Horse Show Day Off: Woodford Reserve

By Adam Hill

The Kentucky Horse Park is an incredible place to experience events from across the world of different horse disciplines. In between rounds, the nearby hills of eastern Kentucky are worth exploring. This is a land that produces two things without equal: horses and bourbon whiskey. Woodford Reserve offers tours of their historic distillery. I traveled there; these photographs are my report.

The drive from Kentucky Horse Park to Woodford Reserve passes through rolling Kentucky hills and gorgeous farms.

Tours begin from the front porch of the main house. Guests pick up radios so that they can hear over the workings of the distillery.
Down the hill are the distillery and structures for aging the Bourbon, built from local limestone.
The production of whiskey begins with sour mash fermentation in these massive oak containers, two stories tall!
After the yeast finish producing alcohol, the whiskey is sent to be distilled.
Distillation happens in these enormous copper vessels. Each one is half-a-dozen feet wide.
The newly distilled whiskey (moonshine!) is placed in oaken barrels for aging. These barrels are charred on the inside, and can only be used once for making Bourbon.
Each barrel of whiskey ages for years in the adjacent warehouse. By controlling and cycling the temperature in the warehouse, the distillers have experimented to find the way to speed up the aging process.

After the whiskey is done aging, it is taken to be bottled.
At the end of the tour, guests tasted a small amount of several of the varieties of Bourbon produced at Woodford Reserve and had a flavor-matched chocolate.
The drama and fire of Kentucky Bourbon whiskey is alive and well at Woodford Reserve.

Adam Hill, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. He is also co-editor of and is an avid photographer and Pony Dad.