THERE ARE FEW PLACES in the world as eclectic as Kentucky. Known as the horse and bourbon capital of the world, the state is the birthplace of approximately 30 percent of the nation’s horses each year and home to nearly 5 million barrels of aging bourbon. The entire state’s population is only 4.3 million, if that tells you anything.
While many horse farms and bourbon distilleries are scattered throughout the commonwealth, the city of Lexington, located in the heart of the Bluegrass State, has an array of both. In addition, the city is home to Keeneland, one of the most historic racetracks in the country and the world’s largest Thoroughbred auction house, where approximately half of the 11 Triple Crown winners have been sold.
Lexington is filled with tradition, beauty and restaurants, making for a great weekend getaway. Whether you plan to tour a horse farm, a bourbon distillery or both, you will quickly understand why it is a Certified Southern Gaming Destination. Here are a few of our Lexington favorites.
Even if you’re not a race fan, horse farms provide an intimate look at an industry as steeped in tradition and charm as any in the country. From watching Thoroughbreds foal, to visiting with retired champions, the many farms in the Lexington area are enjoyable for young and old alike.
THREE CHIMNEYS FARM ThreeChimneys.com | 859-873-7053
Three Chimneys Farm has one of the most storied pasts of any farm in the state. Dating back to the early 1970s, the Clay family started in the business with the sale of Bold Tactic, their first colt, for $37,000. Today, the farm is a top-5 stud farm with a business built on a simple approach to doing well: ‘Taking care of the horse and land, taking care of the customer and surrounding ourselves with good people’
The philosophy has worked. To date, Three Chimneys has consigned about $500 million worth of horses with their sires progeny, having earned nearly $1 billion and more than 1,000 stakes victories. With over 1,000 acres, 100 employees and one of the strongest names in the business, this is a stop you surely want to make. The farm was home to Triple Crown Winner Seattle Slew as well as other top Thoroughbred names, including Dynaformer and Point Given. Today’s stallions include Big Brown, Caleb’s Poss, Flower Alley and others.
Located a short 20-minute drive from downtown Lexington, the farm offers tours Tuesdays through Saturdays in April and October by appointment only. The tours last 60-80 minutes and host 30 guests at a time.
WINSTAR FARM WinStarFarm.com | 859-297-1328
A successful farm depends on good soil, good horses and good people. WinStar Farm is fortunate enough to have all three. Upon entering the main gates, you feel as though you have stepped onto scared ground. A glistening lake welcomes guests as they make their way up the meticulously landscaped driveway to offices that resemble a Southern mansion. The accomplishments of the operation are immediately evident when you enter the lobby and see trophies on display from the 2003 Kentucky Derby (Funny Cide) and 2010 Kentucky Derby (Super Saver), the 2010 Belmont Stakes (Drosselmeyer) and the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic (Drosselmeyer), just to name a few.
The WinStar Farm sits on almost 2,000 acres, including the original 450-acre tract of land once known as Silver Pond Farm. Settled in the 1700s by the Williams of Tidewater Virginia, the Silver Pond property remained in the family for over 150 years. Today, the original farmhouse, smokehouse, pond, bank barn and Osage orange allee on Pisgah Pike are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The stallions on property are among some of the biggest names in the business, including Tiznow, Super Saver, Bodemeister, Drosselmeyer and others, with breeding fees ranging from $15,000 to $100,000.
The hour-long tours are free but by appointment only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, beginning at 1 p.m.
ASHFORD STUD/Coolmore America Coolmore.com | 859-873-7088
Ashford Stud is the American division of one of the largest racing operations in the world, Coolmoore, which operates locations in America, Australia and Ireland. The Lexington farm boasts high quality stallions, showcasing some of the best sires in the country and indeed the world. The grounds are majestic and feature Ritz Carlton-like barns that are over 30 years old.
The farm is home to 1995 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Thunder Gulch, 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, Giants Causeway, Shanghai Bobby, Uncle Mo and a few others. Whether you are interested in hearing about the history of the farm or checking out past Derby winners and racing’s royalty, this is a great tour.
Tours are extremely limited and by appointment only, Monday through Friday at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
What is bourbon? Well, that is a loaded question. Federal law dictates that for a whiskey to be a bourbon, it must be distilled from at least 51 percent corn, aged at least two years in new, charred oak barrels and be pure of any added flavors or coloring’s. A common misconception is that all bourbon must be made in Kentucky. While this is a myth, many of the most popular bourbons come from Kentucky, where the abundance of spring-fed limestone water lends unique flavors that come from nowhere else in the world. The strong temperature swings between Kentucky winters and summers cause the barrels to expand and contract, drawing the bourbon in and out of the charred wood, imbuing the whiskey with rich notes.
On a distillery tour, you will see the whole production process, beginning with the selection of the proper corn and barley or rye, depending on the product. From there you can watch the cooking process, where the grains are mixed with Kentucky limestone water. You’ll see the inside of charred white oak barrels, how and where the bourbon is aged and perhaps you’ll get a whiff (or a taste) of the finished product.
No matter your favorite bourbon, and even if bourbon isn’t your cup of tea, the process of producing bourbon is a fascinating brew of tradition and chemistry.
ALLTECH’S LEXINGTON BREWING & DISTILLING COMPANY
Master Distiller: Mark Coffman
KentuckyAle.com | 859-255-2337
Located downtown, this distillery is relatively new, since it’s the first one to open in Lexington in almost 100 years. Also making it standout is that it also houses a beer brewery. The $9.2 million complex produces Town Branch Bourbon, named after the creek that flows under the city. The fermenting room is popular among guests as it displays two large open vats of the fermenting alcohol adjacent to two old-fashioned copper stills, all naturally lit by floor-to-ceiling windows. As the distillery tour ends, the brewery tour begins. Just a few steps away, across the parking lot, is a building that houses the entire brewery process from beginning to bottling. The brewery produces six different beers, including the popular Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Stout and Bourbon Barrel Ale. Prior to bottling, each of the bourbon beers are housed in the barrels that once contained the precious bourbon itself, giving the slightest hint of bourbon in the malty beer flavors.
Hourly tours are available daily, with the last tour beginning at 4 p.m. Visitors over 21 years of age will receive four tastings from their choice of the available five beers and three spirits.
Master Distillers: Jimmy and Eddie Russell
WildTurkeyBourbon.com | 502-839-2182
Bottled but never tamed. That is the latest marketing slogan for Wild Turkey, one of Kentucky’s finest and best-known bourbons. Located 23 miles west of Lexington, the distillery produces 11 different labels, ranging from their traditional Wild Turkey 101 (proof) to Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel, which is hand-picked from the center cut of the rick house by Jimmy and Eddie Russell themselves. Jimmy is a third-generation distiller and Eddie is a fourth, so you know these guys have what it takes to make excellent bourbon. On the tour, you will see their process uses a lower proof at the distillation stage, allowing them to add less water in the end and lower the proof back down to a tolerable drinking level. On the tour, guests also learn a few more secrets about their unique portfolio of bourbons and what makes each of them special.
Tours are given hourly Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. They are offered Sundays from noon to 3 p.m., March through November.
FOUR ROSES DISTILLERY
Master Distiller: Jim Rutledge
FourRosesBourbon.com | 502.839.2655
Whiskey has a long history, dating back to the earliest settlers of Pennsylvania, and Four Roses Bourbon is one of the few household brands that has stood the test of time. It is the oldest and longest continuously produced bourbon available today. (Production for ‘medical purpose’ was permitted during Prohibition.) In 1933, it was the No. 1 selling bourbon in the United States and was eventually purchased by Seagram, who shifted their marketing focus and sold it exclusively overseas, where it was once again the top selling bourbon. In 2002, the Kirin Brewery Co. purchased Four Roses and returned it to shelves in the United States, where it has had a growing presence ever since. Today, the distillery produces seven different labels (Single Barrel, Small Batch, Yellow, Platinum, Fine Old Batch, Limited Edition Single Barrel and Limited Edition Small Batch) and on the tour, you will learn about what is unique about each label, the ingredients used, and what leads to the distinct flavor profiles.
Located 24 miles west of Lexington, the expansive distillery complex reminds you more of a resort when you arrive. Built in 1910, yellow and red colors accent the Spanish-Mission Style architecture, which is as unique as what’s produced inside. Free tours are given Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 3 p.m. Four Roses Distillery also provides samples to guests of legal drinking age.
WOODFORD RESERVE DISTILLERY
Master Distiller: Chris Morris
WoodfordReserve.com | 859-879.1812
Woodford Reserve proudly proclaims that it is the oldest and smallest working bourbon distillery. It recently re-opened the visitor center, featuring a new tasting room and other attractions. The location, just off Versailles Road, makes it a convenient stop on the way to Keeneland Racetrack.
The distillery offers three separate tours, allowing guests to have different experiences based on their interests. The Bourbon Discovery Tour ($10) is a guided educational tour that explains the history of bourbon, production, bottling and much more. At the end, guests of legal drinking age can taste the finished product. This tour is offered hourly Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to
3 p.m., and Sundays, April through December). The National Landmark Tour ($30) is a two-hour session that educates guests about the history and details of the distillery and its impact on Kentucky Heritage. This tour sells out quickly as it is offered only on Wednesdays and is limited to 20 guests. Finally, the Corn to Cork Tour ($30) allows guests to immerse themselves in a two-hour session that explores the chemical and sensory aspects of Woodford Reserve’s Distiller Select. For details about this reservation-only tour, call the distillery or visit their website.
Once you’ve had your fill of bourbon, make time to have lunch at Wallace Station Deli and take in some races at the beautiful Keeneland Race Course.
For more information on Lexington, check out VisitLex.com.