Department of Travel
Kentucky Micro-distilleries Add Diversity to Signature Industry
FRANKFORT, Ky. – There’s more to distilleries in Kentucky than the famous Bourbon Trail around Bardstown and Frankfort.
Micro-distilleries that craft small batches of bourbon, malt whiskey, vodka, gin, moonshine and other spirits have sprung up recently in western Kentucky and Lexington. Like historic bourbon distilleries such as Jim Beam and Makers Mark, micro-distilleries offer free tours for visitors and free tastings for those over 21.
Besides providing a fresh take on spirits production in Kentucky, visiting these smaller distilleries in places like Pembroke, Bowling Green, Lexington and Owensboro can bring you in touch with different faces of the Bluegrass state.
In the past five years, nearly two million people from all 50 states and more than 50 countries have visited the six distilleries on the Bourbon Trail. Operators of the newer distilleries are hoping to emulate this success on a smaller scale.
MB Roland Distillery in Pembroke, Ky., near the Tennessee border, and Corsair Artisan Distillery in Bowling Green have introduced craft distilling to southwestern Kentucky. Both opened within the past two years.
“We offer tours from 10 minutes to an hour, depending on what visitors want,” said Paul Tomazevski, proprietor of MB Roland Distillery, who conducts most tours himself. The distillery is open for tours and tastings Wednesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment on Monday and Tuesday.
MB Roland is located just a few miles from Interstate 24 on the same exit as the Jefferson Davis Birthplace Monument in Fairview, Ky. This convenient location has helped attract visitors from throughout Kentucky as well as Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and other Midwestern states since tours began shortly after MB Roland opened in November 2009, Tomazevski said.
At Corsair Artisan Distillery, situated on the historic town square in Bowling Green, tours are offered Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Corsair, which also features a gift shop and tasting room, hosts from 20 to 50 visitors each weekend, said Andrew Webber, one of the proprietors. Bowling Green is located on Interstate 65.
In Lexington, Barrel House Distilling Co. and Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co. are helping to revive an industry that was once an active presence in the community. Lexington Brewing and Distilling is owned by Nicholasville-based Alltech Inc., an international feed and food producer whose founder, Dr. Pearse Lyons, has aspired to run his own distillery since starting his career in the Irish distilling industry in the 1970s.
Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co. offers tours at 3 p.m. Monday to Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday. Barrel House Distilling is open to visitors from noon to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Lexington, which has ambitious plans for redeveloping its “distillery district,” is located at the junction of Interstates 64 and 75 in central Kentucky.
Charles Medley Distillers Kentucky in Owensboro is a larger distillery that traces its roots to 1885. After being closed many years, it re-opened in 2009 under new ownership of Angostura Ltd., a Caribbean spirits producer. The renovated plant on the Ohio River in northwestern Kentucky aims eventually to produce 32,000 barrels of bourbon a year.
All of these new distilleries reflect the passion of their owners for one of Kentucky’s signature industries. Many of the proprietors enjoyed successful careers in fields like law, architecture, the military and others before launching their new endeavors. All are contributing to a richer, more diverse distilling industry in Kentucky.
For more information on the individual distilleries, visit their web sites. For more general information on the Kentucky distilling industry, visit www.kybourbon.com.
The Kentucky Department of Travel and Tourism is an agency within the Tourism, Arts & Heritage Cabinet, which promotes the Commonwealth as a travel destination. Tourism in Kentucky has an economic impact of nearly $11 billion, employs more than 176,000 people and generates $1 billion in taxes.