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Bike Riding on the Bourbon Trail
We completed the 2022 the Bourbon Burn bicycle ride this fall. It was a long time in coming as a couple of my friends and I signed up for the ride in January 2020.
We initially had the idea to find a 2020 ride for the three of us at the end of the 2019 outdoor biking season (around late October here in Kentucky). We were looking for a ride that three of us could go on and have fun riding bikes, without any “race” pressure or fund-raising responsibility. We found the Bourbon Burn met the criteria with the added bonus of being about an hour away from where we lived.
Spots for the ride are limited, so for the Fall of 2020 ride we needed to sign up for the ride in early January 2020. Little did we know that we would not ride the event until 2022!
No event was held in 2020; we were allowed to defer until 2021. The event organizers did open back up for a limited ride in 2021, but we deferred again until this year, thanks to the generosity of the organizers.
The ride is a four-day event. One of my friends reserved a campsite at Kentucky Horse Park. We enjoyed the camping experience, even with two of us staying in a hotel. The base camp and camping area of the horse park allowed the other two of us to sample the camp experience.
We all drove down together on Thursday to register, set up the camp and get the lay of the land. The organizers had bourbon tasting on site. There was an optional short ride to both a distillery and a brewery that we did not ride. I think we only have so many days of riding in us as a group.
For the Friday ride we took the medium 45-mile route to Paris, Kentucky, with a visit to the Hartfield & Co. Distillery. It was cold (well under 50) at the start of Friday’s ride, and well under my preference for not riding below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The day did warm up to over 65 at the end of the ride. We all dressed appropriately and were comfortable after we got going. The route was very nice, the people we met along the way were friendly and the traffic on the road was light. Several people looked like they purchased bottles of the Hartfield products, so it was a good stop for everyone. Samples were available for us as well as the typical bike ride snacks and refreshments.
The base camp experience after the ride included tasting several bourbon samples and enjoying the meal on the grounds. A long day and one well worth coming down for the ride and spending the night in a hotel.
The second day of riding had us going to Bourbon 30, a distillery in Georgetown, Kentucky. We took the short route of 26 miles so we could enjoy the beautiful day. It was cold again at the start, just about 50 when we began, and it again warmed up nicely during the ride.
Saturday evening featured live music and distilleries sharing their product as well as the camp dinner. This is a great ride. If you enjoy bourbon and bike riding, like we do, it is a special treat.
The final day of riding placed us on the medium route of 37 miles in beautiful horse (and bourbon) country. We stopped at the site of the Bluegrass Distillery’s coming soon location at Elkwood Farm in Midway, which is currently under construction and opening in 2023. It was again cool to start the ride, but the warmest of the three mornings as we began the ride. The countryside was very pretty and the roads were a joy to cycle on.
After the ride we spent some time at the basecamp, ate some lunch and closed up and had our celebration of completing the three days of riding (108 total biking miles).
Ride preparations were a challenge for us retired guys. In 2019 we were training, i.e., bike riding 2-3 times a week and I was teaching Spinning® at a local gym. In 2022, we were all pulled in different directions, I was no longer teaching and we got together once or twice a week, often just once a week.
Most of our rides in Northern Kentucky go through the “town” of Rabbit Hash. This is a low point along the Ohio River and always a good place to stop and view the scenery. Being at a low point means you have to climb hills to leave the area.
We laughed about training. How do you train for the Bourbon Burn bike ride? Do we bring a bottle of bourbon for the ride and have a few samples and peddle back to the start? A fun joke and we never did do that. We trained by riding bikes.
Our one advantages on this ride is that we live in Kentucky and have to ride hills on all of our routes. One of our favorites, if you can call hill climbing a favorite, is Waterloo Hill. Back in 2021 I was the local legend on that route. No longer. I am not sure I went up 5 times this summer. Still, we did go up that hill and others along the training routes. The hill climbing practice was good as all the routes on the Bourbon Burn had rolling hills as a primary feature of the countryside; we were well prepared to take them on.
Many of our training rides take us from Big Bone Lick State Park and down 338 toward East Bend Road, with a good hill to climb or come back down. We often pass an old steam shovel and other historical markers as well as a ferry from Kentucky to Indiana. I did not make all of our “training rides” and neither did both of my friends. We did more training rides together in 2020 and 2021 than we did in 2022. These pictures from 2022 are places where we either stopped on the route or ended and turned back to the beginning of our ride.
We even managed as a group to see the newest Top Gun movie and gain some inspiration from an impossible mission.
The Saturday afternoon of the Bourbon Burn we were able to go into Lexington and play a round of disc golf, prior to going back at basecamp for the dinner and evening festivities.
See you on the road for our next adventure.
Touring Louisville, Kentucky
I enjoyed our travels last year to Bardstown so much that I suggested that we all travel to Louisville as a group. Like at the office, when you make a suggestion, you often have to carry out the implementation. At first I thought just the guys would want to go.
We soon found out that the entire group was interested in traveling to Louisville. Some in our group, including me, had been before and even had kids attend the University. This was a first-time visit for some of the group. I had not put together a travel itinerary for a group of friends before, so I went to some blog posts and pulled out a few ideas. It turned out wonderful. It was not as hard as I thought, and my friends all helped with some suggestions of their own.
We began our tour of Louisville by getting one of the rare treats, a bourbon milk shake from Royal’s Hot Chicken. The place was packed near noon and we could see why; the chicken delicious and so were the milkshakes. I had a smooth tasting, cold milk shake that hit the spot with my hot chicken tenders. I was interested that they put a test tube filled with bourbon in the glass along with a spoon and a big straw. This allowed me and the others with the bourbon shooter to add the bourbon as we went. The bourbon in the milkshake was a good combination and one I will look for again.
After a satisfying lunch we had tickets to Angel’s Envy Distillery, a few short blocks away from Royal’s.
We were impressed with Angel’s Envy and the tour. They have their own unique take on emptying the bourbon into other spirit containers, including port wine barrels. The distillery was clean and, for an old factory, amazingly modern. The distillery has done a good job in laying out their process.
Taking risks and being bold was a good combination for the taste in my opinion and the opinion of others. We did enjoy the tour guide, the general tour and the product. I found the flavor enhanced by the re-barreling process that is unique for them.
After a wonderful dinner out at Jack Fry’s, where the service was great for our party of 8 and we enjoyed very good cooking and a piano player setting the mood, we went to our B&B to dream about our next day’s tour. We enjoyed the charm and warmth provided at the DuPont Mansion B&B in Louisville. We were able to sit in the parlor and chat or play games. The breakfasts were very tasty as were the cookies when we got back at night.
Since we had a large group, I was interested in allowing us to explore the city as well as see the sights together and on our own, depending on what we liked to do. Some of us purchased the Museum Center (six in one) tickets. I thought it was a great value. Our group made it to these sites: Frazier History Museum, Louisville Slugger Museum, Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, Muhammad Ali Center, and Peerless Distilling Co.
I spent the most time in the Frazier History Museum; they were showing a bourbon exhibit with the history and shaping of bourbon in America, especially Kentucky.
Being a baseball fan, we noticed several improvements at the Louisville Slugger museum over our last visit about 5 years earlier. The tour was on point and ran us through their bat making facility, starting with the forest and the trees and how they work on growing and identifying trees.
The Slugger Museum did a good job of explaining the process of bat making and letting us feel the product in various stages. I am still in awe of holding a major league bat that could be used in a game (I hope so!) later this year.
Several in our group went to the Muhammad Ali Center and were impressed by the presentation in the museum and the life story and values of this great fighter. This is a stop we will need to go back to and experience. We foolishly thought that we could do a museum in about 30 minutes and then we were drawn into the stories setup inside and spent longer at each stop.
The surprising stop for me was the Peerless Distilling Company. It does not look like much from the outside and is in an old building.
The product was very good and we came away from our tour with a favorable impression of their product and the way this craft maker distills their bourbon. We enjoyed the tour and our tour guide. Peerless uses a sweet mash and they would not share the mash percentages, the corn, rye or wheat, unlike other tours we have been on before.
Peerless takes pride in their heritage as an old line (placed in barrels beginning in 1889) Kentucky distilling company. They have modeled their bottle and the re-start of this distillery on the original distilling company. The history was a good story and made the tour worthwhile to hear.
The distilling process and the inside of the building is clean and new in appearance. We did not find a rundown bottler but an up to date modern facility with a good product to sell.
We were unable to tour the Even Williams shop, although we stopped in for a visit to the gift shop. Several in our group knew what they liked and found it in the shop.
Our second dinner out at RYEs was a bigger party for us, with 10 at the table we had the best waitress and service. The food was delicious and I would say you should try it out for yourself. A long time ago, I waited on tables and discovered that big parties like a group of 10 friends, was a big pain to wait on. No one is ready and then everyone is ready. This restaurant must do a great job training their staff because we had no hassles and excellent service.
On our way out of town, the day after Leap Day, we visited the historic Brown Hotel, a landmark in Louisville.
The hotel is known for their grand style and inventing a unique Kentucky dish called the Hot Brown. I thought I had had hot brown before that day, and I now know that it was a poor imitation of the real thing.
Everyone at the table ordered the hot brown and we all loved it!
This is a hotel that properly prides itself on service and satisfaction. We were happy with the meal, our service and the ambiance. We were visiting on a Sunday and the place was packed. We had the feeling that we were special, just because we showed up and enjoyed a hearty meal.
After the hot brown at the Brown Hotel, we needed a walk. We had planned a walk to Indiana on the Big 4 Bridge over the Ohio River. We picked the perfect day, the sun was out and the weather was a hint of early spring.
On the first of February I ran the “Frozen 5k” and my son and his friends ran the “Frozen 10k.” This event is put on by our local minor league ice hockey team, the Cincinnati Cyclones. They were kind enough to open their arena prior to the race for us to stay warm and get ready for the event.
It was cold (about 36 degrees when we started) in the morning, not as cold as it could be with the historic average of 23 on February 1 in Cincinnati. My running group suggested that we sign up for several races or running events to get use to running in large events. The run was sold out with about 2,200 runners.
This was my best run (I finished in 32 minutes and 2 seconds), as I ran the whole 5k instead of my unusual running and walking and then running some more. I managed to finish faster than my son and his friends and was able to see them cross the finish line. Yes—they ran twice as far as I did and I am twice their age.
Always plan ahead. A plan can change, but as we saw with Evan Williams, we do not always get to visit a place without planning ahead for a limited tour.
Take advantage of the local opportunities. We could have gone almost anywhere with our group. A quick ride down the road was like being a world away.
No bike riding on this trip. I will get the bike out of the basement in the spring.
On the Road to Perryville
I was able to convince a few friends into visiting the well preserved Civil War battlefield in Perryville, Kentucky. This is a Kentucky state historical site. The battle was a dramatic and short (less than 6 hours) fight for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. As a border state between the North and South, Kentucky declared neutrality. So of course both the North and South invaded with the desire to use Kentucky as a base to defeat the other side.
The North and South forces met in Perryville with the resulting battle costly for both sides. The information provided by the state park was that more soldiers died in the short hours of this battle than at Gettysburg. They are speaking of the death rate per hour of battle and not of the overall number who died in the battle.
The Perryville site does a good job of presenting how the Confederate Army pushed the Union Army and, if they had stayed, would have been able to claim a victory. At the end of the day, the Confederates left the field and moved out of the state to Tennessee. So, this was a technical Union victory. When you are on site and see the movement of troops, you can better understand the results.
Before we made it to Perryville, the group of guys I was traveling with decided we could go to Buffalo Trace Distillery. This is a 200 year old continually operating distillery; of course continually operating for 200 years takes some talent as most distilleries were shut down for prohibition. Buffalo Trace was open as it was able to supply medicinal bourbon during prohibition. This is a stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and on the way to the battlefield (kind of).
We arrived early in the morning and were able to take one of the free tours. You need to plan a few months in advance for the scheduled longer tours and, being guys, we planned a few days in advance to go and did not have the longer tour. The free tour was a very good tour. The tour had us walking the beautiful grounds. We were able to see a short film, ask questions and go into a rick house complete with a secret entrance. We were able to see the bottle filling and labeling as well. At the end of the free tour, we were able to taste test the product. As a result, or it could have been planned, our group purchased a few bottles of Buffalo Trace products at the gift shop.State Capital. This is a wonderful building with interesting statues in the rotunda of both Abraham Lincoln (dominating the center) and Jefferson Davis (much smaller and off to one side). Both were born in Kentucky, about 100 miles away from each other. If you know history, we were heading to a Civil War battlefield, and these two were in charge during the battle.
Everything is better with bourbon here in Kentucky. We visited the Kentucky Knows Coffee Shop in Frankfort. We had a good time talking with Tony, the owner of the store. And yes, we also purchased coffee beans.
You can read about history and then walk the fields to see the hills and sweeping fields of fire. Even reading the markers and then walking the grounds sharpened how we took in the scope of that effort by both sides. I am a proponent of being on site. Thank you for the preservation of this historical battlefield.
Travel with friends and explore what they want to explore. One in our group had heard of the bourbon coffee shop. It was a fun place to explore.
Support the local businesses, helping them and yourself. I am so happy we made a stop at the distillery and visited the capital building. We are not alone and need to continue to explore.
No biking was done on this trip.
On The Bourbon Trail
On the road again! A trip on the Kentucky Bourbon trail showed us that sampling the product is enjoyable. We began our tour at Maker’s Mark Distillery and then went to Bardstown, Kentucky, where we stayed at the Bourbon Manor. The Bourbon Manor is a well decorated Bed and Breakfast and our hosts treated us very well. This was the first time I had traveled with a group of adults. It was a blast! Thank you Lisa and Eric! You did a great job planning and setting the group up for fun.
The food at the Bourbon manor was delicious, and their apple desert for breakfast was as good as advertised. Sitting around in the evening with friends was wonderful. Another favorite place to eat was the Rickhouse Restaurant in Bardstown. Although finding it was tricky in the dark, the steaks were worth the visit.
We all strolled around Bardstown and were entertained by the lively arts and small businesses along the main street. The snowmen outside of the art show led us to spend some time inside experiencing the local art. It was very interesting to see the spinning wheel display and see how good several of the area artists are at painting.
We even ran into Smith’s CPA firm, which was funny as one of our friends is a retired CPA named Smith. Of course we had to get a photo of Smith & Company CPA at the shop. It is great to be retired and see a thriving town of hard working people.
Oh, the weather outside is frightful! We were happy to be taking a distillery tour as the weather turned colder. It snowed while we were touring the Maker’s Mark Distillery. This was an agreeable, light and fluffy snow that only stuck to the grass and did not come down when we were driving.
At Maker’s Mark we had a delightful tour of the facility—the grounds are very pretty. We liked the bridge over Whisky Creek. In addition to the tour, our group signed up to learn how to make mixed drinks, of course with Maker’s Mark. We are not going to make a bourbon bottle chandelier but we liked the one at the restaurant at Maker’s Mark.
After the tour and the snow, the highlight for many of us was dipping our own bottle of Maker’s Mark in the red wax. This is the symbol of Maker’s Mark; we were happy to try to get the most drips on our bottle of bourbon. I think Julie from our group managed the most drips on her bottle.
We learned a lot about distilling and storing the bourbon. For example, the US Congress recognized the popularity of bourbon when, in 1964, when they designated bourbon as a “distinctive product” of the United States. Both chambers passed the Senate’s version of the concurrent resolution, which ensured that bourbon was made exclusively in the United States. The act indicated that bourbon must be at least 51% corn, distilled no more than 160 proof, aged in new white oak barrels that have been charred inside and age for no less than two years, although more than four is better. Bourbon must be stored at no more than 125 proof and bottled no less than 80 proof. Most bourbon (95%) is made in Kentucky, although it does not have to be made in Kentucky, just the United States.
In addition to the Maker’s Mark tour, we visited Heaven Hill, Willett and Woodford Reserve distilleries on our trip. Each one was different and they all had a good story to tell. The bourbon trail in Kentucky is an excellent tour. We could have seen several more distilleries, but even retired travelers have limited time.
One of the fun facts we learned on the trail is that there are today in Kentucky two barrels of bourbon for every person living in Kentucky. That is a lot of bourbon!
My Old Kentucky Home, you know the state song of Kentucky? Well, we had a terrific tour of the historic home located in Bardstown. Yes, this is the historic house that Stephen Foster wrote the song about. The house was all decorated for Christmas and our lively guide even sang the state song for us all. Some of us (not me) joined in for some of the words. No photography was allowed inside, but it was a fun tour!
A few lessons learned.
The story of bourbon is one of reinvention. After prohibition, many entrepreneurs took a gamble on bourbon. With the slow aging process it does not produce revenue for several years. It does produce for the state of Kentucky and the federal government tax revenue every year.
Traveling in a group is entertaining. We will do another trip with friends in the future. We are so thankful for our friends. We had more fun than we could have imagined on the trip.
We all enjoyed the experience of mixing drinks. We are looking forward to our next get together to see if we remember what we learned in our mixing class at Maker’s Mark.
- Visit to an abbey—the fudge was great. They even had bourbon balls.
- Viewing the historic Kentucky distilleries was fascinating. We learned something new in each one and the bourbon tasted different as well. My favorite distilleries were the Maker’s Mark and Woodford Reserve.
- The press was at the Heaven Hill location as they announced the expansion of their visitor’s center to three times the current size. Of course the tour talked about their rick house fire although it was not prominent at the visitor’s center.
- We were very impressed with the current center and will look forward to the expansion when we visit the next time.
The bourbon trail was not a biking trip. I am sure we will get a biking trip in again in 2019. Even the bike at the Bourbon Manor had some snow. It was cold during our visit in November.