Thursday, March 22, 2018

Yes, You SHOULD Take Your Kids to a Bourbon Distillery!

We've visited northern Kentucky several times (Louisville!!! The Kentucky Horse Park!!!), but otherwise, it's been just a drive-through state for us when headed for sites more southern.

On this Spring Break trip, however, we visited Kentucky for real! I had planned to spend plenty of time at the Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park (it has a Junior Ranger program!) and Mammoth Cave (it also has a Junior Ranger program!), but I got distracted from both of those goals on the first day of our trip, when as soon as we hit the state line we started seeing billboards for bourbon distilleries.

Huh. I've never been to a bourbon distillery. Could kids go there? I Googled it and yes, kids can go, too.

So off we went to see some bourbon distilleries!

We opted for the free, self-guided tour of the Jim Beam American Stillhouse, so we didn't learn much about the process of making bourbon here, but we did get a look at the buildings involved:

Now we know what a bourbon aging warehouse looks like! We drove past a LOT of these on the back roads of Kentucky:

Oops, Jim Beam! That's not how the apostrophe works!

The kids, as you can see, were quite ready to get back to the car at the end of our hike--

--so I was a little concerned that we were heading to Maker's Mark next, where we DID plan on taking their hour-long guided tour, but fortunately the beauty of the location--

--and the fact that our Kitty Whisperer found herself a friend--

--made sure that everything worked out well. Also, it just so happened that the computers were down at Maker's Mark that day, and so instead of telling people that there were no tours available after we'd driven all that way, they told us that all tours were free!!! And it wasn't even a cheap-o, free version of the tour--it was the full hour, bourbon-tasting and all.

I'd worried that the kids would be bored spending an hour learning how to make something that they couldn't even drink, but actually, they were fascinated, happily following along at the tour guide's heels, listening intently, and asking her questions. And on this guided tour, we DID learn how the process works!

Here's the cornmeal:

And here it is actively fermenting with yeast!

We were invited to dip a finger into the open vat of fermenting cornmeal mash and taste it. Afterwards, I asked the tour guide if it was sanitary for us to do that because of the alcohol already in the mash, but she replied that it was fine to do because the bourbon was going to be distilled so many times that no contaminants would be able to pass through to the final product... Oh, dear. I was ACTUALLY asking if the alcohol was why it was sanitary NOW for every tour group who passed by to all dip their filthy fingers together into an open vat of fermenting soup and then LICK THOSE FINGERS, but it appears that my answer was that it was not sanitary, ugh.

Oh, well. We managed to escape without any subsequent bouts of gastro-intestinal distress, so maybe there was enough alcohol in there, after all:

The campus is lovely, all the buildings and trees black with whiskey fungus and whiskey bottle cut-outs on the red shutters framing every window:

After seeing how the bourbon is made, we saw where it is put into barrels, and where it is aged:

It's flavored by having planks of different woods put in with it, and you can customize your bourbon this way, experimenting with different combinations of wood.

And when you're done with that, you'll want to taste it all!

And look, the kids had their own bourbon tasting selection, as well!

They actually weren't supposed to touch that, and they didn't drink any, but as the tour guide led us through the tasting, instructing us to smell this and that and telling us what we were smelling, I looked over and noticed that the kids were busily sniffing each glass, too. It was quite an educational field trip!

I don't think that I have a very discerning palate. I could definitely taste the difference between the moonshine, say and the Maker's Mark 46, but I couldn't really tell the difference between any of the aged bourbons:

I did my best to sample them all, nevertheless. One must be thorough!

You'll never guess what surprise we discovered after this:


Apparently, Maker's Mark commissioned some Chihuly installations. We know his work well, remember, from the Children's Museum of Indianapolis.

This part of Kentucky is so lovely:

And you know what's just a short drive away?

The Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Site, that's what!

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