With the arrival of all things fall comes an overwhelming desire to switch my spirit of choice from gin to bourbon. Bourbon embodies this season for me, which is why our recent trip to explore the Northern Kentucky bourbon trail couldn’t have been more aptly timed. And if you’re heading to Covington and Newport—bordering cities in the far reaches of Northern Kentucky—I’m going to tell you just where you can go for the best bourbon in Cincy and beyond, distilleries and bars all along The B-Line®.
I also created this handy Google Map of all The B-Line stops so you can bookmark the link and use it on the go.
This project is in partnership with meetNKY. All opinions are ours exclusively.
About Northern Kentucky’s The B-Line
I don’t need to tell you that bourbon and Kentucky are synonymous, but did you know that the Cincinnati area has its own bourbon scene on the Kentucky side of the river? The B-Line is a self-guided tour of some of Northern Kentucky’s best bourbon-fueled and spirit-soaked spots in Covington, Newport, Ludlow, Maysville and beyond.
The Kentucky Distillers’ Association, of course, has its widely-known Kentucky Bourbon Trail. We’ve tackled this in full, too—we completed the original trail before it expanded to include more than a dozen distilleries. All of the Northern Kentucky distilleries on The B-Line are also members of the KBT Craft Trail, so you can get passport stamps as you go.
And once you complete a visit to two distilleries, two restaurants and two bars along The B-Line, you can submit your stops to the visitors bureau and redeem for some fun bourbon swag.
What makes The B-Line so doable is its accessibility from Cincinnati. Nine bridges connect the states across the Ohio River, and the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) is just 15 minutes from Covington and Cincy in Florence. In fact, while I drove up and back from Tennessee—around five hours—I sent SVV home on a flight from Cincy to Nashville and extended my own stay for the local tennis masters!
Where to stay along The B-Line
While you could find a place to stay anywhere in Northern Kentucky and be an easy drive to The B-Line stops, making your base in Covington makes the most sense thanks to its central locale and many bars and restaurants that are an easy walk or short drive away. On this trip to Cincy, we stayed in Covington—Northern Kentucky’s largest city—in the most delightful converted building. Right off Covington’s main commerce corridor, Madison Avenue, is the Pickle Factory, a boutique lodging option that debuted in 2021 with plenty of personal and local touches.
The building has been around since the 1800s and has lived many lives: as a soda pop operation, the African American Odd Fellows Hall, a pickle factory. Today, it’s an eight-suite boutique hotel in Covington that was the perfect place for us to stay during our three-day trip to Kentucky. Each room is uniquely designed, and the property is more like an Airbnb in that you have contactless check-in and a keypad entry to both the building and your individual suite.
There were pickles everywhere, and I couldn’t get enough of this theme! There were pickles on the walls, pickles in the hallways, even pickles painted on the barrel at the entrance of the alley that led to the Pickle Factory.
Which distilleries to visit in Northern Kentucky
The distilleries along The B-Line are spread out from Boone County up to Covington and back down the river to Augusta and Maysville—around 70 miles in length if you were to drive the route straight through. My ideal tempo on a bourbon trip is touring a distillery visit or two a day, then parking ourselves in a walkable area to explore more of the region’s restaurants and bars.
While some of the bigger distillery operations in Cincy like New Riff are open six days a week, many of the smaller ones only offer tours on weekends, so plan your trip to Northern Kentucky accordingly.
New Riff Distilling
When it comes to Northern Kentucky bourbon, New Riff is usually the name people are most familiar with. In its decade of operation, New Riff Distilling has won myriad awards and expanded distribution to several states. We’ve visited New Riff on multiple occasions, but on this particular visit the flow of a matured operation was obvious. The distillery opened in 2014 and has gone through several upgrades since then—including a $3.5 million renovation earlier this year—so even though we’d been before, it was a whole new experience and seamlessly elegant from start to finish.
On this visit, we did New Riff’s Bonded Tour, which is offered every day they are open, and was a fun and new way to experience the distillery. You taste along the tour at various points as you’re simultaneously learning both the history of the brand and the bourbon-making process. The tour ends in the upgraded tasting room where you get a few last samples before you leave.
Old Pogue Distillery
Old Pogue Distillery in Maysville is the hardest distillery tour in Kentucky to nab a spot on, and after visiting, I see why: It may be a big name, but it’s still a small, family-owned operation with limited spots on each of the tours. This is one you need to book far in advance. Why? Well, I’ll tell you: In 1876, Old Pogue become Kentucky’s third registered distillery. Today, fifth- and sixth-generation family members carry the torch using the same formula and process.
The hour-long tour starts in the Greek Revival-style home of the Pogues, then continues to the small distillery where they only distill once a year. You’ll finish up with a tasting in the main house. Old Pogue was one of the more scenic distilleries I’ve ever visited and truly felt like you were being invited into a family’s legacy as opposed to being tourists dropping into a nearly 150-year-old bourbon empire.
Tours are only available on Fridays and select Saturdays by appointment, but the Old Pogue Experience—a tasting room and bourbon history museum—in downtown Maysville has expanded hours from Tuesday through Saturday.
Twenty minutes up the road from Old Pogue is the town of Augusta. And the very day we happened to be visiting Augusta Distillery, I received a dedicated newsletter from Garden & Gun titled “This Bourbon Was Judged the World’s Best” all about Augusta earning the title of best overall bourbon at San Francisco World Spirits Competition in a field of 503 entrants, immediately followed by the American Distilling Institute naming its single-barrel the Best Craft Bourbon. Color me impressed!
And while sure, awards aren’t everything, I immediately saw the vision of the founders when we popped in for a high-proof tasting and a tour guide showed us plans for the distillery’s future. The expansive brick warehouse, which offers a more limited visitor experience at the moment due to renovations, eventually will have a glass-enclosed still, a sprawling courtyard, a bistro that’s a sister to the ever-popular Beehive Tavern and even pickleball courts.
Second Sight Spirits
When I tell you I’ve done a whole lot of distillery tours—more than 50 in the past decade alone—then take my word for this: Second Sight Spirits is something special. From the founders’ stories to the theatrical flair with which they deliver the tour to the thoughtful circus-themed details woven throughout the space, this Ludlow distillery made me swoon.
Founders Rick Couch and Carus Waggoner have been friends since childhood, and they both fell into a passion for designing and building sets for Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas. By chance, they learned the art of distilling and built a still from scratch-made parts. Many years and hours of learning later, their distillery in Kentucky opened in 2014. The tour is fascinating in itself just to learn about the distillery’s many props and accessories they hand-crafted.
The Second Sight Spirits tour lasts between an hour and 90 minutes and concludes with a tasting. On weekend mornings, you can arrive early and grab a coffee or pastry in the distillery bar before your tour.
Newport sits adjacent to Covington, another Northern Kentucky city that rests along the Ohio River. One of the newest spots to join the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour and The B-Line, Pensive is a micro-distillery and restaurant in Newport that I dropped into for a drink on my final day in Kentucky.
With Derby horse racing as their muse and as a reboot from the pandemic-era casualty of 27 Bar and Kitchen, Pensive Distilling Company serves spirits distilled and bottled right on the premises, including bourbon, apple pie moonshine and vodka. They also make a mean barbecue sauce out of their product if you can get your hands on some!
Where to drink bourbon in Covington and Newport
Of course, you can only squeeze so many distillery visits into a single day, but if you’re staying in Covington or Newport, there are plenty of bourbon bars to visit in the after hours. These were our personal standouts.
Revival Vintage Bottle Shop
At Revival Vintage Bottle Shop in Newport, visitors have the unique opportunity to taste flavors that don’t exist in stores anymore, as owner Brad “Dusty” Bonds has been collecting vintage spirits from the forgotten basement collections of families for the last 10 years. This bottle shop has varieties from across eras that boggle the imagination once you start thinking about it. Fancy a curaçao from 1975? He’s got that. How about a Heaven Hill from 1982? You can taste that too.
Expertly curated from dusty closets and garages, the selections are for sale in full bottles but also, crucially, available as samples to taste at affordable prices. And even if you’re not in the market to take home a $500 relic with you, it’s worth perusing his shelves to see the impressive collection and artful bottles that line the store’s shelves.
Revival has grand plans to move into a new larger space next door to North by Hotel Covington in the coming year, and I can’t wait to visit the next iteration of this absolute gem, complete with a full bar that will enable you to taste cocktails made with alcohol from before, among other things, the atomic bomb.
Prohibition Bourbon Bar
We walked into Prohibition in Newport, and it felt like entering a secret club only the bourbon elite of Northern Kentucky know of. There were all the regulars, of course, and they could spot a newcomer from a mile away; we knew everyone on a first-name basis by the time we left. But what makes this unassuming bar even cooler is it lays claim to the largest collection of bourbons and ryes in the world.
The owners are also are very active in fundraising for the local animal rescue SAAP (Stray Animal Adoption Program), including hosting bourbon raffles. The bar is attached to their Newberry Brothers Coffee shop, which boasts a pastry and coffee pop-up every third Sunday, and it’s only open on Friday and Saturday nights so reservations are strongly encouraged.
If you want to hit several locations on The B-Line in one fell swoop, take an Uber to Covington’s charming Mainstrasse and start your bar crawl at Wiseguy Lounge. On the second floor above Goodfellas Pizzeria, this cocktail lounge is a speakeasy at heart and taps into that jazzy 1920’s vibe.
Fancy a second round? Juniper’s is just around the corner—and with more than 180 gins from around the globe, it’s a great spot to reset before dinner at Lisse Steakhuis across the street.
Other Boozy Attractions in Northern Kentucky
If bourbon bars aren’t your thing, you’ll still find plenty to whet your palate in Northern Kentucky. In addition to cocktail bars galore, we unearthed some other fun alternatives: Covington and Ludlow, in particular, have several great breweries like Braxton and the circus-themed Bircus Brewing Company if beer is more your vibe.
You can see a full list of bourbon stops in Northern Kentucky via The B-Line’s site.