Bardstown – Gateway Itinerary
Nestled in the rolling Kentucky hills lies the Bourbon Capital of the World® and an Official Gateway to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail™. The tradition of distilling runs deep in historic Bardstown, a vibrant community with all the small-town charm you’d expect in any Southern city. Bourbon, history, and mouth watering meals are calling – what are you waiting for?
Heaven Hill is the nation’s largest family-owned spirits producer making brands such as Elijah Craig, Larceny, Henry McKenna and many others. The Shapira’s have been operating in Bardstown since 1935, and they love having visitors. At the Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center, you can choose from their tour options and enjoy your samples in their barrel-shaped tasting room.
One of Kentucky’s newest distilleries is open for business! Lux Row Distillers is certainly not new to the industry, but their brand new home in Kentucky is. With a perfect blend of timeless craft and innovation, Lux Row upholds some of Kentucky’s most iconic Bourbon brands such as Ezra Brooks and Rebel Yell.
One of Kentucky’s most remote and charming distillery properties is well-worth the trek. While at Maker’s Mark see the barrels aging sweetly beneath the Chihuly blown-glass installment, and don’t forget to dip your own bottle in the gift shop. Settle in for a delicious, southern meal at Star Hill Provisions, and get a cocktail or alcoholic Ale-8-One slushy – trust us.
Head north of Bardstown to the home of one of the world’s most noted whiskeys – the Jim Beam American Stillhouse. After seeing every step of the process, you’ll have the chance to dip your own bottle of Knob Creek right off the bottling line. After the interactive, multi-sensory tour, make sure to grab some BBQ at Fred’s Smokehouse, and sip a cocktail on the patio. Stay tuned to their events calendar for any special happenings throughout the year.
On your back down into town, stop by the Four Roses Warehouse & Bottling Facility in Cox’s Creek. Four Roses is one of the few distilleries that ages their barrels in single story warehouses. Save on admission fees if you tour both the Distillery and Bottling Facility within 60 days. (You may choose to get your passport stamped at either location.)
Settle in for a great meal at the Bardstown Bourbon Company’s new dining experience, Bottle & Bond Kitchen & Bar. Enjoy a delicious meal and cocktail in this gorgeous ultra-modern distillery. Make sure to peek at the vintage whiskey offerings in their extended menu. And don’t forget to order a boozy milkshake. (No distillery tours offered at this time; a simple visit will suffice for a stamp in your passport.)
Start your Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft passport at another historic distillery rich in family history. Tour the grounds at Willett Distillery and don’t leave without stocking up on some Willett Family Estate, Johnny Drum, Rowan’s Creek, Noah’s Mill or any of the special releases they have that day.
Less than 2 miles from the center of enchanting Bardstown on an old tobacco farm you’ll find Preservation Distillery + Farms, a small operating farm and distillery making 100% pot distilled Bourbon and whiskey in 1-3 barrel batches. Longhorn cattle roam the property, and with itty bitty releases of their Olde St Nick, Wattie Boone, Cowboy Little Barrel and Preservation you’re sure to have a worthwhile visit.
There is no shortage of Things To Do in Bardstown and the surrounding areas. Start your day right with a steaming cup of coffee at Fresh, and take a quick jaunt to Hadorn’s for the local’s secret doughnut spot. Stock your home bar at Toddy’s Liquors and find unique gifts at the Blind Pig Bourbon Market. Did someone say “shopping?” You know we did. Don’t feel like walking? Take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the historic streets of Bardstown. Speaking of history, Bardstown has it in spades! Take a stroll through Kentucky Bourbon’s past at the newly renovated Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History. Tour the mansion at My Old Kentucky Home State Historic Site, and catch a showing of the Stephen Foster Story in the summer months (ask about their group culinary/cocktail tours!). Since 1848, the monks at the Abbey of Gethsemani have been welcoming visitors to learn about their lives and enjoy their fine, handmade treats such as fudge, fruitcake and preserves. Feeling adventurous? Book an excursion on My Old Kentucky Dinner Train for a meal, a drink and even a murder mystery in a 1940’s dining car as it rolls through the Bluegrass.
If you’re feeling outdoorsy, spend some time at the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest. Extensive hiking trails, the canopy tree walk, multiple public art displays, and an edible garden are just some of our many must-sees at Bernheim. Grab a bite in their cafe before hitting the road. Bardstown is home to three golf courses and several cozy campgrounds, if you have an rv in tow. Feel like heating things up? Book a cooperage tour at the Independent Stave Company just outside of Bardstown to see where the barrels are assembled and charred (please observe clothing requirements).
EAT & DRINK
Wind down in Bardstown as you peruse the shops and start planning your nightcap destination. Between the hometown diners, BBQ joint, pizzeria, soda fountain, upscale cafes and all the other dining offerings, there will be no shortage of options to fill your belly. Don’t miss an opportunity to dine on classic Kentucky fare in the Old Talbott Tavern (try the fried green tomatoes). Bottle & Bond Kitchen & Bar is topnotch for lunch, dinner, cocktails and vintage pours. One of our favorite grab-n-go stops is On the Go Foods – a non-profit serving people with developmental disabilities through job training, community employment, and more. For southern food at its finest, plan an exquisite private dinner for your group at the Harrison-Smith House (only open for private events). Have a nightcap in the “world’s oldest Bourbon bar” or ask the locals for directions to the speakeasy (shh).
You must be tired! Rest your head in one of the many historic B&B’s and cottages that Bardstown has to offer. Click here for a complete list of Bardstown accommodations.
Now that you’ve tackled Bardstown, explore Kentucky’s other communities as outlined in our full Kentucky Bourbon Trail(R) Trip Planner, and keep workin’ on that passport! When it’s complete, head to Bardstown’s Visitor Center to collect your Official Bourbon Tasting Glass! Click here for more info on the passport completion process.