Normally Genki Husband and I love to visit wineries when traveling, even while in Australia we did so. We feel pretty lucky (maybe because we drove through a rainbow in Alabama) to the amount of wineries we have visited across the entire globe. But when traveling through Tennessee and Kentucky it would almost be against the law to go to a winery instead of a bourbon and whiskey distillery. So that’s what we did instead:
Kentucky is all about bourbon – some people say KY can’t state they sell whiskey because it is only allowed by distilleries in TN. Not sure if this is the case but keeping with what I heard, I will call it bourbon. The distillery is not far off from the main roads going through Kentucky. It is easy to find since there is the above large barn showing the brand name for everyone to see. It is a bit of a trek up the path to the main buildings though and it very congested (at least when we went on a Thursday afternoon in the summer). Jim Beam Website (must be 18 to enter website).
There are a lot of buildings such as this one on the campus for Jim Beam. It is said that the buildings are painted black because the yeast will discolor the buildings this color anyways. It matches the brand pretty well though don’t you think?
This is the main building for the distillery. It contains the area to purchase $10/adult tickets for the tour, restrooms, and a gift shop. Parking is free.
There are also a few others building one can tour without actually buying tickets. You just ask for a self-guided ticket which is free. We actually did this method since we didn’t have the time to spend on the tour and also they were sold out. Apparently tickets are to be purchased ahead of time, at least 24 hours.
Even if you don’t go on the paid tour, one can still learn about the process from this wonder wall diagram inside the main building. I thought this was rather whimsical.
Even with the self-guided tour, one gets to sample the same amount of bourbon as the paid ticket holders. Goal! You get an electronic card which allows you to sample three of the bourbons on display (they had all of them there). Seeing as we had two adults, we got to sample a good range of them. I loved the maple (which we have at home) and the honey. Mmmm We actually did not drink all of the samples, just a small amount since we were to be drinking. Safety first!
Seeing as we did Jim Beam on the way down, we did Jack Daniels on the way back up. Safety first remember! I have been to this distillery when Genki Husband was on a business trip and I went along. I toured the area when he did work – fair deal if I do say so myself.
When you go into the main building there is a little museum type setup with memorabilia and a brief description of the process of making whiskey. Jack Daniel’s uses cave spring water in the process which is supposed to give it more character than others in the area.
It’s said that Jack (I can call him that because I’ve been to his house twice now right?) came from a poorer family but after he decided that he was going to take over the world with his whiskey he wore a suit that matches his future expectation. I love the thought of this since the city is very small, the residents probably thought he was crazy. He seemed to be very ambitious even at a young age. This is the suit.
Now the distillery can’t actually give samples out to people since it’s a dry state (law still from prohibition times) but you can walk through a small path from the distillery to the city of Lynchburg where you can buy gifts and also get some good “home-cooking”.
We unexpectedly went on probably one of the busiest days of the year for the city which was crowded because of the “frontier days” celebration. The tours were booked for about two hours wait (last time I got right in on a tour without issues) and the city was filled. If you happen to go to the distillery, I highly recommend going to the city, it’s a short walk (handicap accessible) and gives off a nice traditional American city feeling. Tip: Do your gift shopping after your tour because you will get a discount card for any purchases made in the city. I want to say it’s 30% but I could be slightly off on that amount.
Our review of these two distilleries is pretty high. Whether it be the week or the summer season, we went on very busy days and Genki Husband again did not get to go on a tour at either place. We went on self-guided tours which was fun but someday we hope to get back down there to go on an official tour. I went on a tour before and loved my experience at Jack Daniel’s. I can’t imagine Jim Beam is much different since let’s face it the liquors are about the same. I believe the Jack Daniel’s tour is free while there is a fee at Jim Beam – not sure why the difference. I would recommend both of these places if you are traveling through and want to experience true American business.