The Bourbon Trail was definitely on my list while visiting the Lexington area of Kentucky, and we picked the distillery of Woodford Reserve to tour.
Bourbon making is kind of loud and I couldn't hear the tour guide very well. As a result, much of what I now think I know about making bourbon is likely to be inaccurate at best. So, tell you what. Go to their web site if you want to learn how to make it, I'll just show you some pictures.
This is some of the bourbon-ey goodness fermenting. This tank was bubbling away like crazy!
In an empty tank you can see the cooling pipes. I think they said it has to stay between 70 and 80 degrees for this step.
It was hard to get good photos inside the buildings because they did not allow any flash photography. Cell phones must be turned off and all the lighting is wired in such a way that there is no way anything can spark. The entire process is quite flammable, as you can imagine. But these three copper, uh, thingamajigs, are the only ones in use anywhere in Kentucky. This is where the distilling takes place.
Then some other stuff happens and they put the bourbon, which is now clear, into barrels. The barrels are then sent out the side of the building and along a track where they are stored in this really, really cool building.
It holds 5,000 barrels, and this is where it ages. About seven years. Over the course of this storage, each barrel is sampled several times. And if after seven years it's not ready, they don't bottle it until it is!
In this building something special happens. Part of the contents of the barrels evaporates, and they call that portion the Angel's Share. The barrels positioned higher up evaporate more because it's warmer up there, but they all give up a little to the Angels, and the room is thick with the aroma of it.
These barrels are ready for bottling and distribution!