On The Bourbon Trail With Mint Julep Tours

When you think of bourbon tourism, you likely think of distilleries and bourbon bars. While there are plenty of people who just breeze through Kentucky, making a stop here or there, more often these days people are actually planning trips just to visit Bourbon Country. “That’s the biggest change we’ve seen,” says Mint Julep Tours co-founder Lisa Higgins. “People are now coming for 3 or 4 days, calling and planning ahead. There’s just so much now for them to do.”

Lisa and her husband Sean founded Mint Julep Tours in 2008, starting off with just one bus and doing business around the ping pong table in their basement. Now, they have 10 vehicles, 22 drivers and guides, and 10 full-time staff members. Their tour business has evolved into a “Destination Management Company.” In other words, these are the folks you call to plan your event or your entire Bourbon Country vacation.

Mint Julep Tours

Lisa and Sean Higgins of Mint Julep Tours (image courtesy of Maggie Kimberl/copyright The Whiskey Wash)

“Louisville had limited resources for touring,” explains co-founder Sean Higgins.  “We took the initiative to develop safe, knowledgeable tours for Louisville, Kentucky, the Bourbon Trail, and Kentucky Thoroughbred horse tours.” Mint Julep Tours partnered with government and private organizations to get off the ground, and now they partner with the distilleries and other businesses to provide the best possible tourism experience for guests. “Once the bourbon started flowing, our business really took off,” says Higgins.

Tour Guides at Mint Julep Tours have their own “bourbon celebrity” standings. Bob White has been with Mint Julep Tours for 2.5 years. Before that he was a newspaper reporter covering “crime, hard news, government, everything un-fun.” Now he works as a tour guide for a company whose slogan is “The Purpose of Fun is to Have Some!” His favorite thing about working here is “getting to showcase Kentucky. I love Kentucky and I love cheering it on. It’s my home state.”

Mint Julep Tours

A typical Mint Julep Tours outing (image courtesy of Maggie Kimberl/copyright The Whiskey Wash)

While you can certainly designate a driver and go it alone, the experience you will have on a tour bus full of bourbon lovers is unparalleled. After all, according to Mint Julep Tours guide Bob White, “We know all the side doors to all these distilleries. We know where to go off trail.”

About the author

Maggie Kimberl

One night during Derby week, I was working in the liquor store while Four Roses Master Distiller Jim Rutledge was doing a tasting. I kept trying to make my way over to talk to him, but we were super busy (did I mention it was Derby week?) and I didn't make it in time. Dejected, I went back to the break room and started eating my lunch. The next thing I knew, Rutledge came through the door, saying, "You didn't get to do my tasting!" He sat down and explained how to taste bourbon, the ten recipes of Four Roses, and how it was different than other distilleries. I had liked bourbon before that point, but Jim Rutledge made me care about it. That's the beautiful thing about the bourbon industry- the people love what they do, and their enthusiasm is infectious. Now here we are. :)