Dive into a world filled with flavor and incredible stories at these buzzy stops along The B-Line® bourbon trail – a collection of bourbon distilleries, bars, and restaurants located in Northern Kentucky, across the river from Cincinnati. Relative newcomers stock hard-to-find vintage bourbons and whiskeys, while generations-old distillers produce today just as those who’ve come before them. You’ll also find elevated restaurants that impress with farm-to-table menus infused with the area’s signature bourbon. The blend of innovation, heritage, and spirits at these locations is definitely worth a trip.
In Covington, Kentucky, Revival Vintage Spirits and Bottle Shop is home to over 1,000 bottles of vintage liquor. Known as “dusties,” vintage liquor bottles were formerly prohibited from being sold in Kentucky, but a 2018 law now permits their sale. That same year, co-founder Brad Bonds ditched his day job to launch full-time into the vintage bottle business. For over a decade, he’s hunted rare bottles and has become one of the top experts on antique bottles in the country. As with any antiques, prices can soar – one featured Old House Reserve from 1974 runs for $6,500. But not every purchase is as steep – the shop owners want great bourbon to be accessible for all and offer unique vintage tastings daily for just $5.
For hundreds of years, the Neeley family has been distilling and bootlegging out of the rolling hills of Northern Kentucky. In 2015, tenth and eleventh generation distillers Roy and Royce Neeley made the operation legal, and today, visitors can stop in for daily tours and tastings. Products range from Kentucky straight bourbon and rye whiskey to Absinthe made from an 1871 recipe that blends eight botanicals, and more. History lovers will get a kick out of several antique items along the tour, including the family’s pre-ban Absinthe still, which dates back to 1890s France and is still in use today. Royce Neeley kicks off daily distillery tours sharing a bit of family history. Tastings take place every half hour and cost $15.
In the small suburb of Ludlow, friends Carus Waggoner and Rick Couch are brewing something big. Inspired by their prior careers as creators of some of the largest shows in Las Vegas – including Viva Elvis and Cirque du Soleil’s LOVE – Second Sight Spirits is a distillery focused on ultra-small batch bourbon (they produce roughly 80 to 100 barrels a year) and meaningful connections. The show-stopping element of this distillery is their handcrafted still, built in-house to mimic a fortune-teller booth. Drop in a quarter and out pops your fortune. Don’t like what you hear? Try your luck with Fortuna, the distillers’ fortune-telling goldfish.
Ten years ago, in Newport, Kentucky’s historic East Row district, husband and wife Peter and Kim Newberry opened a coffee shop with a focus on organic, fair-trade beans sourced from farms in Peru, Sumatra, Ethiopia, and beyond. A year later, with a liquor license in hand, they opened Prohibition Bourbon Bar, now known for its massive and impressive collection of bourbon and rye whiskeys – the largest collection in the world. Featuring Scotch, Irish, Tennessee, and even Japanese whiskeys – 6,700 in all – the bar also serves cocktails, wine, and craft beer.
Opened in 2007 by Stephen Williams, Covington-based farm-to-table restaurant Bouquet has garnered national acclaim for its locally sourced menu items and inventive whiskey flights. Share a creative cheese board, complete with seasonal jams and pickled accoutrements, or opt for a plum burrata salad or braised carrots to start. Move on to Wagyu beef meatballs or smoked Tandoori salmon. For the mains, Kentucky-raised Black Hawk Farms steak comes coupled with squash, corn, Za’atar-spiced onions, scallion kimchi, and a sesame-ginger purée. Themed flights include The Big Finish, which highlights four whiskeys with different barrel finishes, giving each unique layers and flavors. Build-your-own flights are also available.
With deep reverence for their nearly 200-year-old heritage and the trailblazing distillers that came before them, Florence-based Boone County Distilling Co.’s story begins back in 1833, when brothers William and John Snyder converted an old steam mill into a distiller. By 1897, it was one of the nation’s largest distilleries, producing 4 million barrels of whiskey per year. Today the distillery produces dozens of products, from small-batch bourbon and rye, to single-barrel styles, bourbon cream, rum, and more. The popular Tanner’s Curse rye honors the Reverend John Tanner, the first known settler of Boone County. Book a grain-to-glass tour to soak in the art of distilling and meet “The Bear,” the company’s 500-gallon copper pot. A few samples round out the experience.
A hearty helping of history is served alongside authentic Italian fare at Pompilio’s Restaurant in Newport. Opened in 1933, this family-run staple is known for its signature pasta dishes and house made sauces, plus an extensive bourbon list. Though the restaurant has been in the same location for 90 years, the building has a history all its own. Today, what serves as the bar and dining room was once a storied saloon. In February 1922, a major Prohibition raid closed down the place – 100 bottles of beer and a few bottles of liquor were confiscated, along with illegal gambling paraphernalia. After Prohibition, Pompilio’s was the first place in the state to secure a liquor license. By the 1940s, the restaurant is said to have attracted celebrities from Frank Sinatra to Marilyn Monroe. It also served as a film location for Oscar-winner Rain Man, starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise.
In 1906, ambitious Covington businessman John Coppin bet on a longshot – a horse named Knowledge at Latonia Race Track – and it paid off big-time. He used the earnings to expand his already-successful dry goods store into a seven-story department store at the corner of 7th and Madison streets – the first modern skyscraper in Kentucky. Historic Hotel Covington is located in the building today, and one popular meeting place is a social room named for that fateful horse. At Knowledge Bar & Social Room, golden accents and amber velvet chairs give off a warm ambiance. Cozy up to the bar and peruse the list of over 20 bourbon offerings that range from standards – Woodford Reserve and Old Forester 86 – to small-batch options like Colonel E.H. Taylor. Specialty cocktails like The Liquid Knowledge, a blend of Four Roses bourbon with ginger, lime, and soda, are also popular picks.
In Burlington, pop over to historic Tousey House Tavern, a restaurant with long and varied roots as a tannery, boarding house, residence, gift shop, and consignment store. Part of the Kentucky B-Line, the restaurant menu features southern staples and highlights regional bourbon. On Tuesdays, stop in for family-style fried chicken with mashed potatoes, country-style green beans, and coleslaw, plus flaky homemade biscuits. Sunday brunch delights with starters like “hot slaw” – cabbage topped with a signature sweet-and-sour dressing and wood-smoked bacon – and Kentucky beer cheese served with warm pretzel bread. Bourbon appears throughout the the Tousey menu: the signature burger comes with a bourbon-shallot aioli, pan-roasted chicken thighs are served with a mushroom risotto and finished with a bourbon-shallot cream, and a bourbon-infused demi sauce tops the char-grilled ribeye.
Touting Kentucky’s third registered distilled spirits plant - DSP-KY-3 – the Old Pogue Distillery in Maysville dates back to 1876. Today, the legacy continues through fifth and sixth generation Pogues who still craft bourbon and rye overlooking the winding Ohio River, like their ancestors before them. The stunning Pogue homestead serves as a visitor’s center and small museum, and the modest distillery is just adjacent. Downtown, head to the tasting room and stop in the museum for a dose of history, memorabilia, bourbon samples, and gifts for sale, at The Old Pogue Experience. Next door, the Kathleen Savage Browning Miniatures Collection at the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center is also worth a look.