Destination Distilleries: Why Bourbon Lovers Are Flocking to Bardstown, Kentucky
As the Bourbon Capital of the World®, Bardstown, Kentucky, is home to a distinguished collection of world-famous distilleries, as well as a number of newer craft distilleries. Many of them offer complimentary tours, allowing you to discover the craftsmanship and tradition of the state’s signature spirit.
Here’s our guide to a few of Bardstown’s must-see distilleries, along with our favorite places to eat, sip and stay in this uniquely Kentucky town.
Set on 100 acres of active farmland, this American whiskey and bourbon destination experience features a state-of-the-art distillery, vintage whiskey library and a unique educational experience. Specialty tours, cocktail classes and limited-edition tastings take you behind the scenes of the distilling process and show you how to make the perfect bourbon cocktails. End your visit with a meal at The Kitchen & Bar, which offers expertly crafted cocktails and superb food in a hip, modern setting.
One of Bardstown’s newest distilleries, Lux Row blends timeless craft and modern innovation to create some of Kentucky’s most regarded bourbon brands, including Rebel Yell®, Ezra Brooks®, David Nicholson® and the highly regarded Blood Oath series. With a 43-foot custom copper still, six barrel warehouses and the capabilities to produce three million gallons of spirit a year, Lux Row Distillers is a must-see.
Independent and family-owned since 1936, the historic Willett Distillery specializes in handcrafted, small-batch and single-barrel selections of distilled spirits. Visitors to its historic property can choose from more than a dozen different tour and tasting experiences, including access to specialty products like the elegant Willett® Pot Still Reserve. Round out the experience with The Bar at Willett, the distillery’s elegant onsite bar and restaurant, which serves seasonally inspired small plates alongside classic cocktails and their modern interpretations. (But be sure to call ahead for reservations.)
While Barton 1792 was named in honor of the year Kentucky joined the United States, the distillery itself was established in 1879, making it the oldest fully operating distillery in Bardstown. The 192-acre grounds include 29 barrel-aging warehouses, an impressive stillhouse and the legendary Tom Moore Spring that supplies the water for 1792 Bourbon. Visitors can choose from three different tours, each of which includes a complimentary tasting.
Both the whiskey novice and the connoisseur can discover something new at the Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center, where guests can learn about the history and production of bourbon before ending their visit with educational tastings at a bar housed inside a giant barrel. Phase I of a $17.5 million renovation and expansion project to the center was completed in late 2019 and features three beautiful tasting rooms representing key parts of the Heaven Hill story that overlook Heaven Hill’s main campus of rickhouses for spectacular views of bourbon country. Phase II includes an enhanced and interactive visitor experience, as well as a hip rooftop bar and restaurant. This exciting new addition will open in spring of 2021.
Pot-distilling in the smallest 1-3 barrel batches, Preservation Distillery and Farm is a hidden treasure. This craft distillery, relatively new to the bourbon scene in Bardstown, is the region’s first and only 100% pot-distilled producer in Nelson County. Take a tour of the beautiful grounds and distillery and finish with a taste of their premium product. Don’t forget to walk over and say hi to the award-winning livestock on property!
More Destination-Worthy Distilleries
These six esteemed distilleries in Bardstown proper are only the beginning. True bourbon aficionados will want to pay a visit to other nearby landmarks, including Maker’s Mark Distillery, where they can hand-dip a bottle of Maker’s Mark® Bourbon in the brand’s iconic red wax, and the Jim Beam American Stillhouse, where they can walk in the footsteps of seven generations of master distillers.
Enjoy Classic Southern Dining
Bardstown’s picturesque downtown features a vibrant food scene offering old-fashioned Southern classics. Try Kurtz Restaurant, where they’ve been dishing up home-cooked, skillet-fried staples since 1937, and Mammy’s Kitchen & Bar, where locals enjoy flavorful plates like bourbon pork chops in a relaxed atmosphere. New to the downtown scene is Scout & Scholar Brewing Co., a craft brewery scheduled to open in late 2020. This new brewery will offer up to 20 of their own brews as well as upscale food emphasizing local ingredients.
Stay at the Historic Talbott Tavern
Built in 1779, the historic stone building is one of the oldest western stagecoach stops in America and, as such, welcomed a parade of visitors ranging from kings and presidents to pioneers and renegades. Overnight rooms are named after famous (or infamous) guests of the Tavern, including Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Boone and Jesse James, and are furnished with period antiques and modern amenities.
Modern Accommodations With Small-Town Charm
If rumors of ghostly sightings get you spooked, Bardstown offers plenty of newer accommodations as well. Holiday Inn Express and the Fairfield Inn & Suites are opening brand-new and budget-friendly options in Bardstown in 2020, each with modern amenities and the friendly service you’ll come to expect from this welcoming town. Add a brand-new La Quinta to the mix in 2021.
Experience the Official Bourbon Celebration of Kentucky
Now in its 29th year, Bardstown’s annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival is the authentic and original experience, attracting some 50,000 visitors from across the U.S. and around the world. Due to the extenuating circumstances of 2020, this year’s Kentucky Bourbon Festival will be a virtual experience! Join us, virtually, from October 15-18 for Spirits Education Sessions, discussions with legendary Master Distillers, and more.
With so much to see, do and sip in Bardstown, our advice is to pour a drink and start planning your getaway today.