It wouldn’t be a proper visit to Kentucky without touring a bourbon distillery. And, if you are of legal drinking age, drinking the bourbon is a must, too! That is why, when I visited Kentucky for the first time in November 2014, my cousin took me to the Four Roses Bourbon distillery.
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Located on the banks of the Salt River in the Kentucky countryside, this Lawrenceburg distillery is about 25 miles from Lexington and less than 60 miles from Louisville. Whether you are visiting from either of Kentucky’s two largest cities, Four Roses is ideally positioned for bourbon-tasting excursions and day trips.
Though we opted to visit Four Roses on our own, you can book a Bourbon Trail tour from Louisville that stops at Four Roses along with two other distilleries. These guided tours include the distillery tour admission costs and private transportation from your hotel.
Additionally, the historic Four Roses Bourbon distillery is part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail ® experience. Therefore, bourbon-sipping visitors will earn a stamp in their Kentucky Bourbon Trail® passport when they visit the Four Roses distillery.
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Touring Four Roses Bourbon Distillery
After watching a video about how Four Roses bourbon is made, it was time to see the distilling process in action. Our tour’s first stop was the historic distillery erected in 1910. I have to admit the Spanish Mission-style architecture was not what I expected to see at a bourbon distillery in the heart of Kentucky, and this unique building is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
During our tour of the distillery, we also learned about the components used in making bourbon, the distilling process, and the difference between bourbon and whiskey. I even tasted the corn mash. It’s not awful, but trying mash once is enough for a lifetime. I prefer my bourbon in its finished form. 😉
It’s important to note that a good portion of the tour is outside, so you’ll want to dress accordingly. However, even on chilly days, you’ll warm right up inside the distillery — and later by drinking bourbon.
Perhaps more interesting than the bourbon-distilling process was the history of Four Roses. I particularly enjoyed the story of how Four Roses founder Paul Jones, Jr. named the company. I don’t want to ruin the surprise should you plan to tour Four Roses someday. Let’s just say, Jones’s story is a tale of his two loves — bourbon and a Southern belle.
Around the grounds and inside the distillery you’ll notice signs, like the one pictured above, in multiple languages, including Japanese. The Japanese company Kirin Brewing Company acquired Four Roses in 2002. Since then, Kirin Brewing Co. has made the Kentucky bourbon popular again in both the European and Japanese markets. It also returned Four Roses to the United States after former-owner Seagram stopped selling the brand in the US decades ago.
Tasting Four Roses Bourbon
Following the 50 minute distillery tour, we sampled several of the award-winning Four Roses bourbons during a guided tasting. Among the spirits we tasted were the Small Batch and Single Barrel bourbons. During the tasting, I noticed my preference for smoother blends that gently warmed my palate.
The bourbons we tasted are meant to be consumed neat, on the rocks, or with a splash of water. However, many folks in Kentucky love their mint juleps, especially during the Kentucky Derby. If you like mint juleps, you’ll definitely want to check out the Four Roses gift shop.
Personally, I still prefer my whiskeys and bourbons in a well-mixed cocktail or with ginger ale. How about you? How do you drink your bourbon?
What To Know Before Your Four Roses Tour
Please note that Four Roses bourbon distillery tours and tastings have been suspended in 2020 due to the intimacy and close proximity these activities require. However, the Visitors Center is open from 9 a.m. to. 4 p.m. Wednesday – Saturday and from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday for limited guests at one time. Masks are required to enter, and curbside service is available by calling (502) 839-2655.
- Location: 1224 Bonds Mill Road, Lawrenceburg, KY 40342
- Tour Times: On the hour 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Monday – Saturday, Noon – 3 p.m. Sunday
- Tour Cost: $10, includes bourbon tasting for visitors 21+ with valid ID
- Tour Reservations: Recommended for parties of 10 or more and weekend visitors. Call the Visitor Center at (502) 839-2655 to reserve your tour!
- Gift Shop Hours: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Monday – Saturday, Noon – 4 p.m. Sunday
- Bring: Valid government-issued ID (passport or U.S. driver’s license/state ID), camera, and your Kentucky Bourbon Trail® passport
- Recommended Lodging: Charred Oaks Inn
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Would you go on a Kentucky bourbon distillery tour?