Kentucky takes its bourbon very seriously. And for good reason! The Mint Julep has been the signature drink of the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby for over a century. Over 120,000 mint juleps are served every year—that’s 1,000 pounds of freshly harvested mint, 60,000 pounds of ice, and over 10,000 bottles of Old Forester Mint Julep ready-to-serve cocktail keep this tradition flowing! Hmmm…gotta love that! And I love this little fact too: the Kentucky Derby is known as the greatest 2 minutes in sports. Cheers to the 142nd anniversary of the running of the derby!

So. My friend Lisa, my cohort and my partner-in-culinary-crime, had to get warmed up for the big event and when in Kentucky, you follow the Bourbon trail.

We started out early in the morning, got ourselves a Kentucky Bourbon Passport and were on our way to visit four out of the ten bourbon distilleries in the area.

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Beautiful Grounds at Maker’s Mark

Our first stop was Marker’s Mark and the grounds are just so pretty there! Here’s what I really love about the history of this iconic American bourbon—the woman behind the “Mark”!

Marjorie “Margie” Samuels isresponsible for the signature red wax on the bottles she designed, her calligraphy is on the label, and she collaborated on the famous recipe with her husband Bill Samuels Sr. Margie graduated from the University of Louisville (Loo-a-Vul…gotta pronounce it right!) in 1933 with a degree in chemistry, but her real talent and legacy comes down to her brilliant stroke of marketing and design. A collector of fine English pewter, Margie noticed the “maker’s marks” whitesmiths put on their finest works. Hence the name! That mark of handcrafted quality is one she stamped on American bourbon history! This smart and savvy lady was inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2014.

Lisa and I had a little bourbon flight. The first one was a clear bourbon, called white bourbon—it was ONE day old. Little trivia for you here: bourbon is colored by the wood of the barrel, and they say, the deeper the color the stronger the hangover. Color is certainly an indicator of age and quality when it comes to bourbons.

We stopped by Heaven Hill, where I scooped up some Bourbon Apple Butter, Four Roses, where we heard about the romance behind the roses, and, of course, Jim Beam, probably the most popular bourbon sold worldwide!

What’s your bourbon of choice? Let me know in the comments below!