A portion of Kentucky’s famed Bourbon Trail leads right through Lawrenceburg with two of the commonwealth’s most famous distilleries.
Four Roses Distillery, with its impossibly romantic history, and Wild Turkey, with the impossibly charming Matthew McConaughey among its fans, are two of the industry’s giants. Come visit as both distilleries are open for tours and tastings Wednesday through Sunday.
Wild Turkey’s name dates back to 1940 when a distillery executive brought a private supply of bourbon along to enjoy with his friends on their annual wild turkey hunt. His friends liked it so much that the following year they requested that the exec bring along some of that “wild turkey” bourbon. The rest is history, and what a history. Wild Turkey has the only active father/son Master Distillers in the business in Jimmy and Eddie Russell. In Kentucky, master distillers are rock stars, and the Russells have both been inducted into the Bourbon Hall of Fame. One sip of their Wild Turkey 101 or Russell’s Reserve will tell you why.
Four Roses Distillery, nestled on the banks of the scenic Salt River, features a Spanish mission style of architecture rarely seen in Kentucky.The distillery’s romantic name came about when the founder of the bourbon distillery became enamored of a beautiful Southern belle and proposed marriage to her. The coy miss replied that if her answer was “yes” she would wear a corsage of roses the night of an upcoming ball. On the appointed evening, the young woman arrived wearing a corsage of four perfect red roses. So delighted was the prospective bridegroom that he named his bourbon Four Roses.
While Wild Turkey and Four Roses distilleries today are Lawrenceburg’s claim to bourbon fame, prior to Prohibition, the area had 14 distilleries whose yeasty perfume permeated the air. All are long gone, but while the barrelhouses may be a thing of the past, remnants of that past remain.
Before it was Wild Turkey, the distillery was known as the Ripy Brothers Distillery. At one time, it was the largest sour mash distillery in the world, with a single warehouse alone – Warehouse A – containing 50,000 barrels. The warehouse is still standing, and the palatial T.B. Ripy Mansion is open to the public for tours and events.
More good news for bourbon aficionados: as of 2022, Lawrenceburg has its own namesake bourbon. The Lawrenceburg Bourbon Company has released a limited edition of bourbon and rye under its own label, offering consumers a taste of Lawrenceburg. Their first “Three Cask Series” releases sold out over 600 bottles in less than 21 hours. A testament to the fervor and demand of bourbons from Lawrenceburg, Kentucky — especially ones that taste this good.
But we’re still not done. The S.O. Hackley/Hoffman Distillery, dating back to 1880, will re-open in the fall of 2023 under the name Old Commonwealth Distillers, offering yet another opportunity to sample America’s only native spirit.
The Sloan Family that planted the first vine at Rising Sons Home Farm Winery have been honing their skills since 1999. Francine and Joey Sloan and their three “Rising Sons” bring an Italian heritage and wine-making tradition that dates back some 100 years. Guests can choose between seven varietals, including the award-winning Commissioner’s Cup for Best Dry Red in Kentucky. The grounds are situated on picturesque rolling hills and include their event barn and a cozy tasting room filled with pictures of the family’s lineage. A treat for any horticulturalist is also a patch of Paw-Paw trees, a native Kentucky fruit tree that is notoriously hard to cultivate. Lucky for you that Francine has not only successfully harvested the trees after more than 7 years caring for them, but she’s turned them into some tasty jams. Rising Sons regularly hosts arts and cultural events. For direction, events and hours check their website.
The drive out to Lovers Leap is a breathtaking one. As soon as you round the bend on Lane’s Mill Road, the landscape opens up into curves and soft green hillsides with the vineyard in the distance. As you enter the tasting room, you will note a wholly unique experience. Owners David, Patty and Brian Sivinski are stewards of the vines as well as the history of winemaking in Kentucky which guests can experience during their interactive tour. Enjoy a flight selected from seven wine varietals and relax on the 180-degree wrap around porch that overlooks 25-acres of vines. The vineyard sits atop a limestone base providing vital minerals and nutrients to the soil similar to those found in the Bordeaux region of France. There are four red varietals and three whites, all of which express both the terroir of Central Kentucky and the winemakers style. Lovers Leap hosts music and food events and has a large event barn for parties, weddings and fundraisers. Check their schedule and hours here.