Willett Distillery | Camels & Chocolate

Going Native in Kentucky

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Back in May, SVV and I went away for a Memorial Day weekend trip to Kentucky with my cousin and her husband John (yes, they who produce the world’s most beautiful children). On our final morning, we got a really cool, authentic bourbon experience, all thanks to a single Tweet.

Woodford Reserve Distillery | Camels & ChocolateGiven that John is much more prolific than I when it comes to brews and spirits—my reviews are more of the “tastes good!” and “goes down smooth!” variety—and in honor of National Bourbon Heritage Month, I asked him to share his own account of our time in Bardstown. Doesn’t he just look like the type of guy from whom you’d love to take bourbon advice?

Wild Turkey | Camels & ChocolateDuring the second night of our Bourbon Trail tour, I have to admit I was a little disappointed. A few months leading up to the trip, I was on a bourbon kick and trying many small batch varieties. Thinking about this trip brought visions of finding those smaller, off-the-beaten-path distilleries and trying many new bourbons that are not available in my local liquor store. I am sure if we would have done even a little planning, we would have been able to find these little gems, but we had not. (Editor’s note: Oops!)

Willett Distillery | Camels & ChocolateBy Sunday night we had visited Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, Woodford Reserve and Four Roses, all of which were fantastic and had great bourbons. My beef was that everything that I sampled was accessible in my hometown. I wanted something new. Leave it to Twitter to satisfy my craving.

Sunday night, Kristin tweeted that we were in Bardstown on a self-planned bourbon tour and asked if there were any recommendations. Drew Kulsveen, master distiller at Kentucky Bourbon Distillers answered immediately and gave us better than a recommendation: He invited us on a private tour of his distillery. I couldn’t have been more excited.

Willett Distillery | Camels & ChocolateMonday morning we pulled into the distillery. It looked similar to the other distilleries that we had visited, only smaller—like if you took Heaven Hill, threw a little water on it and put it in the dryer.

Willett Distillery | Camels & ChocolateAnother difference was the fact that it was almost completely empty. There was a loan car parked outside one of the buildings in the back of the distillery. It was Drew’s.

Willett Distillery | Camels & ChocolateEven though it was Memorial Day, Drew had come in that day to meet us and give us a private tour. He took us around and walked us through the process of making whiskey. This was his family business going back several generations. The guy knew how to make whiskey—great whiskey even.

He showed off some of the latest renovations and new stills that they had recently installed. My favorite part of the tour was getting to see barrel number one which was filled in 1927 by Drew’s grandfather. A few years back on what would have been his 103rd birthday, Drew and his family celebrated by opening it up and having a few in his honor. I wish I could have been a fly on the rickhouse wall that night.

Drew then took us to their shop and let us sample a few of their bourbons and ryes. All of which were unique, complex and most importantly delicious. SVV and I each bought a couple of bottles to enjoy at a later date.

Willett Distillery | Camels & ChocolateI also picked up a freshly dumped barrel that I will use to age beer in this fall. (Editor’s note: Not the first time we’ve transported a bourbon barrel in the back of my mom’s SUV!)

Willett Distillery, KentuckyOther than the bottles of bourbon filling our trunk on the drive home, I can’t imagine a better souvenir—or one that will get more use—to have brought back with me.

Willett Distillery | Camels & ChocolateVisitor’s Tip: Since our trip to Willett in May, the distillery has started to offer free tours to the public. Give them a call if you’re in the area and interested in visiting.

Willett Distillery | Camels & Chocolate

  • September 24, 2012

    Nice to get a private tour.

  • September 24, 2012

    Looks like a lot of fun! I wish I could have a barrel…

  • September 24, 2012

    What a great idea for a trip. And so cool that you got off the beaten path and saw something different than the usual!

  • September 24, 2012

    Did it go down smooth?! 🙂

    P.S. – I like this layout. It’s beautiful. When did you get it? I need to stop reading in RSS feeds so often!

    • September 24, 2012

      Thanks, Matt! Launched the redesign in mid-June, though the designer dropped off the map without finishing the project, so there’s still Phase II to go…

  • September 24, 2012

    Best souvenir ever!

  • September 26, 2012

    Your time was never wasted instead it’s all paid off and now you have yourself a souvenir that is something uncommon.

  • September 26, 2012

    Now THAT is a great story. I’ve been meaning to take tour of Bourbon County and sounds like you had the best of both worlds: a private tour AND an awesome souvenir. Hope it’s displayed somewhere proudly in your home!

    • October 11, 2012

      I bet Baby E would love her some Bourbon Country! 😉

  • September 28, 2012

    Private tour, oo la la! Looks like a great time. Also, I want that turkey barrel. For my yard. And I’d invite passers by to ride it.

    • October 11, 2012

      I think a turkey barrel is just what your yard needs to distinguish you as “most popular broad” in your neighborhood. If you don’t already own such a title, that is.

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