Claiborne Farms – Paris, KY

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Claiborne Farm encompasses over 3,000 acres outside Paris, KY.

If you’re looking for the best tour of the Kentucky horse country, plan a visit to Claiborne Farms.

Located about 30 minutes from Lexington, Claiborne is a genuine working farm. Although tours must be reserved by appointment, they are offered every day of the week at 10:00 and 11:00 in the mornings.

The drive itself is worth it as you drive past large horse farms. The fencing alone costs inordinate amounts of money – some are wooden, but a surprising majority are old stone. This is old money out here and quintessential Kentucky blue grass.

Kevin, the tour guide and long-time employee takes the group of us first to the breeding barn. He explains that Claiborne Farms has been in the Hancock family for over years and highlights some of the history.  Breeding happens during the summer months and the horses literally line up and wait their turn.

The breeding barn

The breeding barn

Next we go to the first set of stables and he brings Orb out to greet us. As we pet the Thoroughbred with deep brown eyes, we discover he won the 2013 Kentucky Derby. He now lives out here to be bred along with the other horses. We also see where Secretariat, the Triple Crown Winner in the 1970’s resided. As we look around the stable, we meet other horses and learn how they are carefully groomed every day.

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Kentucky Derby Winner, Orb poses with us for a photo.

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Each of these horses resided in this stable.

As we head to the next barn, Kevin tells us about different horses and their histories, including who sired who. It’s like a regular “Peyton Place” out here. Next, we meet War Front, who commands a $150,000 stud fee. “Just because you have money, you don’t just get to breed with these stallions,” Kevin tells us. “Claiborne has a high standard and doesn’t take just anybody.”

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The stables at Claiborne Farm.

War Front likes peppermints.

War Front likes peppermints.

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Another stallion at the farm.

As the tour concludes, we head over to the horse cemetery. Familiar names are engraved in the stones: Riva Ridge, Secretariat, and many others. For more information, visit Claiborne Farms.

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Woodford Rerserve Distillery Tour – Versailles, KY

DSC_0319When you’re in Kentucky, there are a myriad of bourbon distilleries to tour. Four Roses, Wild Turkey, Buffalo Trace, Barton 1792 – to name a few.

On our recent visit to Lexington, we chose Woodford Reserve Distillery Tours and it did not disappoint.

Located about 30 minutes from downtown Lexington, Woodford is not far from Frankfort – Kentucky’s capital. It also lies in some of the most beautiful horse country. We were surprised at the size of some of the horse barns.

A horse barn along McCracken Pike Road

Because it was a holiday weekend, tours were offered every 20 minutes. Despite this, we had about a 90-minute wait before our timed tour began due to the crowds. However, the Visitor’s Center at Woodford is much like a grand resort lobby with plenty of comfortable seating areas, a large fireplace and a cafe. While we waited, I checked out the gift shop. Outside on the veranda were tables and picturesque views.

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When out timed tickets were called out, the group of 30 people gathered to receive head phones. It was easy to hear our guide, John as he welcomed us and explained the history of Woodford.

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As a side note, I have to mention that one of the reasons we toured Woodford is that I descend from a Ruth Pepper. Her brother Elijah Pepper was the original founder back in the early 1800’s.

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A shuttle bus took us to the distillery buildings about five minutes away. Inside the first stone building, large containers of “sour mash” bubbled in vats. We learned how bourbon is made and how the oak barrels are made – without any nails!

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John took us to the barrel room, which had walls lined with barrels to age. The smell of bourbon was amazing – even if you don’t particularly care for it. Afterwards, we walked through the packaging and labeling area before heading back to the shuttle bus.

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Back at the Visitor’s Center, we entered the tasting room. Two shot glasses of bourbon and a piece of chocolate candy awaited us. John instructed us to take the first sip and swish it around our mouth before swallowing. The second sip was to also get our mouths primed and it was the third sip that allowed us to enjoy the flavors.

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The bourbon on the left was the Kentucky Straight bourbon, while the one on the right was the smoother, more refined (and more expensive) Double Oaked blend. They were both nice, but I could immediately tell a difference between the two. I can’t drink straight liquor so I barely could get two sips from each glass before calling it quits.

Tours are $10 per person and include the tasting. For more information, see the link about tours at Woodford Reserve.