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How’s That Made?

When the weather outside is chilly, head inside for some behind-the-scenes fun. Proud of the products they create, a number of Kentucky’s manufacturers roll out a hearty welcome to the public on factory tours. All are educational and fun and many are free.

Remember your first taste of Ale-8-One? According to Deanne Elmore, the company’s public relations and marketing manager, its clientele is fiercely loyal. “Sometimes,” she says, “Ale-8 is a generational rite of passage.”

Keeper of the closely guarded secret recipe, Fielding Rogers is the fourth generation head of the Winchester facility. On a wonderfully noisy factory tour, you’ll learn how his great-great-uncle invented the ginger-flavored beverage in 1926, watch nonreturnable bottles filling at 600 per minute, and sip your own free Ale-8.

The only soft drink in existence invented in Kentucky, Ale-8-One boasts its own culture. At Asbury College in Wilmore, a dorm called “The Zoo” builds a Christmas tree annually out of Ale-8 bottles. The drink even made it to the London Olympics.

“You can see a factory line that’s faster, bigger, and more modern at any beer bottling plant,” says Deanne Elmore, “but here you’re seeing a piece of Americana, a family-run business. Out of 85 employees, only 14 guys run the entire plant.”

American Printing House for the Blind
Have you ever wondered how blind people manage their worlds? On a fascinating 1-1/2-hour tour of the American Printing House for the Blind’s 280,000-square-foot facility in Louisville, you can watch books and magazines being embossed in braille and printed in large type, listen to “talking books” being recorded, learn how a talking piece of software called “refreshable braille” aids easily hook up with iPads and iPods, and even see a braille McDonald’s menu.

Chartered in 1858, the world’s largest nonprofit manufacturer of educational, workplace, and independent living products for the blind and visually impaired includes a 300-employee manufacturing company and an interactive museum, where you can learn about dog guides, find what it’s like to touch braille, and see Stevie Wonder’s practice piano.

“Tour visitors often find we’re a resource, say, if their grandfather is losing his sight and they don’t know where to get help,” explains Roberta Williams, public relations manager. “Our mission is to help promote independence of people who are blind by providing special products and services needed for education and life, and it’s rewarding for folks to see how that happens.”

Louisville Stoneware
And while you’re in Louisville, make sure you check out this pottery tour. Starting with raw clay, the entire factory transforms it through a 12-step process, ending in one of two massive kilns, into enduring, functional art forms. The pieces are lead-free, nontoxic, microwave/oven/freezer- and dishwasher-safe.

Skilled artisans use the basic elements of earth, water, air, and fire to create timelessly beautiful dinnerware, bakeware, serving pieces, collectibles, and an outdoor line of garden products. Not only do visitors get to witness the whole shebang, but they can stick around and paint their own.

“Because we’ve been around since 1815, we’re part of Kentucky’s heritage,” says Lisa Masters, managing partner. “Many other pottery companies have presses and other machines, but short of our jigger and basic purification wheels, we still do it all by hand. The factory is really cool!”

Heaven Hill Distilleries’ Bourbon Heritage Center
Want to sip some of Kentucky’s heritage? On one of four tours of the award-winning Heaven Hill Distilleries’ Bourbon Heritage Center in Bardstown, you can get as intimate with bourbon and its history as you choose. You can marvel at the Kentucky beginnings of this internationally renowned beverage, revisit Prohibition and the Whiskey Rebellion, watch the distilling and bottling process, revel in the aroma of the “angel’s share” in a barrel-filled warehouse, find out why aficionados choose single-barrel bourbons, learn about the generational bourbon families, and even hop a trolley for a tour of the Bourbon Capital of the World, Bardstown.

A visitor favorite is bellying up to the bourbon bar in the barrel-shaped tasting room.

“We teach people how to nose and taste bourbon,” says Director of Guest Services Lynne Grant, who just garnered the first-ever “Icons of Whisky America 2012” by Whisky Magazine for Visitor’s Center Manager of the Year. “They can then take that skill on and compare other bourbons to see which ones they really like.”


Take a peek at Kentucky’s product producing processes on tours below, or a behind-the-scenes tour of Lake Barkley Dam and Lock. All are free unless specified. Check ahead to verify times and reserve for groups.

Ale-8-One Bottling Company
25 Carol Road, Winchester
(859) 744-3484
Tours are Fridays year-round, plus Thursdays from Memorial Day to Labor Day, 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., and 11:15 a.m. Advance reservations are required.

American Printing House for the Blind
1839 Frankfort Avenue, Louisville
(800) 223-1839
Self-guided tours Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Guided tours Monday-Thursday and every other Friday 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Heaven Hill Distilleries’ Bourbon Heritage Center
1131 Gilkey Run Road, Bardstown
(502) 337-1000, click on “View our Tours”
Tours Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (last Deluxe Tour at 3:40 p.m.);
March-December, Sunday 12 p.m.-4 p.m. (last Deluxe Tour at 2:40 p.m.); reserve for groups of 10 or more; four tours from $3-$25.

Louisville Stoneware
731 Brent St., Louisville
(800) 626-1800, click on “Visit our Studio”
Tours Monday-Friday, 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m.; groups of 10 or more should reserve two weeks ahead; $7 per person.


Barkley Dam and Lock
Lake Barkley
200 Barkley Dam Overlook
Grand Rivers
(270) 362-4236
Guided tours by Park Ranger staff are offered monthly, approximately 1-3/4 hours in length on Saturdays, this year May-September. Dates and times to be announced; reservations required at least one week in advance for background screenings.

Lawnmower engines
Briggs & Stratton Engine Facility
110 Main Street, Murray
(270) 759-1680
Tours Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-7 p.m., except holidays. Tour participants must be at least 18. Advised to call ahead by at least 24 hours, as tour numbers may be limited.

Baseball bats
Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
800 West Main Street
(877) 775-8443
Tours daily Monday-Saturday,
9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m.-5 p.m., closed Thanksgiving and Christmas; $11 adults, $10 seniors, $6 children, kids 5 and under free.

Bourbon balls
Rebecca-Ruth Candies
116 E. 2nd St.
(502) 223-7475
Home of bourbon balls since 1919. Tours Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-noon and 1-5:30 p.m. $2 per person, kids 6 and under free. Walk-ins welcome, groups of 10 or more by appointment.

Blue Mondays
Ruth Hunt Candies
550 N. Maysville Rd.
Mt. Sterling
(800) 927-0302
Tours Monday-Wednesday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Seasonal tours may be limited, so call ahead. Groups of 10 or more, reserve in advance.

Camrys, Venzas, and Avalons
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky
1001 Cherry Blossom Way
(800) 866-4485
Tours Monday-Friday, 10 a.m., noon, and 2 p.m. Reservations strongly encouraged as tour size is limited. Children must be at least in first grade or older.

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