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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Bourbon Bliss

Photos courtesy of Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience and Dant Crossing

After a year of quarantining and social distancing, raise your “spirits” in historic Bardstown, Kentucky, a quaint town 142 miles east of Evansville and 40 miles southeast of Louisville. If it’s been a while since you’ve gone distillery-hopping in the Bourbon Capital of the World®, you’ll find there’s much more to see.

Dant Crossing and Log Still Distillery
A vintage train teeming with bourbon-loving passengers rattles through the undulating knob hills of Nelson County, passing cattle grazing in pastures and horses peeking through fences. In the bar car, some sip Monk’s Road bourbon from elegant snifters, savoring smooth vanilla nuances between slow drags on fine cigars, while others relish the peppery bite of Monk’s Road rye whiskey.

That’s what John Wallace “Wally” Dant III envisions for the next phase of Dant Crossing, the new 300-acre, bourbon-themed recreation and entertainment complex in New Haven, Kentucky, with Log Still Distillery at its heart. A collaboration with the nearby Kentucky Railway Museum will help facilitate a 45-minute excursion through the pastoral setting 14 miles south of Bardstown where seven generations of Dants have distilled bourbon.

Dant, a former Nashville healthcare CEO, is reviving the family’s bourbon legacy that began in 1836 when an ancestor distilled whiskey in a hollowed-out poplar log. The new distillery will sit on the site of the old operation that closed decades ago. When it’s completed next year, the $30 million complex will have a 22,000-square-foot events center, farm-to-table restaurant called 47 & Poplar, and a craft distillery that can produce 15,000 barrels of bourbon annually.

Portions of the campus are still under construction, but the expansive tasting room stocked with Monk’s Road spirits is open and overlooks a 2,000-seat amphitheater for ticketed events. Monk’s Road products are named for the road linking the distillery to the Abbey of Gethsemani, the monastery that was home to the Trappist monk Thomas Merton.

Within walking distance is the Homestead at Dant Crossing, a five-bedroom bed and breakfast in a restored lakefront farmhouse. Guests dangle their hooks from a nearby pier hoping to get a nibble, while others set off on a pleasant walking trail circling the 12-acre lake. The Log Still water tower looms in the distance.

Dant is often asked what inspired him to pursue his dream of Dant Crossing, and his answer is simple: family.

“With Log Still Distillery and our Monk’s Road spirits, I get to honor my forefathers’ legacy, work alongside my cousins, and build something to pass along to our children,” Dant said. “At the end of the day, honoring the past, present, and future generations is the reason for all of this.”

Heaven Hill Distillery
Next, head back up to Bardstown to Heaven Hill Distillery, which includes Evan Williams and Elijah Craig in its extensive bourbon portfolio, and check out the Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience, the impressive new visitors center formerly called the Bourbon Heritage Center. Following a $19 million expansion, the 30,000-square-foot space features three tasting rooms, a rooftop bar, and bourbon-themed exhibits.

Heaven Hill knows today’s savvy bourbon consumer has a thirst for knowledge. The hour-long You Do Bourbon experience takes a deep dive into everything from mashbills (grain recipes used to produce bourbon) to quality control.

If you’ve dreamed of bottling your own bourbon, this is your chance. Visitors can bottle and take home one of four Heaven Hill products, each with a distinctive flavor profile. After a little bourbon education, everyone pulls the lever and fills their bottle. They sign the label with a flourish, just like Bardstown’s legendary master distiller.

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Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen is the managing editor of Evansville Living and Evansville Business magazines.

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