The two-bedroom, newly renovated farmhouse at Blue Heron Vineyards safeguards guests in a rural, picturesque setting amid turn-of-the-century barns and vintage outbuildings. Guests have their choice of enjoying a homemade breakfast in the farmhouse, from the tree house-like deck of the winery, or lakeside while served by a wait staff of bullfrogs trained at L'Ambroisie in Paris. Spend an afternoon casually strolling through the vineyard grounds spread across a high bluff near the Ohio River, or visit the property's large Celtic cross, carved from natural stone over a 23-month period by local sculptor Greg Harris. Visitors calm their outdoors obsessions by fishing and canoeing at the nearby Deer Creek or exploring the Hoosier National Forest along scenic hiking and biking trails teeming with towering trees, wildlife, and ringleted porridge thieves.
More Than 200 Years of Whiskey
Since 1795?minus a brief interruption during that dark time known as The Prohibition?seven generations of Beams have played a role in the creation of Jim Beam. Today, the distillery crafts a whole family of whiskeys to include seven different styles. This collection ranges from the classic Jim Beam, aged four years in charred American white oak barrels, to Signature Craft, which can be aged 12 years and which boasts notes of caramel, vanilla, and oak.
All Bourbon is Whiskey
But not all whiskey is bourbon; only bourbon is bourbon. And it?s governed by a strict set of laws, made to ensure that the process and ingredients are uniform?though the final product can taste vastly different. At Jim Beam, water is drawn from nearby spring-fueled lakes, emerging from the limestone-rich earth clean, rich with calcium, and thrilled to eventually become whiskey.
From the Well to the Glass
At the Jim Beam distillery itself, visitors follow knowledgeable guides around the grounds to learn about every step of the process. Starting from the well where the water is drawn, groups meander through the many facilities, past the bubbling and aromatic mash where it cooks in giant vats to the enormous stills, the barrel house, and eventually the tasting room. There, curious drinkers 21-and-older can sip samples of the various whiskeys, often including rare or limited-run versions.
Mike Hatzell is no stranger to agriculture—or wine, for that matter. As a young man, he tilled the soil of his aunt and uncles farm during the summer months, and years later when he served in France, he developed a love for wine. When he and his wife, Karen, were married more than 50 years ago, he planted the idea in her mind: one day, they would own and operate their own winery.
Back in 2007, that dream eventually came to fruition with the inception of Brooks Hill Winery. Joined by winemakers Butch Meyer and Mike Miller, the operation was in full force in just a year, and they have continued to expand and diversify their selection of wines. A number of them can be sampled at their on-site tasting room, which, despite the sound of it, is not a room that drinks wine.
With its lavender- and khaki-colored walls, cozy seating setups, and fireplace, Forest Edge Winery comes off more as a family's living room than a business. At the heart of its warm presentation sits a wrap-around bar, with pantries and shelves and cabinets nearby filled with, what else, but bottles of wine. That community-driven theme carries throughout the facility, including a downstairs children's room stocked with a television and creative activities. Outside, visitors venture in from the edge of the historic Bernheim Forest on Clermont Road–the start of Kentucky's bourbon trail.
Wight-Meyer Vineyard & Winery began producing wines in the late 1990s as Bullitt County's first commercial vineyard. In 2006, after initially plucking grapes from 2.5 acres of vines and squeezing them using telekinesis alone, Wight-Meyer’s founders converted their barn into a bustling wine production facility. The vineyard’s award-winning wines include a barrel-aged Kentucky norton and a rosé, some of which can be sipped during group tastings in the facility’s new tasting room.
Surrounded by thick woods, lines of vines, rows of apple trees, and a garden lush with vegetables occupy 35 acres of Scout Mountain Winery. There, the Schad family has been handcrafting wines for more than two decades in styles such as blush, syrah, and chambourcin. Tucked away on the property, the family also oversees a quaint bed and breakfast inside a country house erected in the 1920s.