Ten Reasons to Explore the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky
A couple of years ago, my husband and I were fortunate enough to spend several
days in Bardstown, Kentucky, and we had a wonderful time exploring the
magnificent countryside and the town itself. We talk about going back again to
check out everything we missed, and I’m really hoping that we will. Here are
some reasons, in no particular order, that you might want to go and see the
area for yourself:
- Camping and Other Accommodations. We camped in our RV at Taylorsville Lake State Park, which is quite scenic and sparkling clean, but there is another State Park, My Old Kentucky Home State Park , with a very nice campground right there in the Bardstown city limits that we want to try the next time we go. There are also some lovely inns and B&B’s in and around Bardstown for those who prefer a little more luxury. Getting around is easy, as the town is small, with
just 14,000 inhabitants, and we had no trouble at all navigating around the
- History. If you enjoy U.S. history, you’ll love Bardstown. My husband, in particular, is a real history buff, and he had me trooping through old cemeteries and stopping at historical markers all over the place The nice thing about Bardstown is that some of those historical markers are right there in the middle of town, so you don’t have to drive far to discover the place where the first successful leg amputation was performed. Yikes! Being from the deep south with roots in Mississippi, we were both surprised to find cemeteries with connections to American Revolutionary times. We thought sure we were looking at a Civil War cemetery, but no, things go farther back than that in Bardstown. Definitely the place for history buffs.
- The scenery. Honestly, those beautiful, gentle, rolling hills in that part of Kentucky are a sight to be savored. It’s lush and green, and ever-so-peaceful. You need to see it to appreciate it. We discovered that Kentucky Blue Grass is actually quite green. Pictures just don’t do justice to the scenery.
- The food. We ate an especially enjoyable meal at Talbott Tavern on the town square in Bardstown. It’s a lovely and very old historic tavern and inn, rumored to be haunted, but with a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. It’s the kind of place where you start talking to the people seated at the table next to you, and before you know it, you’ve made new friends. Good food there too, and lots of it. We didn’t have a bad dining experience the whole time we were in the area, come to think of it. We came home with three recipe books that we still use pretty often. I just made a batch of bourbon balls using one of the recipes for our Kentucky Derby get-together, and they disappeared pretty fast.
- The wildlife. You’re bound to catch sight of a deer or two. We did. And you’ll like the bird varieties fluttering around. We had one especially memorable sighting the morning we drove to visit the Wild Turkey distillery in nearby Lawrenceburg. We had just gotten on the road when, lo and behold, a flock of real, live wild turkeys scurried across the road in front of us. They made it across safely, and I was beside myself with excitement. I got a picture, but all of the turkeys came out as feathery blurs. I kept it anyway. I know what the blurs are, even if no one else does. We thought it was fitting that we’d spied actual wild turkeys on the way to the Wild Turkey distillery. Perfect.
- Maker’s Mark Distillery. The setting alone is outstanding.
Think tall trees, lots of shade, swaths of freshly mown grass, and a crystal
clear creek, all in close proximity to the gift shop. It’s as if you’re in a
well-maintained park. Even the whisky barrel warehouses are tastefully done.
“Barrel houses,” they’re called. The fun part of the gift shop involves
purchasing any size bottle of Maker’s Mark Bourbon and then getting to dip the
top of it in a barrel of hot, fire-engine-red wax to seal it. You’ve seen it in
the stores. Go to the Maker’s Mark distilleryin nearby Loretto, and you can do it yourself. Makes a grown man feel like a kid again. Grins all around.
- Woodford Reserve Distillery and gift shop. Wow,
what a nice place. The gift shop is truly first class, and we came home with a
huge batch of Christmas gifts for friends and relatives. One of them still has
the top to a Woodford Reserve bourbon barrel proudly displayed in his kitchen
to this day. You don’t find unique gifts like that every day. One other thing I
remember most vividly about the Woodford Reserve Distilleryoccurred while we were driving to get to it in nearby Versailles, KY. There were all those lovely, rolling, grass-covered hills, as I mentioned before, and then we drove down into a rather deep valley. To our amazement, the sweet aroma of bourbon filled the car! There must have been a barrel house nearby, but we couldn’t see it. We both laughed out loud. We knew we were getting close!
- The horses and horse farms. We drove past mile after mile of tidy black, yes, black, fencing, and then, oh… my… gosh, you’ve never seen more beautiful horses and horse barns in your life! On our drive to Woodford, we passed some truly magnificent ones. From a distance, the horse barns resemble enormous homes. Even if you don’t know a thing about horses, the beauty of those magnificent animals, set against a magnificent field of green, won’t escape you, and the barns are a sight to behold. We had to stop and take picture after picture. The photos don’t do any of it justice though. Better to see for yourself.
- A side trip to Louisville. Whatever you do, don’t miss visiting Churchill
Downs, and be sure to visit the museum. What a treat to watch an
exciting horse-race in a 360-degree theater! There were kids all over the
place, and they seemed to be having a great time pretending to be jockeys by
weighing in, jumping on a “horse” and generally having a lot of fun. Don’t miss
the gift shop – more Christmas presents. We visited in June, but I just stashed
the gifts away until December rolled around. And be sure to eat at the
restaurant. You’ve simply got to eat a “Hot brown” at Churchill Downs. What a
treat. We toured the track and club house as well. Flowers everywhere. Really
stunning, and there were horses on hand. In fact, one was in a paddock quite
close to us as we ate lunch. City folks don’t often get the chance to eat lunch
in close proximity to a racehorse. Pretty neat, and not at all smelly, by the
way. Lots of flowers between us and the horse.
- Finally, there are the people. We met some delightful
fellow-travelers along the way, but everyone we had any business with at all
was very friendly and polite. We received an impromptu tour of the Talbott Inn
after lunch, courtesy of a friendly employee, all of the folks at the various
distilleries, (we visited five of them), were laid-back and light-hearted. At Heaven
Hill, one of the VP’s came over and signed a bottle with a personal
message for one of our relatives – in gold. Our relative has kept that bottle
as a keepsake. Pretty neat.
All in all, we had a wonderful and relaxing trip, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend
driving the Bourbon Trail around Bardstown to anyone. I don’t even drink
bourbon, or bet on horses for that matter, and I had a wonderful time.You’re
bound to learn a thing or two, and you’ll see a unique slice of Americana that
you’ll savor and appreciate, much like the product for which the area is