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Kentucky Bourbon Trail’s popularity continues to expand

Courtesy Alltech

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail continues to grow, not only in the number of visitors, which increased by 10 percent in 2011 to more than 450,000, but also in new and expanded facilities.

Alltech’s new $6 million Lexington Brewing and Distillery Co. became the seventh distillery, and the first craft distillery, on the popular tour when it opened in September. The downtown facility is the first new distillery to be built in Lexington in more than 100 years.

The 20,000-square-foot distillery is built with Kentucky limestone and features glass walls on three sides to showcase the copper stills and fermentation tanks to outside viewers. The distillery produces Town Branch, Pearse Lyons Reserve malt whiskey and Bluegrass Sundown, a bourbon-infused coffee drink.

Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg opened its new $2.4 million visitors center and tasting experience Sept. 10 to kick off Kentucky Bourbon Festival week, while another Lawrenceburg distillery, Wild Turkey Distillery, broke ground in August for a $4 million visitors center, which is scheduled to open next spring.

Scheduled to open in early October, the $18 million Jim Beam American Stillhouse will allow visitors to tour the popular Clermont distillery for the first time. Visitors will have a hands-on experience of the bourbon-making process from barrel to bottle and learn about the seven generations of the Beam family who’ve created the bourbon.

Visitors will view giant fermentation tanks and take part in filling a barrel, hammering in a bung, filling a bottle and watching it progress along the bottling line.

Although there is a cost for the full tour, visitors can take a free self-guided tour that includes a replica stillhouse, cooperage and the oldest warehouse on site. Tastings are included in both tours.

Heaven Hill Distilleries is planning to convert its Main Street office building in downtown Louisville into a small artisan distillery, retail shop and tasting room. The $9.5 million Evan Williams Bourbon Experience celebrates the legacy of Evan Williams, namesake of Heaven Hill’s flagship brand, who set up a distillery nearby in 1783.

Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto, which offers free tours, has added a new tasting room and area to watch bottles being dipped in this distillery’s signature red sealing wax, while Woodford Reserve near Versailles has added tours.