In my head I plan trips constantly and think about all of the places we would like to go but the reality is that almost every night and every weekend is booked solid with commitments. Sound familiar? Rather than traveling off somewhere far away to celebrate our anniversary as we hoped we ended up with one (yes, just one) night of availability to get away without the kids. So the challenge was where can we go and what can we do with just one night away?
With time limited time we decided to check out two stops on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail located just an hour-ish south of Cincinnati and to try our luck with restaurants we had never been to around the area. I am excited to share all of the highlights of our quick adventure in the hopes it will inspire you to do the same. While we were only away for 24 hours but it was a perfect reminder that the best adventures are not those that are exotic or lavish but rather are those capable of taking our minds away from the everyday grind and allowing us to simply be present to enjoy it with our favorite person (or people).
“The most beautiful things in life are not things. They’re people, places, memories and pictures. They are feelings and moments, and smiles, and laughter” -unknown
As much as I enjoy travel I do not enjoy the planning part of travel so we picked based on some highly unsophisticated methods including a quick internet search, personal recommendations and Instagram influence. (There I said it… I’m honest!) We challenged ourselves to trying all new places and with one exception we managed to pull it off.
Kentucky here we come!
Breakfast at Josie’s Georgetown, Kentucky
We headed south early Saturday with coffee in hand and a goal of finding something good to eat somewhere between home and our first tour. Thankfully, Google served us well and we ended up at Josie’s Kentucky Georgetown location. Not only was the location perfect but the food was terrific! While we did not try everything we both loved their sausage gravy and cheesy grits. I was immediately happy when I discovered they serve Ale-8 in a bottle. Move over coffee Ale-8 for breakfast it is. We were off to a great start that morning but then it got even better when the server informed us the couple next to us had bought our breakfast. Surprised, we kept the good thing going and paid the favor forward buying the breakfast of another couple. I am not sure if this good deed bestowed upon us was a sign of southern hospitality or we just looked that obviously in need of a weekend away. Likely the later!
Woodford Reserve Distillery Versailles, Kentucky
Woodford Reserve was recommend by many as “the” tour not to miss. An easy drive from Josie’s we were thankful to have opted to follow the scenic route directions. I struggle to think of a place more beautiful than the back roads of Kentucky horse country on a sunny day. Farm after farm the rolling hills and natural scenery was like being transported to a different time and place where things are more beautiful and go a little slower than our insane suburban life back home.
As a history, art, architecture and design geek Woodford certainly did not disappoint. The new welcome center is the perfect marriage of horse farm and bourbon tradition paired with Restoration Hardware styling. It had me swooning with the rich charcoal walls and warm woods. The original limestone distillery buildings are just, well they are just stunning. The thick limestone walls and metal shutters on the outside of the original buildings made for a picture perfect setting. Thankfully, my husband is used to my endless photo taking and he is well aware that while others are deeply focused on the bourbon process I am deeply focused on the beauty of the buildings and in awe of the little details most do not even notice.
Not being a bourbon aficionado I was not so sure about the tasting. I normally would not pick bourbon as my first drink of choice and I certainly would never opt for it neat. Well, never under estimate how much you might like something until a guide teaches you the right way to experience it. Turns out I actually surprised myself with how much I enjoyed the Double Oaked which was one of three we sampled in the tasting room. Especially when paired with chocolate. Yum!
When finished with your tour you have the option of taking your time enjoying a hand crafted cocktail on their outside patio or inside when the cooler weather hits. It was a great stop as a couple and would be equally fun with a group of friends. Reservations are recommend and tickets can be purchased through their website in advance.
Castle & Key Distillery Frankfort, Kentucky
Located just a quick drive down the road from Woodford is Castle & Key Distillery. While the brand Castle & Key is a few years old the distillery certainly is not. Rich in history since the beginning when originally built by Colonel Taylor, Jr. in 1887 this site is known as the birthplace of bourbon tourism and tied directly to the Bottled-In-Bond Act which I previously knew nothing about but thankful I now do. Hello consumer protections!
Since Castle & Key is a newer distillery and bourbon takes years to be well, bourbon theirs is not yet ready and likely will not be for a few more years. In the interim they are making Gin and Vodka in true craftsperson like style on a property that is not only rich in history but making history. Recall early in the post I noted Instagram as one of the reasons I picked certain stops? Well, social media is 100% how I ended up selecting Castle & Key as a required stop. When Castle & Key launched they did so with the first ever female Master Distiller since prohibition, Marianne Barnes. While she has since moved on to other endeavors I still wanted to experience this legacy first hand. Upon inquiry I was told she was a University of Louisville grad with a Chemical Engineering degree and was a rising star at Woodford Reserve when she was asked to come to Castle & Key. While getting the scoop if you will on her background over a beautiful hand crafted gin it hit me… this particular tour is so much more than the history of the Taylor family and their politics and bourbon or the rebirth of the distillery as Castle & Key. The rich history of this site now also includes a STEM success story of a female chemical engineer turned Master Distiller. The architecture of the place, the history, the legacies, the drinks… it is all terrific at this stop. While differing tour experiences are offered I also recommend making reservations and purchasing tickets in advance.
After two tours in the record breaking heat with only a quick snack between stops we were ready for a late lunch. Located on the road between Woodford Reserve and Castle & Key is the most amazing hidden gem of a restaurant we have found in a long, long time. Im not sure if you can hear the longing in my tone but if I could go back tonight for dinner I’d be one very happy lady.
The Stave Frankfort, Kentucky
The Stave Kentucky did not come up on any of my searches about what to do in the area and was not mentioned when we asked for lunch recommendations. However, when we initially drove past on our way through and I saw the giant Kentucky Kicks Ass mural on the side, several outdoor seats and a parking lot packed with cars on a seemingly empty road I knew we had to go.
While small this place packs a mighty punch when it comes to food, drinks, service and darn terrific people watching. Mid-afternoon the place was packed, the air filled with the most amazing smells. With stories of bourbon tours, travel and laughter filling the chatter around us it was immediately clear that we were lunching next to folks from all over the world in this little restaurant nestled between distilleries. While enjoying a hearty bowl of soup beans and corn bread with a side of fresh tomatoes I took it all in savoring every bite; my handsome company, this terrific place and my ice cold Ale-8. (Yes, another one – don’t judge!)
While this place somehow was not on my radar before our trip it is very much well known to others. I highly recommend advance reservations and planing your bourbon tours times accordingly to be able to do it all.
After an amazing day of bourbon, gin, food and beautiful scenery it was time to head toward Lexington to relax for a bit before heading out for dinner and drinks which were also terrific but way too much information to include all in this one post. More to come on the second part of our trip in a future post.
All photos in this post are property of joyfulbrix. Feel free to use or share with appropriate credit given.