About 95 percent of all bourbon is produced in Kentucky. What makes it so good is that Kentucky is blessed with limestone-rich aquifers that deliver the product’s most essential ingredient: extraordinary water. If you haven’t noticed, bourbon is back in a big way. And its resurgence has led to expansion by both the big boys and a growing cadre of craft distilleries. You can see many of them in action on what is called the Bourbon Trail. Guided tours take visitors through the production process and culminate in fun, educational tastings.
If you’ve ever had aspirations to make your own whiskey, here’s your chance. At Moonshine University, you can learn how to become an expert distiller in five days’ time. What you'll do with your newly acquired knowledge is left purposely ambiguous;federal law prohibits non-licensed persons to distill their own spirits.
It’s back, and it’s not your father’s “shine.” The term "moonshine" may still conjure up images of illegal backwoods rotgut, but times have changed; moonshine has gone mainstream. You can see for yourself by visiting a micro-distillery for a tour and tasting. If you can get your hands on the brand called Kentucky Sugar Shine, both their jalapeño and strawberry flavors would make killer cocktails. So would their sweet Moon Pie Moonshine in chocolate, vanilla, or banana flavor. As they say, “Like a Moonpie with kick!”
Tour the Brown-Forman cooperage facility to get a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the true craft that goes into making the oak barrels that will soon to be holding over 50 gallons of bourbon while infusing the spirit with its unique flavor. Watch up close as skilled coopers build each barrel from about 100 pounds of American white oak, with the help of mid-20th-century machinery. Catch this proudly American production before it goes the eventual way of automation.
Get your game on at a Louisville restaurant called Game. Exactly the type of place you’d expect to see on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, they have an ambitious menu and the talent in the kitchen to pull it off. Their bone marrow with Parmesan, poblano, and rosemary is a beast, a huge and exceptionally luscious hunk of meat jelly that you spread on toasted bread. You can then proceed to meatballs or burgers made with many kinds of animal, from bison, boar, and antelope to elk, duck, and kangaroo. (Also available are beef, lamb, salmon, and veggie varieties.) The kangaroo burger with Cheddar and tomato jam on a pretzel bun ($14) was tasty, but the fun part is assembling your own with extras such as foie gras, pork belly, or soft shell crab and sauces like roasted habanero ranch, sesame wasabi ketchup, and smoked truffle mayo. The duck fat fries will not hurt you either.
Wait, what does lobster have to do with Kentucky? It turns out that the state’s borders are within 600 miles of over 65 percent of the nation’s population and manufacturing facilities, making it the distribution capital of the U.S. That’s why UPS is headquartered here, as well as Clear Water Fine Foods, a shipper of lobster flown in daily from Nova Scotia and then sent back out to some of the finest steakhouses and seafood restaurants in the land.