Join in celebrating Kentucky Bourbon Heritage month

Barrels at Woodford Reserve distillery in Versailles, a stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail
Barrels at Woodford Reserve distillery in Versailles, a stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear has proclaimed September as Bourbon Heritage Month in the Bluegrass, designating the entire month to celebrate our signature spirit and its massive economic impact and tourism benefit to the commonwealth.

Instead of detailing the thousands of good-paying jobs and billions in gross state product that bourbon generates every year, the Kentucky Distillers' Association thought it would be fun to list the Top 10 ways (in no particular order) to enjoy our amber nectar.

Tour a Kentucky Bourbon Trail distillery and finally finish your Passport for a free T-shirt. Participating distilleries are Four Roses and Wild Turkey in Lawrenceburg; Heaven Hill in Bardstown; Jim Beam in Clermont; Maker's Mark in Loretto; and Woodford Reserve in Versailles. Several distilleries — including Jim Beam, Four Roses and Maker's Mark — have new and improved visitor centers. Go to Kybourbontrail.com for tour times, directions and more information. And don't forget that Alltech's Town Branch Distillery opens Oct. 1 for tours in Lexington.

Visit the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History in Bardstown, featuring a 50-year collection of rare artifacts and documents about American whiskey. It's a non-profit museum, so please make a donation if you can. Go to Whiskeymuseum.com for details.

Volunteer for the Bourbon Chase, the overnight relay race with stops at the Kentucky Bourbon Trail distilleries on Sept. 28 and 29. The race is sold out, but organizers always can use help in coordinating the 4,000 runners. Learn more at Bourbonchase.com/volunteers.

Hold your own bourbon tasting for friends and family. Learn how at Kybourbon.com and impress your peers with tasting notes on the premium small batch and single barrel brands under the "bourbon" tab at the Web site.

Take a trip to one of the state's new craft distilleries. There are several to choose from: Town Branch and Barrel House in Lexington, Old Pogue in Maysville, MB Roland in Pembroke, Silver Trail in Hardin, Corsair Artisan in Bowling Green and Limestone Branch in Lebanon.

For women, join the Bourbon Women Association (Bourbonwomen.org). They have cool special events featuring top chefs, bartenders and experts to educate and preserve the heritage of bourbon. You don't have to be an expert, just share the interest.

Not a chef or mixologist Explore the growing bourbon cuisine scene around Lexington and Louisville. There are plenty of top restaurants and bars featuring bourbon-inspired menus and specialty cocktails. For information, go to Visitlex.com and Gotolouisville.com.

Don't miss the Kentucky Bourbon Festival in Bardstown from Tuesday through Sunday (Kybourbonfestival.com). All our master distillers will be under one roof at the Kentucky Bourbon All-Star Sampler on Wednesday — the perfect place to get a photo or an autograph.

Looking for the perfect gift to surprise a bourbon connoisseur Check out the gift shops at any Kentucky Bourbon Trail distillery or browse Kybourbontrailshop.com for the latest apparel, barware, specialty items and accessories.

And the top way to honor America's only native spirit:

Be a designated driver. Let someone else rejoice and celebrate Bourbon Heritage Month while you stay sober and make sure everyone gets home safely. Click on "Responsibility" at Kybourbon.com to learn more about our member's responsibility pledges and programs.

We'll be posting these and other ideas on our Facebook page (Facebook.com/kybourbontrail) and Twitter account (@kybourbontrail).

If you have any suggestions, please post them there.