Exploring the American Whiskey Trail

If you like whiskey and road trips, there may be no better summer destination than the American Whiskey Trail, a list of must-see sites in American whiskey country compiled by the Distilled Spirits Council. Many of the distilleries with membership in the industry group, together with a set of historical sites, take you on a whiskey-themed journey from colonial times up to the present day.

Stops on the “trail” are roughly grouped into two areas: Kentucky, where most of the distilleries are located; and Southwestern Pennsylvania and Western Maryland, where most of the museums and historical sites are grouped. Two Tennessee distilleries, as well as George Washington’s Mount Vernon distillery, are also included. New York City’s Fraunces Tavern, where Washington gave a farewell address to his officers, rounds out the list.

beam american trail

image via Distilled Spirits Council / David Handschuh

The sites aren’t ordered, but if you want to see the whole trail in one trip, you can group them into a roughly chronological order. Start in Washington, D.C., where you can see how whiskey was made in the 18th Century at Mount Vernon, and visit historic Gadsby’s Tavern in nearby Alexandria.

Head northwest to southwestern Pennsylvania, where Pittsburgh can serve as your home base as you explore Whiskey Rebellion-era homesteads and a preserved pre-Civil War village. Along the way, you can stop at the Allegany Museum in Cumberland, Maryland, home of an annual Whiskey Rebellion festival in June.

Finally, head to Kentucky and Tennessee, the historical and modern capitals of bourbon and Tennessee whiskey production. Conveniently, all of the Kentucky distilleries—including Wild Turkey, Woodford Reserve, and Maker’s Mark—are either in Louisville or within an hour’s drive. It’s worth noting that Louisville also offers attractions beyond the Whiskey Trail, including Churchill Downs (where the Kentucky Derby is held) and Muhammad Ali’s childhood home. The two Tennessee distilleries, George Dickel and Jack Daniel’s, are about four hours south, in Tullahoma and tiny Lynchburg, respectively.

The final site is Fraunces Tavern in New York, which, because of its location, doesn’t fit conveniently onto an itinerary—which is just as well, since it has only a tenuous link with America’s whiskey history (besides the Washington connection and the fact that they now sell very expensive Buffalo Trace). It is, however, located in a beautiful 18th Century building, and it features a museum of Colonial and Revolution-era history, so it’s worth checking out if you’re in the area.

About the author

Katelyn Best

Katelyn is a freelance writer in Portland, Oregon. She's a regular contributor to the Whiskey Wash with an affinity for the unique and weird side of whiskey.