Coffee in Kentucky: A Specialty Brew [Guest Post]

I’m excited to feature our first guest post this week… And it is coming from none other than my fabulous sister!

Rachel is the Assistant Race Director for Lexington’s Run The Bluegrass half marathon event. While it may sound as though the job and event revolve around running, the truth is the focus is completely on sharing the Bluegrass experience–the delight that it is–with more people and creating a memorable experience in general. Beyond the race, Run The Bluegrass works to share the little gems that make Kentucky what it is, including horse country, bourbon, great food and great people. A newest addition to what they are offering people of the world is a taste of delightful coffee brewed in Winchester, Ky.

If you’re a coffee lover (like me!) I encourage you to read the following and you can even order the beans for yourself. You can also follow her, Rachel Runs the Bluegrass, on the blog, Facebook or Instagram. Whether you’re a Kentuckian or not, believe me when I tell you that you do not have to be a runner to enjoy what Run the Bluegrass has to offer. 

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Cheers! It’s Coffee Time!

Guest Post by Rachel Crabtree from Rachel Runs the Bluegrass

No matter what is going on in life, one thing is a constant for me: my morning coffee! It’s the time I take, each and every day to breathe in the day, reflect, give thanks and look forward to what’s to come. Even when I travel, the French press, grinder, and RTB mug travel with me! Needless to say… I LOVE a good cup o’ Joe!

And suffice it to say, Eric feels the same! He had always talked about wanting to find a coffee we could make our “RunTheBluegrass” signature blend, but could never find one that suited our palettes…until now!

Rewind to last spring, probably early March – close to race time. We had been working all day and needed a break, so we headed out to our favorite eating spot, Graze Market & Café. After dinner, we decided to try some coffee (with dessert, of course!) – but first asked our server if their coffee was “any good?” The people at the table next to us spoke up and asked if we were big coffee drinkers and a conversation ensued. Turns out, they were the owners of Creative Coffees Roastery, which happened to provide the coffee to Graze. We chatted, exchanged business cards and made plans to go for a visit.

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Finally, sometime in June that visit happened! We took the short drive down I-64 to Winchester to visit our now friends, Debbie and Jeff in their new facility. I really knew very little…OK, nothing, about coffee. Except how to drink it! They showed us the whole process, from the green raw beans, to the roaster and the fancy programming that gets the beans perfectly “cooked,” to some of the flavoring processes they can do. Their beans come from around the world, and they are careful to select vendors who use fair trade practices and only the best quality beans.

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We went back a few weeks later and took our favorite beans (Starbuck’s Café Verona) to sample against some of their coffees, to see if we could find a match. It was a lot like a bourbon sampling, really – I made myself try each one black, first, and before doctoring it up the way I like it (a little raw cane sugar and a good dollop of heavy whipping cream!) Right away, we fell in love with the El Salvador French Roast and its dark, chocolatey notes. Each coffee – like bourbon – has its own unique flavors and nuances, and finally we had found a winner! But when Debbie mentioned that it could be roasted even a little darker – an Italian Espresso roast – which would make it even more bold and chocolatey, I got really excited! So we set a date to come back with a group of coffee connoisseurs, to make our final selections.

Did you know that all coffee beans are hand-picked, first from the trees, and then again, from their pods? And once in a great while, a “freak of nature” occurs and instead of there being two beans in the pod, there is only one: the Peaberry. For whatever reason, this lonely lil bean has its own unique flavor, too. Still a little chocolatey but not quite as strong. And the Italian Espresso roast was AMAZING. Then they threw in a third option – the Costa Rican “Happiness” – which I would call an after dinner or afternoon coffee… a little lighter, some fruit notes, and not quite as bold.

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But why in the world would a race care about having a coffee, anyway? Besides the fact that its organizers love coffee, of course? For us, it’s another way to create an experience for all of our running family. Some may have noticed our Sunday Morning Coffee Toasts led by Papa Green Cawood out in Arizona (on Facebook?) Friendships are formed, conversations forged, thoughts shared…over coffee. After we tasted and voted on our RTB Coffee Selections, we all went to Graze for dinner to celebrate. Many great memories were made, and I’m quite certain a good time was had by all…which is always our goal. Creating a community of people, around the world, sharing life and reuniting each spring for a big ole family reunion!

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So Cheers! I’m raising my cup to you, my running (and non-running) family around the globe!

#RachelRunsTheBluegrass

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10 Things Tuesday: Red, White & Bluegrass

Celebrating 4th of July in Kentucky

With the 4th of July falling on a Monday, many of us are in store for a 3-day holiday weekend–four days if you consider there are plenty things to do on a Friday evening. Check out this list of happenings and tips on how to celebrate right!

1. State Park Celebrations
You can bank on state parks celebrating USA’s birthday. If you have one near you or are thinking to do some adventuring over the holiday weekend, check out the events schedules for some of Kentucky’s state parks here-Rita

2. 4-Day Festival in Lexington, KY
If you live near or around Lexington the city is hosting a Fourth of July Festival sponsored by Fifth Third.  The festival will be located downtown and will kick off July 1st ending July 4th.  There will be a Great American Pie contest, ice cream social, concerts, bluegrass 10k, farmer’s market, parade and of course fireworks.  This will be a great time! -Holly Jo
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3. Home Safety
If you opt to celebrate with fireworks at home, take precautions, especially if children will be near or participating. It is extremely easy to forget the danger fireworks pose. Here is a list of safety tips to follow or ways to make it safer for kids.  -Rita
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4. Lake Herrington
The lake is always a fun place to spend the 4th of July weekend.  If you’ve never been or don’t have a boat, I’m someone you know wouldn’t mind if you joined them for the weekend!  We always go to Herrington Lake (25 minutes from Lexington).  There’s lots of good food, drinks, family, friends and Chimney Rock always sets off fireworks. -Holly Jo
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5. Lake Cumberland Fireworks
Lake Cumberland is another great lake to hit this weekend. Enjoy the Jamestown festival, LAKEFEST, or the celebration on the state dock where the band SUPERFECTA will be playing.(Saturday, July 2). Or celebrate at the Land Between the Lakes in Burnside, KY for fireworks and music Friday, July 1. -Rita
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6. Red, White & Blue Refreshing Treat
I’m sure everyone has either had or seen the red, white and blue firecracker Popsicles.  Let’s take this kid friendly snack and not only share it with our little ones, but use them to make a nice icy Fourth of July adult beverage.  Mix together equal parts vodka, pineapple juice, grapefruit juice with a splash of cranberry and pop one of these Popsicles in each person drink.  Super cute and very tasty! -Holly Jo
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7. Shade Sale!
Every girl needs a good pair of sunglasses for 4th of July!  Check out how cute these pink and gold aviators are from the Loft.  They are even cuter in person with the trendy mirrored lenses and are currently on sale for $15! -Holly Jo
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8. Louisville Orchestra at the Waterfront
Enjoy a day of family fun at the Waterfront with the Louisville Orchestra performing at 8:30 p.m. and a fireworks display over the Ohio beginning at 10 p.m. Admission is free and features a family fun zone, food and drinks, and other live music all beginning at 5 p.m. on July 3. Check out other activities taking place in Louisville throughout the weekend here-Rita
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9. Dress the Part!
I love an excuse to dress to a theme and Independence Day is a perfect one! You can find extremely cute tops for the whole family for very little at places like Walmart, Target and Kohls. You can also keep it simple if you don’t want to spend money on something holiday specific. Wear red, white and blue and spruce up your look with accessories like the right shades, hat or jewelry.  -Rita
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10. Patriotic Berries
Fresh fruit is such an amazing summertime snack and the bonus is a lot of it is in season, so it’s cheap to buy. Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and watermelon can all make your food spread both tasty and festive–not to mention healthy! You can make snazzy desserts like this brownie pizza, refreshing drinks like sangria, or simply laying out the fruit as is can make a pretty patriotic look. -Rita

10 Great [Kentucky] Father’s Day Gift Ideas

Guys get off so easy… Buying for a girl is pretty darn simple with a list of endless options from candy and flowers to jewelry, spa treatments and clothes. But when it’s time to return the favor, picking out a gift for a guy is tough. Father’s Day is one such occasion.

It’s not that guys necessarily expect you to go “big” for the holiday. Many are happy with small things or fun outings, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to try to do more. The problem is, many things guys are interested in come with a high price tag or the guy is so particular about the gift, you wouldn’t dare trying to pick it out on your own. I know that’s how I feel when it comes to tools with my husband. (A flashlight is a flashlight, right? Nope…not for him…So many details and specifics that make them different.)

Here are 10 ideas that will hopefully trigger great ideas from you. Only a week left to shop! (And don’t forget to include a nice note or card!)

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Smaller Versions of the  Trending Big Brand Items

1. Yeti Drinkware & Coolers
They are all the rage: Yeti brand coolers. These suckers keep things ice cold for hours–days even. Even if you cannot spring for a cooler, the tumbler is a great gift.
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2. Big Green Egg
Another major “manly” brand that goes hand-in-hand with something many guys love to do (grilling) is the Big Green Egg. It comes in numerous sizes, and any guy who doesn’t mind to stand over a grill with a cold brew would love one of his own.
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More high end trending gift ideas for dads here.

A Play on His Favorites

3. Grill, Bar & Man Cave Accessories
Every guy has the place at home that is “theirs” or where they are most comfortable. They may not like to call it “accessorizing” like we ladies do, but they too like to fancy up their space. You know them best and the accessorizing may include handy tools and geeky gadgets or sports paraphernalia and favorite movie decor. Think about that space for the father your shopping for and what would help complete it.

4. Tickets
Check out area and regional shows and concerts coming to town… Sometimes we feel selfish taking time out/off  in addition to spending money to see performances we love. If your guy has a taste for this sort of thing, tickets for an upcoming show would be a great surprise.

More interest specific gift ideas here.

DIY & Uniquely Crafted Gifts

5. Bourbon Barrels re-made & bar gear
For the Kentucky gentleman, owning an old bourbon barrel, remade into something for your home or lifestyle is a perfect reflection of your roots. (Particularly if you actually drink bourbon!) You can buy the barrels and create something unique on your own or you can buy original, special gifts created from bourbon barrels.
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6. Pallet Board DIY ideas
Pallet Boards used to just be something you found sitting in a barn or warehouse, but today there are people who love to get their hands on them and turn them into something new and usable. Whether you are one of those crafty people or just like the look, they make for great gifts and oftentimes ones that are manly enough for a father.
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7. Cute crafts from the kids
Obviously, if you have little ones, you need to have them give their own personal gift to Dad. A lot of preschools and daycares do these kinds of crafts, but you may want to take the time to do one yourself that you can make more personal for your child’s relationship with his/her dad. Obviously Pinterest has a slew of ideas. The glove handprints are super cute for a dad who works outside a lot. If he travels a lot or has an office, something he can keep on his desk or carry with him is also a good idea.
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More great DIY gift ideas here.

Kentucky Specific Gifts

8. Kentucky Proud Gear
The site Kentucky for Kentucky is having a huge sale this weekend. Check out their site for some great gift ideas.
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9. Special events in your area
Check your area for special events taking place in honor of Father’s Day. Here are just a few in Kentucky:
Belle of Louisville Sightseeing/Father’s Day BBQ
Churchill Downs
Woodford Reserve
Father’s Day Train Ride
Kentucky Derby Museum “Doughnuts With Dad” Tour & Breakfast
Natural Bridge Father’s Day Weekend Adventure Campout
Check area golf and country clubs for special Father’s Day events as well.

10. Day-Of Outings and Fun
Some families and fathers like to keep it simple, which is sometimes the best way to celebrate. The great news is, everyone celebrates dads and you can easily find day-of fun in your area. A lot of restaurants host special meals or offerings for dads. In the past, Comfy Cow has offered free ice cream to dads. The Louisville Zoo is free for fathers, just as the Ali Center has offered in the past. (Not sure about this year in lieu of recent events.)  Check Dr. Google or local media sources for more deals in your specific area for places that host dads free or with special treatment.

Check out the vlog video where Jo and I discuss some of these (and other) ideas together.

Memorial Day Camping in the Knobs of Central Kentucky [VIDEO]

I bet you thought the holiday weekend (Monday) had me all messed up and I forgot about my regularly scheduled Tuesday post? Wrong!

I’ve actually been hard at work to get this non-traditional post up, but it took a little more time than usual. We celebrated Memorial Day in the same way I have my entire life: camping on our land with friends.

I decided to put together a special edition vlog on the event, as it has been 15 years since the first time we camped in our traditional campsite on the family property. Our “family” of friends keeps growing and before we know it, we’ll have young campers wanting their own fire circle like we had growing up.

A tradition that began many moons again with my uncles and their friends, turned into a tradition of my older brother’s and his friends… That evolved into college friends and extended to include my friends, then my younger brother’s friends… Now new husbands and wives have been added and even babies and kids.

We are truly blessed to live in such a beautiful world and I am even more blessed to call central Kentucky my home–it truly is a spectacular creation and it’s awesome to spend a few days disconnecting and enjoying the simple things like, green grass, rocks in the creek, cool breezes and good food. As someone pointed out over the weekend: You almost don’t even notice the lack of electricity! (Real showers are nice, though!)

I do sleep at the house now that we live a matter of meters from the campground, but… Can you blame me?? (Especially with two littles!!)

Here’s a look at what the great outdoors in the Bluegrass looks like as summer truly begins. (Plus some awesome footage from a recently purchased drone by my older brother…!)

10 Things Tuesday: Reasons to Love Kentucky Summers

A different variation of 10 Things Tuesday… The last few days have been unusually cool here in Kentucky for this time of year. It makes me that much more anxious for summer to arrive. With summer on the brain, I’ve compiled a list of 10 things I love about Kentucky summers!

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1. The Lake
Our proximity to the ocean may not be ideal (8-10 hour minimum), but we’ve got some killer lakes and marinas. From my central Kentucky location, I can travel an hour or less north or south and be at my choice of Lake Cumberland‘s Jamestown Marina or any number of marina’s on Lake Herrington, plus a few lake houses owned by close friends. Oceans and beaches may scream summer to many, but in this area, we dream about packing coolers for weekends on the lake.
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2. Drive-in Theaters
Movies on the big screen are great and, sure, the IMAX is pretty snazzy, but there is nothing quite like a movie under the stars at the drive-in theater. It reflects a simpler time where summer nights didn’t include gadgets and devices. There are two one-screen theaters nearby, one a simple 20 minutes from our middle-of-nowhere Valley in Stanford, Ky. There is another just north of Husband’s place of work in Harrodsburg, KY. Aside from the actual theaters, a lot of parks have movie nights on the lawn. I can’t wait for the kids to be old enough to stay up late for outdoor movies.

3. Ballparks
I never played any form of baseball or softball, but even I love the ball park in the summer time. You can hit up a MLB game with a drive north to Cincinnati to see the Reds play, but you don’t even have to do that for a good baseball experience in Kentucky. The Louisville Bats and Lexington Legends are both great group/family activities.
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4. Bluegrass State Games
No matter your age or your sport of choice, Kentucky gives everyone a chance to live out their dreams for some summer fun and competition and even bring home medals. Seriously, I don’t think there is a sport not offered in the Bluegrass State Games. It even gives the opportunity for numerous ages to come together to compete, as well as boys and girls. I personally have a fond memory of running a medley relay with my brother and dad many moons ago.

5. Farmers Markets & Fresh Produce
Whether you keep your own garden or not, everyone can live like a European, cooking with fresh produce on a nightly basis, because the goods are plentiful in Kentucky. The farmers markets on Saturday mornings hold a great vibe. And if your community does not have one, it’s probably because everyone, or their neighbor, has their own plentiful garden. More or less, Kentucky has a great growing season where you can grow everything from peppers and tomatoes to corn and beans to watermelon and berries.
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6. County & State Fairs
Perhaps more crazy than classy, there is nothing quite like hitting up the county fair–and you can basically find one any weekend of the summer across the Bluegrass. And then the big finale comes in August with the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville. Again, it reflects simpler times and I think summer holds a lot of potential for putting away the gadgets and devices and instead making real memories with people you care about. Check out the livestock, ride rides and eat junky food, run into people you haven’t seen in ages, let the kids run. Enjoy being outside.

7. Dairy Dips
The simplicity of this state can be found in the state highways that wind through knobs and horse country. And you never know when you’ll happen upon the perfect summer stop off: a dairy dip with enough soft serve flavors to compete with Baskin Robins. You know it’s summertime when the dairy dips begin to open. What a depressing time when you have to pass them by to see them closed in those frigid months.  So when you see one, scrounge the change in your car and grab a tasty treat.
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8. Horse Racing
Technically the ponies don’t race all summer, but they race at Churchill Downs into July and in the Bluegrass state, horse racing is a fun exciting event anytime–not just for Derby. Besides, getting a ticket to millionaire’s row or any box seats is actually affordable. So make it a fun day with friends and splurge for the nice seats–maybe even a meal included. Who knows, one right bet and someone will have the day paid for!
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9. Lightening Bugs & Late Nights
I won’t say bugs aren’t annoying during Kentucky summers, but we also get the magic of lightening bugs on summer nights. Nothing adds magic to the outdoors like the twinkling of those little bugs. Days are long, and whether they are full or work or play, relaxing with good  food and drinks on the porch, backyard or around a fire are the way to end any day, especially on a clear night with those magical bugs twinkling all around.
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10.Celebrating Freedom
Being patriotic in the summer time just feels right–especially in a state like Kentucky that shines with small town pride. We love summer and we love our country and priding Old Glory. Seriously, can you imagine if our Independence Day was in February? Bombpops and parades in February? I don’t think so… Freedom and summer go hand-in-hand. We kick off the season with Memorial Day cookouts and camping and carry it straight through  to the 4th of July. Even my small town enjoys activities, a parade and a spectacular fireworks show.
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BONUS: 11. It’s just long enough
We look forward to summer like crazy. We get the killer snows and freezing temps that make everyone dream of the poolside and backyard grilling, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the hot humidity of June and July didn’t wear us out to the point of being pretty pumped to put on our boots and sweaters to tailgate through fall football season. Summer in Kentucky lasts just long enough to love it but be OK to see it go. And then we are always anxiously awaiting it come January or February
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What are some of your favorite parts about summer in Kentucky or summer where you live? Share! I want to know what I’m missing!

Experiencing Kentucky: Bourbon Trail & Distilleries

Kentucky has a lot more than just horses and fried chicken to offer, but one thing any native is proud of is the bourbon! (Not to be mistaken with whiskey!)

While I have tried an array of Kentucky’s bourbons, I have only been on one of the distillery tours: Maker’s Mark.  The distillery tours weren’t really something my friends did in our early to mid-20s. (We were still more interested in drinking the bourbon than knowing anything about where it came from…) By the time it was of true interest I’d gotten on the baby-train. (Dot came along to the Maker’s tour actually. She was six weeks old and we were celebrating my brother’s 30th birthday! Hubs dipped a bottle for Lou, though, and we’ll bust it out in 2034 when she turns 21!) Fitting bourbon tours in over the past three years when I’ve been breastfeeding or pregnant just haven’t been on the list.

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But hitting more of these distilleries over time is something I’d love to do and a great activity right here in our back yard.

The Bluegrass has over 20 working distilleries with more than 200 brands. Only some of the distilleries offer public tours, but even those that don’t typically offer guests tastings and gift shops. Most of the more famous bourbon brands can be found on the Bourbon Trail.

In 1999, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association formed the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® tour to give visitors a firsthand look at the art and science of crafting Bourbon, and to educate them about the rich history and proud tradition of our signature spirit.

For full history on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, visit the website.

The trail is a great adventure to take on as a group–whether it be friends or family. Even better: most of these tours and tastings are free! Visit Maker’s Mark, Four Roses, Jim Beam, Buffalo Trace, Woodford Reserve, and more all within less than a 100 miles of each other between Louisville and Lexington and beautiful horse and farm country.

Having said that, it is a drive between distilleries and often a lot of twists and turns on two lane roads. (Basically I’m saying, don’t get too carried away on those tastings–you might not make it to the next distillery!) For more tips on covering the trail, read here.

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But you definitely do not need to commit yourself to completing the Bourbon Trail to make any one of the distillery experiences worth while. Just last weekend Holly Jo and her husband treated their out of town guests to a visit to Maker’s Mark, as well as a stop at Woodford Reserve and the Taylor Made Horse Farm before attending the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.

Kentucky may not be the travel hotspot on most people’s list, but it’s a gamble worth taking and experiencing it’s horse and bourbon country showcase our beauty and uniqueness well. Even if you are simply traveling through Kentucky on I-75, I-65 or I-64 (Virginia Beach anyone?), make your road trip an experience and plan a detour in Kentucky for one of the distilleries.

Looking for a distillery in a particular area to visit in the near future. Here is a quick list with links to each distillery’s website. 
Bardstown
Barton’s 1792 Distillery
*Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center
Willet Distillery
Bowling Green
Corsair Artisan Distillery
Crestwood
Jefferson’s Reserve at Kentucky Artisan Distillery
Frankfort
Buffalo Trace
Lawrenceburg
*Four Roses
*Wild Turkey
Lexington
*Alltech Lexington Brewing & Distilling Company
Barrel House Distilling Company
Loretto
Limestone Branch Distillery
*Maker’s Mark
Louisville
Angel’s Envy
*Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience
Derby City Spirits
*Evan Williams Bourbon Experience
Grease Monkey Distillery
*Jim Beam Urban Distillery
Old Forester
Michter’s Micro-Distillery
Peerless Distillery
Northern Kentucky Region
New Riff Distillery
Old Pogue Distillery
Pembroke
MB Roland Distillery
Shepherdsville
*Four Roses Wharehouses & Bottling Tours
*Jim Beam American Stillhouse
Versailles
*Woodford Reserve
*: Kentucky Bourbon Trail