next stop will be Buffalo Trace where we’ll see the famous Blanton’s bottling line and enjoy a special seated tasting and a specialty Bourbon cocktail paired with a BBQ lunch. And in case you’re wondering, yes, I pulled every string I could to host a legendary Pappy Van Winkle tasting here (which is made at Buffalo Trace), but unfortunately to no avail. The good news though is that Pappy (from 15, 18, 20 and 23 year-old casks in exponentially increasing price points) is available in a few select bars around town if you’re willing to part with serious coin. (You only live once though, right?!)

Next stop will be at Wild Turkey for an extra-special tour where we’ll also meet (as long as he’s in town) legendary Jimmy Russell, their master distiller of the last sixty years. (Yes, six-oh.) I had the distinct honor and pleasure of having dinner with Jimmy and his wife Joretta last time I was in town and all I can say is “How do you say old-school, uncompromising, gracious, genuine, lovely folk, and a few other endearing adjectives I can’t think of right now all at the same time?” ‘Nuf said, and I consider myself a lucky guy to have been able to spend time with them. Anyway, if you’re like most folks, you probably associate Wild Turkey with their mass marketed Wild Turkey 101, however, they also produce some amazing small batch stuff like Russell’s Reserve and their Diamond bottling which, of course, is what we’ll be sampling.

Then it’s back to the hotel to freshen up before dinner at Marketplace, one of my favorite restaurants in Louisville. We’ll start there with a specialty Bourbon cocktail followed by a 4-course dinner. And if you’re temporarily “Bourboned out,” (and I do stress the word “temporarily!”) wine will be available for purchase. After dinner you’re free to hit a few bars (do not miss the upscale, old-school Brown Hotel lobby bar right next door to Marketplace where you’ll find me drinking a Willett Pot Still neat with rocks on the side) to collect some more stamps in your passport before calling it a night.

After breakfast (included) at the hotel Tuesday morning we’ll all walk over to the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience where we’ll enjoy a premium tasting of some really, really old Bourbon (the $300-400 a bottle stuff) in their secret speak-easy basement bar followed by a fascinating tour of their on-site micro distillery plus an animated history of Louisville’s beginnings.

After that we’ll head south to Bardstown, the self-proclaimed “Bourbon Capital of the World.” We’ve got lots of ground to cover, and lots of fabulous, 20+ year-old Bourbons to sample (more of that $300-400 a bottle of stuff) plus a dinner to die for, so we’re going to eliminate a lunch stop by serving box lunches on the bus so we’ll have more time at the distilleries.

First Bardstown stop will be at Heaven Hill, the last large non-corporate, non-international-conglomerate-controlled, completely family-owned distillery in Kentucky. By now y’all will be walking encyclopedias on how Bourbon is made and could probably lead a tour of your own, so we’ll skip the usual spiel and head straight to the closest rickhouse where we’ll be overcome by the “angel’s share” of some really old stuff before walking back to one of the coolest bars you’ve ever been in. Basically you walk into a ginormous barrel (think room sized) and viola, there’s the bar. Subtly under lit (so you can see the color variations in the really old stuff), and in a perfect circle, here’s where you’re going to taste some super, super, limited premium stuff that very folks ever get to sample. What I also love about Heaven Hill (besides the Bourbon) is that they’ve got model exhibits that clearly explain every step of the Bourbon making process so that it’s easy to get a “visual” on how it all goes down.

After Heaven Hill and literally three minutes down the road is one of my all-time favorite distilleries. They’re really not set up for groups our size but after sufficient groveling, they graciously agreed to bend the rules a bit. This will be an “un-glamorous” tour of a hard-core, artisan, mom-and-pop production facility that is producing some of the finest affordable (although sometimes hard to find) Bourbons out there. Their flagship “Pot Still” Bourbon is bottled in a unique bottle shaped exactly like their distinctive pot still. If you’ve got room in your suitcase (unfortunately Kentucky is one of the few states left with arcane alcohol laws that prohibit shipping) I highly recommend getting a pot still magnum here to take home … amazing stuff and guaranteed no one else on your block will have it. Last time I was there they we’re also doing some experiments with curing hams in their rickhouse. Thought being that the hams will absorb some of the “angel’s share” … thus creating a true “Bourbon-cured” ham. It’ll be interesting to find out how that experiment turned out when we return.

After that we’ve got a spectacular grand finale at Maker’s Mark. We’re doing a behind-the-scenes tour where we’ll taste Bourbon coming right off the still and visit areas off limits to the general public. You’ll also get to dip your own bottle into their distinctive red wax and then take it home with you. After our private tour, the grounds will close to the public and we’ll take over their beautiful new event center overlooking the distillery for a cocktail reception followed by an off-the-charts dinner catered by my friends at Harrison-Smith House, easily the best restaurant in Bardstown. This finale event at Maker’s promises to be an amazing conclusion to an amazing three nights. But wait, after that it’s still not over. Rest up on the 75 minute drive back to Louisville because there will still be plenty of time to visit more Bourbon bars (some of which are open until 3:00AM) to collect more stamps in your passport. (The visitor center where you redeem your passport for your free Kentucky Bourbon Trail T-shirt is literally next door to the Hyatt so don’t forget to stop in before you leave Wednesday.)

HOUR-BY-HOUR ITINERARY

SUNDAY
Arrive Louisville on your own and check into the downtown Hyatt anytime before Sunday evening. Southwest’s current flight schedule puts the earliest arrival into Louisville from San Diego at 5:10PM. (Louisville is three hours ahead of San Diego.) We’ll also have discounted group hotel rates if you want to arrive a day or two early to do some additional exploring on your own.
07:00PM Cocktail reception and bourbon pairing dinner at rooftop Spire at Hyatt
08:00PM Urban Bourbon Trail on your own with your new friends (everything is walking distance)
10:00PM Back to hotel for the night

MONDAY
07:30AM Breakfast included at Sway Restaurant in Hyatt lobby
08:30AM Board bus
09:45AM Arrive Woodford Reserve for tour and tasting
11:30PM Depart Woodford Reserve
12:00PM Arrive Buffalo Trace for tour, tasting and BBQ lunch
02:15PM Depart Buffalo Trace
03:00PM Arrive Wild Turkey for tour and tasting
04:45PM Depart Wild Turkey
06:00PM Back to hotel to freshen up
07:00PM Cocktail reception and dinner at Marketplace
09:00PM Urban Bourbon Trail on your own with your new friends (everything is walking distance)
10:00PM Back to hotel for the night

TUESDAY
07:30AM Breakfast included at Sway Restaurant in Hyatt lobby
09:00AM Walk to Evan Williams
09:15AM Evan Williams Bourbon Experience for tour and private ultra-premium tasting in speakeasy bar
10:45AM Board bus (box lunches will be served on the bus)
11:45PM Arrive Heaven Hill for tour and ultra-premium private tasting
01:15PM Depart Heaven Hill
01:30PM Arrive Willet for tour and tasting
03:00PM Depart Willet
03:30PM Arrive Maker’s Mark for behind-the-scenes tour and dinner
07:30PM Depart Maker’s Mark
08:45PM Back to hotel
09:00PM Urban Bourbon Trail on your own with your new friends (everything is walking distance)
11:00PM Back to hotel for the night

WEDNESDAY
anytime Fly back home on your own (remember to get your free Bourbon Trail T-shirt before you leave!)