Can I Tour a Distillery?

Distillery VatsYes, you can absolutely tour a distillery. In fact they, encourage it! Touring a working distillery is a relatively inexpensive and fun trip, and a guaranteed eye-opener as to the complex and expensive work involved in producing liquor.

The United States’ top distilleries, with a huge concentration in Kentucky, have tours, museums, and gift shops just waiting for you to visit. Other great distilleries for those with passports and bigger travel budgets include Ireland and Scotland. While most distilleries offering tours feature bourbon production, a few are gin and rum production houses.

How do I find a distillery to tour?

One of the top places to visit for distillery tours is the rolling hills of Kentucky. And you won’t have trouble finding the turnoffs driving through Kentucky’s highways because numerous billboards and signs dot the Interstate. You can easily hit several in one day, each with a distinctive tour and gift shop.

They are so popular that tour buses and maps regularly highlight the Kentucky Bourbon Trail area, a concentration of about seven distilleries within driving distance of each other. Whether they allow the tour bus drivers to sample the bourbon is another story, but considering most distilleries open around 9:00 a.m. you can have a morning buzz in no time―especially if you hit several in one day. A designated driver should be on your checklist before imbibing.

It might go without saying, but most distillery tours that include sampling are for those aged 21 and older only.

Why are distillery tours so popular?

For one, they are really, really fascinating. You will be amazed at the amount of effort that goes into producing that bottle of your favorite drink, and it might help you justify the cost of that next alcohol purchase. Tours are also a great way to try different types, vintages, and ages of liquor that you may not have experienced before. You might even find a new favorite!

The grounds of nearly all the distilleries are well maintained and beautiful as well, some with gorgeous gardens. Many have picnic areas, snack bars, restaurants, and walking paths. Lots of tourists make a whole morning or afternoon of a visit.

Which distillery tours are the most popular?

Maker’s Mark  is a hit because you can purchase a bottle of bourbon and then dip it yourself into their signature red wax seal. It is also one of the largest estates on the tour, at nearly 650 acres. Its popular tour has been around for more than fifty years and is a staple on the tour bus lines.

One of the newest distillery tours is Jim Beam’s American Stillhouse,  which opened last Fall in Clermont, Kentucky. Although Jim Beam has been around since 1795, they only recently created this tour. It has interactive displays, a museum, a gift shop, and the tour. Highlights of the guided tour include viewing the entire process of mashing, distilling, barreling, storing, and bottling.

The answer that burning, all-important question is yes, tasting of several products is included too. While you are at the gift shop, pick up a Jim Beam t-shirt so your friends can be jealous of your vacation.

Also a short drive from Jim Beam’s facility is Heaven Hill Bourbon Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky, maker of the Evan Williams line of bourbons. Their deluxe tour with tasting is also one of the least expensive, at only five bucks. They also throw in a discount coupon for the gift shop. Nice!

How about a distillery near the United States’ biggest city? A gin distillery in Brooklyn? Absolutely. At New York Distilling Company outside of New York City, you can see firsthand the process that brings Perry Tot Gin and Dorothy Parker Gin to life. This distillery is attached to their full-service bar, the Shanty.

Have a cold brew or cocktail and then take the free distillery tour, with a gin tasting included. Yes, we said free! Where can you get anything free in New York City? The only drawback is the tour has very limited hours and operates just a few days a week

If you are closer to the nation’s capitol, you’ll enjoy George Washington’s Distillery in Mount Vernon, Virginia. Demonstrating 18th-century distilling from seed to barrel, this historic distillery is open April thru October as part of the historic Mount Vernon estate. At one time this distillery was hopping, producing 11,000 gallons of whiskey in 1799. The $5 Distillery & Gristmill tour has workers in early-American attire and grain products made on-site for sale, including cornmeal, grits, and pancake mix.

How much are the tours?

The Maker’s Mark tour is $7 per person and includes bourbon sampling. Jim Beam’s American Stillhouse in Clermont, Kentucky checks in at $8 a person. It only takes $5 to get into the Heaven Hill Bourbon deluxe tour. The New York Distilling Company tour is free, but limited to just the gin production area. The George Washington Distillery & Gristmill in Mount Vernon is $5 for adults, in addition to the access fee to the expansive historic Mount Vernon site.