Woodford Reserve Bourbon and its Historic Distillery

by Jenna Lee
Woodford Reserve Bourbon Distillery

Woodford Reserve Bourbon Distillery

The Woodford Reserve Distillery just outside Lexington, Kentucky earned a stop on our 2018 Summer Road Trip. How could it not? From the bluegrass fields to the bourbon barrels, everything about this old distillery is the definition of Kentucky. Heck, Woodford Reserve Bourbon is practically Kentucky in a bottle if you think about it.

A winding drive through iconic thoroughbred farms blanketed with a pristine Bluegrass quilt and lined with richly stained four-board fencing leads to the centuries-old Woodford Estate. Even if you don’t love bourbon (sshh, don’t say that out loud around here!), that experience alone is plenty reason to put this piece of Kentucky history on your must-see list.

Thoroughbred farms near Woodford Reserve

Where is Woodford Reserve Bourbon Made?

The original distillery in Versailles, Kentucky is where Woodford Reserve is born and bred. Only in Kentucky is fine bourbon matured right alongside fine thoroughbred horses. The history, ambiance, and pride found in the bluegrass hills of Versailles make the Woodford Distillery one of the most popular stops on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Of course, the flavor might have a little something to do with it as well. Book a tour next time you’re in town and decide for yourself.

Part of what makes Woodford Reserve so special is not just its historic home, but the old school distilling process. Unlike other bourbon distilleries, Woodford uses three Scottish-made copper pot stills. Batches of Woodford bourbon are distilled three times and then matured in a heat-cycled warehouse – a process generally abandoned by the industry. Why does Woodford Reserve still heat-cycle then? According to master distiller, Chris Morris, it is because the end result is more elegant and complex.

woodford reserve bourbon bottles

Woodford Reserve History

The now Woodford Reserve distillery has been tucked away in these plush Kentucky hills since Elijah Pepper first began crafting bourbon here in 1812. Back then it was known as the Oscar Pepper Distillery and later, Labrot and Graham. Eventually, it was purchased by its current owner Brown-Forman. Twice, actually. It is now one of the oldest, smallest, and, dare I say, most beautiful distilleries in the state.

Though it has changed hands a couple of times over the last couple hundred years, Woodford still uses the original distillery to produce some of the finest bourbon and whiskey. If you ask me, that’s pretty special. You don’t have to take my word for it though. Woodford Reserve is now recognized as a National Historic Landmark.

Kentucky Bourbon Trail Tours

Exploring the Bourbon Trail is a great way to experience Kentucky and learn a little history. Much like craft breweries, bourbon distilleries each offer a unique spin on a classic drink and often, fascinating history. Even if you’re not a fan of bourbon, the history alone could make a visit worthwhile. For bourbon lovers, a distillery tour may just be the highlight of your trip.

Plan your own Kentucky Bourbon Trail tour using the Bourbon Trail Trip Planner. You can even get a free Bourbon Trail Passport to collect stamps at each distillery!

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