A Chronological History of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail

I have been actively visiting distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail for many years. It was not too many years ago that you could complete the trail by visiting a total of seven distilleries. This number changed to eight total distilleries and then back to six before serious growth began in 2012.

In 1999, the original members of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail were Buffalo Trace in Frankfort, Four Roses in Lawrenceburg, Heaven Hill in Bardstown, Jim Beam in Clermont, Makers Mark in Loretto, Wild Turkey in Lawrenceburg, and Woodford Reserve in Frankfort. The eighth distillery to join the KBT is the one that most people forget or do not recognize. In 2008, the Tom Moore Distillery in Bardstown joined the trail. At this point, eight total distilleries were officially members of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

Line-up Changes

In 2009, Buffalo Trace and Tom Moore, both distilleries owned by the Sazerac Corporation, opted out of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. The Tom Moore Distillery is now known as Barton 1792.

2012, a year of expansion

In 2012, Town Branch Distillery joined the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in the same class as the original distilleries based on size and volume. However, this is the same year that the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour began with the original members of Barrel House in Lexington, Limestone Branch in Lebanon, Old Pogue in Maysville, Willett in Bardstown, MB Roland in Pembroke, Corsair Artisan in Bowling Green, and finally, Silver Trail Distillery in Hardin. Silver Trail closed in 2015, and Corsair Artisan closed in 2018.


Despite being in the Louisville, Kentucky area, Evan Williams and Stitzel-Weller could not have been more different. Stitzel-Weller, the long-time home of Old Fitzgerald with the Weller family’s history and Pappy Van Winkle, is an old-school experience. The Evan Williams Experience is modern with an almost Disney-type vibe. Both joined the KBT in 2014. Another member joined the Kentucky Bourbon Craft Tour in Northern Kentucky. New Riff in Newport, Kentucky, also joined in 2014.


Hartfield & Company, based in Paris, Kentucky, became a member of the Craft Tour along with Kentucky Peerless in Louisville in 2015.


Kentucky Artisan in Crestwood joined the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour. Kentucky Artisan is a comfortable distillery and the home to Jefferson’s Bourbon.


Two distilleries, Boone County in Independence and Bluegrass Distillers in Lexington, joined the Craft Tour. On the larger side, Louisville Distilling Company joined. You will recognize them by the name Angel’s Envy.


2018 was a big year for large distilleries. Bardstown Bourbon Company joined the trail along with Lux Row in Bardstown, Kentucky. Then, moving north and west, Old Forester joined in Louisville and Green River Distillery in Owensboro. At the time, Green River was known for the O.Z. Tyler brand.


2019 brought an explosion of new members to the original Kentucky Bourbon Trail and the Craft Tour. On the KBT side, Bulleit joined in Shively, with Michter’s and Rabbit Hole opening in Louisville. Joining the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour were Boundary Oak in Radcliff, Casey Jones in Hopkinsville, Dueling Grounds in Franklin, Second Sight Spirits in Ludlow, Kentucky, Neeley Family Distillery in Sparta, Preservation in historic Bardstown, Kentucky, and James E. Pepper in Lexington.


The newest member of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in 2020 was Wilderness Trail. They moved from the Craft Tour to the KBT because of the increase in their volume of production. Dansville, Kentucky, is the home of Wilderness Trail.


This year saw impressive growth on the Craft Tour side of things. Joining in 2021 were Copper & Kings in Louisville, known for their brandy; the Bard, located in Graham, Kentucky, is home to Cinder & Smoke Bourbon. Castle & Key is a historic property in Frankfort, Kentucky, and Log Still is in Gethsemane, Kentucky.


The sole member joining the Craft Tour in 2022 was Whiskey Thief in Frankfort. They were previously known as Three Boys Farm Distillery.


Four new members of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour joined in 2023. They are R.D. 1 Spirits in the Lexington Distillery District, Fresh Bourbon in downtown Lexington, Augusta Distillery in Augusta, and Pensive Distilling Company & Kitchen in Newport, Kentucky.

Many great experiences

Since I began my interest in understanding Kentucky bourbon’s unique history and camaraderie, I have visited dozens of distilleries at least once. I have lost count of the repeat visits for many of my favorite stops. I will tell you that there have been a few disappointing experiences, but overall, most of the locations create a welcoming and entertaining customer experience. Please let me know if you have enjoyed this chronological history of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Did you know that the Frazier Museum in Louisville is the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center? I thank the Kentucky Distillers Association for helping me assemble the Kentucky Bourbon Trail timeline.