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Sarah and I took another extended trip to Bourbon country as part of the annual “fake Thanksgiving” trip. On this trip, we hit up three different distilleries: Tom Moore, Heaven Hill, and Jim Bean. Each of these distilleries seem to make more than half of the bourbon in Kentucky, but they also represent a significant consolidation among all the distilleries in the area.
The Tom Moore distillery was enormous, and it just recently started letting tour groups come visit the area. This tour was my least favorite of the three distilleries we saw. First, the tour was extraordinarily long: it was three hours in length. Second, the facilities were pretty ugly. Yes, I understand that this is a booze factory, but there really was no attempt to make it look nice. Maybe I should be giving them credit for keeping it authentic, but as you can tell by the photos I took, there wasn’t a whole lot worth snapping a photo. Perhaps the best representation of the state of the distillery is the hybrid school bus and military truck that had been made on the premises. Finally, there was no tastings at the conclusion of the tour. It’s one thing to see an ugly place for three hours where bourbon (and a lot of other spirits, including brandy) is made, but please let me taste some of the stuff. Anyway, the spirits giant Sazerac took over the plant over the summer so any attempt at the folksy tradition of bourbon making seems to be gone.
This was a much different tour to visit despite the proximity. Heaven Hill produces a lot of brands of bourbon, including Evan Williams, and the tour was very different. We made it there just before closing time, and our tour consisted of wandering around the gift shop and being summoned to enter this barrell-shaped room. Unlike the Tom Moore tour, there was no long-winded tour… just two half-ounce tastings of bourbon. The Evan Williams Single Barrel but the Elijah Craig Single Barrel had aged 18 years, which took too much flavor from the barrel. Anyway, it was still a treat after touring distilleries for nearly four full hours.
In the category of short and sweet, this tour consisted of a seven-minute video, detailing the long tradition of bourbon making under the Beam name, and a short tour through a restored guest house. Then we went on to the bourbon tasting. At this tasting, we had some Booker’s Single Barrel (can you detect a pattern here?) and a curiously strange berry flavored bourbon, Red Stagg. I definitely preferred the former to the latter, especially since it has that oaky flavor you really drink bourbon for. But the flavored stuff wasn’t too offensive. In fact, I kind of liked it, but I fear what will happen to bourbon if they go the way of the vodkas.