Bourbon tourism has hit new heights: Mint Julep Tours, which has been shuttling whiskey fans to and from Kentucky distilleries for 15 years, has announced a two new private tours that reach new levels in experience and in price.
Called the “Roll Out the Barrel” Experience, the newest tours for up to four people include helicopter rides from Louisville to Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto, Ky., or from Nashville to Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, Tenn., as well as luxury accommodations at Omni Hotels, and pretty much every detail you can think of from food to ground transportation.
The price tag: $42,000 for Maker’s Mark and $38,000 for Jack Daniel’s.
But they include one great big perk that you’ll get nowhere else: Your own barrel of whiskey.
Depending on how much bourbon is in the barrel you pick, that means you’ll end up with 200-220 bottles, according to Chasta McIntyre, a certified bourbon steward, tour ambassador and Mint Julep “fun enthusiast.”
What is a barrel selection?
Private barrel selections have become big business for Kentucky (and apparently Tennessee) distillers. Earlier this year the Kentucky lawmakers passed legislation to make the practice, which has been going on for more than a decade, explicitly legal.
Barrel selections are usually done with restaurants, bars, bourbon clubs and businesses but it can be difficult for the average bourbon drinker to get one.
“Being able to have access for general public to do a barrel selection isn’t really available,” McIntyre said. “So we’re very excited to open this up to the general public.”
She said that since the new tour was announced in early June, Mint Julep Tours has had hundreds of calls about it.
What does Mint Julep Tours offer?
Louisville-based Mint Julep, which handles more than 50,000 tourists a year, has been organizing tours of all kinds including distilleries, breweries, horse farms and culinary experiences. About three years ago owners Sean and Lisa Higgins added a Nashville office to expand the possibilities.
And the new tour capitalizes on everything they’ve learned so far, McIntyre said.
“We really have a niche in luxury travel market,” she said. “We wanted to elevate that and take flight to offer once in a lifetime experience.”
Mint Julep partnered with Beam Suntory and Brown-Forman to package the barrel selections and help customers set up the taste profile they are looking for.
“The general public can’t set this up on their own, the exclusivity is priceless,” McIntyre said.
But it goes beyond the barrel for an all-inclusive trip of a lifetime, she said.
“Over past 15 years Mint Julep has prided ourselves on innovation, growing as bourbon tourism has grown,” she said. “We’re not just a ride from point A to point B. You get an educated guided experience whether it’s bourbon, beer, culinary, horses … We create the ideal itinerary in Kentucky and Nashville.”
Mint Julep has plans to expand to include more distillery partners and hopes to add a Lexington-based tour.
“This it tip of iceberg for us,” she said.