Kentucky’s famous 100-proof bourbon whiskeys—and a lot of local pride—are key ingredients in this family-owned company’s world-renowned chocolates. These chocolates are as rich as the history surrounding the Rebecca-Ruth name itself. Founded in 1919 by two uncommonly courageous schoolteachers, Rebecca Gooch and Ruth Booe, the company’s popularity grew as a result of the women’s highly acclaimed chocolates and was aided by their creative sales techniques—which included loudly plugging their products on street corners. Ruth Booe originated the “Bourbon Ball.” Made with real Kentucky bourbon and crowned with a Southern pecan, this confection has become the treat of the South.
The bright red awning shading this small, houselike store and factory creates an unpretentious atmosphere. The 10 to 15 employees (some of whom have been here for over 30 years) make about 100,000 pounds of confections a year.
In the cream-candy room are articles about Rebecca-Ruth from national magazines such as Southern Living and Gourmet. Workers pull candy cream on a hook by hand and then use a taffy-pull machine. When it’s “just right,” the rope of candy is cut into pieces and left to sit. It becomes very creamy, rich, and flaky. Peanut brittle and toffee are also made in this room.
In the kitchen, the cast-iron candy furnace and copper kettles emit the sweet scent of hand-stirred, melting sugars. In the production area, large mixers prepare rich fillings for their assembly-line journey down the enrobing line. First the candy dough is extruded onto a belt, and then it goes through a “chocolate waterfall.” Two workers personally apply the finishing touches: a luscious southern pecan, sprinkles, or a swirled flourish on top.
A tour highlight is seeing “Edna’s table.” For close to 70 years, Edna Robbins handmade delicacies on the same marble table used by Rebecca and Ruth. (Ruth bought “Edna’s table” for $10 in 1917.)
Cost: $5 per person
Freebies: Samples of the original Bourbon Balls and other chocolates (children receive liquor-free samples only).
Video/DVD Shown: 8-minute video on candy production.
Reservations Needed: No, except for bus groups.
Days and Hours: January–November Mon–Sat 9:00 am–12:00 pm and 1:00–4:30 pm. No tours 4 days before Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Easter.
Plan to Stay: 45 minutes, plus time in retail store.
Minimum Age: Young children should be accompanied by an adult.
Disabled Access: No
Group Requirements: Bus operators should call (800) 444-3766, or visit the website, to make reservations or obtain additional information, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Special Information: Video cameras not allowed. Production more likely in mornings.
Retail Store: Sells a wide variety of liquor-cream chocolates (including Bourbon Balls, Kentucky Irish Coffees, and Kentucky Mint Juleps), and liquor-free chocolates, including nut clusters, butter creams, and Kentucky Creamed Pull Candy. Open year-round Mon–Sat 9:00 am–5:30 pm. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Catalog available from 800 number above.
Directions: From Lexington, take I-64 West to Frankfort Exit 58, then take U.S. 60 West. Turn left onto Second St. Rebecca Ruth is on left. From Louisville, take I-64 East to Frankfort Exit 53. Take Rt. 127 North to U.S. 60 East, which becomes Second St. Stay on Second St. Cross over Capital Ave. Rebecca-Ruth is on left.
Nearby Attractions: Three Chimneys horse farm, Toyota, and Buffalo Trace Distillery tours (see pages 252, 253, and 240–241).