SPRINGFIELD, Ky. -- Kentucky's Bourbon Trail welcomes visitors from around the world each year to sample a tradition.

The Rev. Elijah Craig has been credited with developing bourbon whiskey in Georgetown, Ky., in 1789.

The tradition lives on in a collection of seven distilleries in the region between Lexington and Louisville, in the mid-section of the state called the Bourbon Trail.

During the past three decades, while consumption of distilled spirits in general has declined, according to the Kentucky Distillers' Association, the demand for Kentucky bourbon has held.

In order to be called bourbon, the whiskey must contain at least 51% corn and be stored two years in new, white oak barrels with a charred interior.

The distilleries along the Bourbon Trail follow these rules to produce premium bourbon.

The distilleries are Heaven Hill Distilleries, Jim Beam American Outpost, Maker's Mark Distillery, Seagram's Four Roses Distillery, Buffalo Trace Distillery, Labrot & Graham and Wild Turkey.

Following is a sampling of what visitors might expect to find at each of the venues:

  • Heaven Hill was founded shortly after Prohibition and today is the second-largest supplier of bourbon in the world.
  • Tours include visiting the warehouse, where about 600,000 barrels of bourbon are aging, and the "dump room," where the aged bourbon bottles are opened and emptied.

  • Jim Beam offers exhibits of the bourbon-making process from start to finish. Visitors to the grounds are invited to view the T. Jeremiah Beam home, restored to its 1911 originality, and learn the art of barrel-making.
  • The distillery also shows a film, "The American Spirit," which details the history of the Beam family and the essence of making bourbon.

  • Maker's Mark was established in 1805 as a gristmill and distillery. It is the nation's oldest working distillery on its original site and the only distillery to be named a National Historic Landmark.
  • Visitors get to hand-dip their own bottle of bourbon in warm red wax, a Maker's Mark trademark, when making a purchase at the gift shop.

  • Tours at Four Roses are given by appointment only and start in the grain silo, where visitors are introduced to the various grains used in making bourbon.
  • The master distiller, who uses up to 10 different recipes to make the bourbon, shows guests the entire process.

  • At Buffalo Trace, visitors are introduced to the original procedure for producing single-barrel bourbon, which began in 1983 and continues today.
  • Guests also can take in lunch at the clubhouse and walk the grounds of the distillery.

  • Labrot & Graham has been restored to its former 1800s glory and reopened to the public with a new visitors center and a gift shop.
  • Guests will see bourbon being distilled in old-fashioned copper-pot stills at the only distillery in the U.S. still using this method.

  • Kentucky Bourbon has been distilled, aged and bottled at Wild Turkey for generations.
  • The tours follow the grain on its course from inspection to becoming bourbon.

    Kentucky Distillers' Association
    Phone: (606) 336-9612
    Fax: (606) 336-9613
    E-mail: [email protected]
    Web: www.kybourbon.com

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