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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Roll Out the Barrel in Bardstown, Kentucky

Bourbon capital is steeped in spirits and Southern charm

Bardstown, Kentucky  |  157 Miles

With 10 distilleries in a 15-mile radius of Downtown’s Central Court Square, Bardstown, Kentucky, is called the Bourbon Capital of the World for a reason. It’s also rich with history on every corner. A two-and-a-half-hour drive from our Crescent City, Kentucky’s second-oldest town serves hospitality in every pour.

Photo of Old Talbott Tavern by Hadley Mitchell

Since opening in 1779, Old Talbott Tavern has hosted frontiersman Daniel Boone, outlaw Jesse James, President Abraham Lincoln, naturalist John James Audubon, and even French King Louis Philippe I. The attached inn welcomes overnight visitors in cozy, brick-enveloped rooms.

My Old Kentucky Home State Park, inspired by composer Stephen Foster’s 1850s song of the same name, is a Federal-style private mansion built in 1818. Now, it welcomes 25,000 visitors a year for tours, Kentucky Derby parties, barbecues, and murder mystery dinners.

Pair an iced cinnamon twist — called yum yums — from Hadorn’s Bakery with a honey-infused Bee’s Knees latte at Fresh Coffee, and start exploring downtown Bardstown. Christy’s Collection displays upscale women’s apparel and accessories in a chic setting. Cactus Annie’s is an epicenter of western glam – think hot pink boots, fringe lined shirts, and bedazzled belt buckles. Hurst Discount Drugs serves its famous chicken salad and vintage sodas next door to its pharmacy.

Now, to the main attraction. While Bardstown has a population of roughly 13,500, it generates more than $8.5 billion from bourbon production and tourism each year.

Heaven Hill Distillery has been owned and operated by the same family since 1935. Its distinct white rick houses can hold up to 58,800 barrels. The distillery sees about 146,000 visitors a year and offers tastings, tours, exhibits, and — soon — a dining experience.

It is clear in Bardstown that distilleries work together and give visitors different experiences at each place. “You don’t see Pepsi and Coke working together, but the bourbon industry is different,” says Josh Hollifield, Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience’s general manager.

Photo of Bardstown Bourbon Company by Hadley Mitchell

Bardstown Bourbon Company is a newer distillery, founded in 2014, and already is one of the largest distilleries in the nation, producing more than 100,000 barrels of whiskey a year. The distillery features an elevated look, as well as fine dining. While visiting, make sure to check out the library of rare bourbons.

Preservation Distillery started distilling in 2017, when California native Marci Palatella fell in love with bourbon. She established her distillery on an old tobacco farm and makes about eight barrels a day. Visitors see firsthand where its unique pot-distilled bourbon is made, plus the longhorns that graze the property.

If you are thirsty for something other than bourbon, patrons can choose from up to 31 house beers on tap and a full food menu at Scout & Scholar downtown.

“We are beer in a bourbon oasis,” says General Manager Tyler Vaughan.

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