Inside Wild Turkey's Big, Bad Backcountry Distillery
Not that you would ever need a special excuse to drink your way through the Kentucky Bourbon Trail like the boozy patriot you are, but Wild Turkey has gifted you one anyway. With a brand new, rustically modern visitor center and distillery to discover where and how one of America's finest native spirits gets made, the KBT headquarters is a perfect winter escape.
On the grounds of the 75-year-old bourbon brand's headquarters in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, the new 10,000-square-foot facility sits on a bluff overlooking the Kentucky River, which, as it turns out, is the primary water source used in production of its spirits.
It blends right in with the landscape like an A-framed barn from the back side, but out front it reveals itself as a farmstead gone modern.
While it's only a small cog in the enormous operation that factors into turning out the enormous volume of bourbon year after year, it's the perfect showcase for interactive exhibits.
Here's the special grain mixture known as the "mash bill," a fundamental blend that includes at least 51% corn.
Once the mash has been cooked and fermented, it is heated until the alcohol turns to vapor, pumped through a series of tubes, and dumped here. Then it's heated one more time and eventually placed in barrels for aging.
Filled barrels on barrels on barrels maturing like delicious booze babies in a giant, warehouse-sized womb. Okay, that's a weird analogy, but you get the idea.
Turning out uniformly delicious batches of bourbon doesn't just happen because they've been doing it for seven decades. To the contrary. Quality control is maintained through strict standards and constant taste-testing, as you can see by the copious vials and bottles strewn about here in their Quality Lab.
The labels are hand-stamped onto one of their more premium variants: a bottle of Russell's Small Batch Single Barrell. The name is a nod to Wild Turkey's Master Distiller Jimmy Russell, the longest-tenured master distiller in the world and, many would argue, the reason the Wild Turkey brand has endured through thick and thin.
For the history buff, the Heritage Wall outlines the brand's big names and big moves since even before it was even introduced in 1940.
No history lesson required to learn how delicious it is, though. You'll figure that out (if you hadn't already) in the tasting room.
The huge windows, lofted ceilings, and multi-level layout keep the place from feeling crowded when packed with daily visitors and during special events.
Hold up, Kentucky, we're on our way.
Joe McGauley is a senior editor at Supercompressor, whose offices are an unofficial bourbon tasting room.