Bardstown, Kentucky may be the Bourbon Capital of the World. It’s even been called “The Disney World of Bourbon” for its huge tourism draw. To some bourbon lovers, that sounds like the opposite of relaxing. If so, we suggest entering the Kentucky Bourbon Trail from its northern gateway in cool Covington, Kentucky. Up here it’s called “The B-Line”—epicenter of Northern Kentucky bourbon culture, and home to some quintessential craft distilleries.
Like its southerly relation, The Kentucky Bourbon Trail, The B-Line is a collection of distilleries, bars and restaurants in Northern Kentucky (“NKY” for short) that celebrate the bourbon lifestyle with tours, tastings, bespoke mixology and a sizzling culinary scene. Its home base of Covington, Kentucky is right across the river from Cincinnati, Ohio, whose revitalized downtown casts a cosmopolitan glow. That glow is decidedly warmer with a glass of bourbon, and craft distilleries found along The B-Line are making some of the finest spirits in the state.
Giving new life to an old tune is New Riff Distilling of Newport, KY. Founded in 2014 by “…a team of corporate refugees ranging from craft beer to politics and more…” New Riff visionary Ken Lewis has gone distinctly old-school. Here, they honor old ways—the Kentucky sour mash regimen, bottling without chill filtration, and a nod to the whiskey-making history of Greater Cincinnati—all of which make for a smooth, sweet spirit destined for greatness.
Rich in tradition and festooned with awards, The Old Pogue Distillery of Maysville, KY (a town that’s been called “the birthplace of bourbon”) is a family affair. The fifth and sixth generations of the Pogue family oversee a legacy of libations, none more famous or beloved than Old Pogue Master’s Select—the bourbon that started it all back in 1897.
The Neeley family has been distilling spirits since before it was strictly legal (or so the story goes), and today the Neeley Family Distillery of Sparta, KY is a premier craft producer. Under the guidance of 25-year-old Royce Neeley—who hails from 11 generations of distillers—their long history and signature bourbon found the new venture welcomed into The Kentucky Distillers’ Association. It’s the ultimate seal of approval in these parts, and a long time coming.