On Sunday morning we woke up early so that we could try to knock off one of our final two distilleries in our 2012 Bourbon Trail tour. We still needed to get stamps for Heaven Hill and Jim Beam, so we decided to head down to Bardstown to tour the Heaven Hill Distillery.
We got to the distillery at 11:50am, 10 minutes before the visitor center opened up. Heaven Hill is the closest distillery on the official Bourbon Trail to Bardstown, and they have the best looking visitor center. Unfortunately they have the weakest tour. Our group of 8-10 people were led to one end of the visitor’s center for a 10 minute video, which Jean missed because Zoe started talking once the lights went out. The docent didn’t know how to work the video system, so there were messages showing the volume level and letting us all know that the projector’s filter needed to be cleaned throughout the entire movie, and the messages covered up about 1/3 of the screen.
After the movie we all walked across the street to a warehouse, where we walked around the inside for 10 minutes while 1 of 2 docents talked about their process. Heaven Hill doesn’t distill any of their spirits at the Bardstown location, with all of their bourbon being distilled in Louisville. The Bardstown location is where they have the majority of their warehouses, which ages the bourbon, and it is also the location where all their spirits (bourbon, vodka, rum, etc) are brought for bottling.
The main brand of Heaven Hill, or at least the one I’m most familiar with, is Evan Williams. I’ve had a “3 Wisemen”, made up of Jack Daniels, Jim Beam and Evan Williams, more than once. Heaven Hill also makes Fighting Cock and Elijah Craig. The thing they point out the most is that they age their bourbon longer than the rest, with an 18 year old bourbon available. I remember my grandfather telling me once that aging a bourbon longer doesn’t necessarily make it better – it gives it a more “woody” taste instead of a sweeter taste that you’d find in a 3-8 year old bourbon.
After the walk through their warehouse we went back across the street to the visitor’s center for our tasting. They have a gigantic “barrel room”, where you go into this circular room that looks like the inside of a whiskey barrel, with a wrap-around bar on the perimeter. The docent talked about the two brands they had for us to sample, we drank ’em, then it was over. No bubbling fermentation vats, no piping hot copper stills, and no long bottling lines. Movie, warehouse, tasting.
I was also disappointed that they wouldn’t allow Zoe into the “barrel room”. They actually told us when we signed up that Carol and I could swap Zoe back and forth so we could both do the tasting, but Jean hates bourbon, so they walked around the gift store while I sampled. The docent actually checked ID at the door for the rest of our group. I can understand it if there were kids who looked like they were 16-25, but would the authorities really care if our 11-month-old joined us? I can bring her up to the bar in literally thousands of restaurants and pubs in every state of the union, but for some reason not on this tour.
After the tour ended, we purchased a few items and then went over to my grandmother’s house for a few minutes to say ‘hello’. She was watching the UK-Vandy game, and we wanted to take advantage of the beautiful weather (70F!), so we left and drove into Louisville. We went to Cherokee Park, so Zoe could play outside for a while.
Cherokee Park is enormous (like 400 acres), and it was pretty hard to find a parking space. Hundreds of people were on the big trail that goes around the park – some walking dogs, some jogging, a few pushing strollers, and so on. We didn’t really explore much of the park because we were there for Zoe, so we ended up finding a parking spot and taking the Zobug over to the little person playground. Zoe could have cared less about the equipment, she was more interested in picking up the mulch and sticking it in her mouth. Carolyn spent an hour and a half swatting leaves, mulch, pebbles and all sorts of other detritus out of Zoe’s hands.
Zoe did go down the slide 4 or 5 times and appeared to enjoy it, but it didn’t compare to the thrill she got picking up junk off the ground and running away from us as she tried to cram it into her mouth.
Eventually we left, but we managed to stop by an Indian restaurant for dinner before going back home…
It was a great weekend, primarily because the weather was nice, which allowed us to spend a lot of time outdoors. We’re hoping the weather stays like this for a while.