BY JANET STEINBERG
Sample the spirit of Kentucky during September…National Bourbon Heritage Month. Throughout the United States, the month of September marks the annual celebration of bourbon as America’s “Native Spirit”.
On August 2, 2007, the US Senate declared September as “National Bourbon Heritage Month.” The bill, sponsored by the late Kentucky Senator and Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning, passed by unanimous consent. The bill reinforces the 1964 Act of Congress that declared bourbon “America’s Native Spirit” by celebrating the family heritage, tradition and deep-rooted legacy that the bourbon industry contributes to the United States. And, what better way to savor the ultimate bourbon experience than on a trip to Kentucky?
|KENTUCKY CELEBRATES DURING NATIONAL BOURBON HERITAGE MONTH
LOUISVILLE, renowned for its burgeoning bourbon scene, is a good place to start planning your personal itinerary for The Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Locals call this largest city in the Commonwealth of Kentucky LOO-uh-vul; visitors call it LOUIE-ville. Others wrongly opt for LEWIS-ville or LUH-vul. But no matter how you pronounce it, Louisville is a good place to start your day-tripping in search of the best liquid gold in the country.
First stop, pay a visit to The Frazier History Museum that opened its Kentucky Bourbon Trail (KBT) Welcome Center and “Spirit of Kentucky” exhibition in August 2018. “The Spirit of Kentucky” showcases the history of the Kentucky Bourbon industry. This immersive experience shows bourbon in a much broader light, spotlighting this booming product as the icon that it is, and sharing the people, places and events that have made Bourbon the spirit of Kentucky.
Time to hit the trail…the Kentucky Bourbon Trail!
Take your pick of which historic distilleries on the trail you wish to visit. Among the most popular are Four Roses, Heaven Hill, Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, Makers Mark, and Woodford Reserve.
Time restraints allowed me to choose only two on this visit. I chose the latter two.
Maker’s Mark is a National Historic Landmark, housed in a series of buildings dating back as far as 1805. Their bourbon is well known for its distinctive wax-dipped bottle top. The tour took us through the entire process and around the grounds. Following a tour and a tasting, visitors are invited to purchase a bottle of Maker’s Mark and dip it into the signature red wax.
VISITOR DIPS HIS MAKER’S MARK INTO THE SIGNATURE HOT RED WAX
Time to hit The Bourbon Trail again….
Woodford Reserve, a National Historic Landmark in Versailles, Kentucky, is one of the oldest and smallest distilleries in Kentucky. The distillery is housed in a series of stone buildings, all over 100 years old. Here you will experience the only copper pot still and triple distillation process used to handcraft bourbon today. Woodford Reserve makes only one bourbon…Woodford Reserve. It is the Official Bourbon of the Kentucky Derby and is used in a $1,000 mint julep cocktail that is sold to patrons on Derby Day.
|COPPER POT STILLS AT WOODFORD RESERVE
When you return to Louisville after each daytrip, you can spend the evening on the city’s Urban Bourbon Trail. Proof On Main, housed in five historic buildings, is part of the 21c Museum Hotel. Proof’s large spirits collection is highlighted by an impressive selection of 50 of Kentucky’s finest Bourbons. This avant-garde, nationally acclaimed museum/hotel is dedicated to world-class luxuries, contemporary art from living artists, and Southern-style hospitality. A fleet of 4-foot-tall red penguins stand watch on the hotel’s rooftop and migrate throughout 21c daily. One might even appear at your dinner table.
|HE MIGHT JOIN YOU AT DINNER
Bourbon Raw, is a Kentucky Bourbon bar, restaurant and raw bar located in the city’s vibrant Fourth Street Live! entertainment district. It showcases a 60 ft. long marble-topped bar that is backdropped by an entire wall displaying approximately 100 bottles of Kentucky’’s favorite liquor…both rare and local bourbons. Their cocktail menu offers inventive twists on timeless classics with names like Kentucky Tea Thyme, Dead Heat and Run for the Rosemarys
On the road again……..
FRANKFORT, Kentucky’s small-town capital city, is home to Buffalo Trace Distillery. In a state that has 2 million more barrels of bourbon than it has
people, Frankfort’s Buffalo Trace claims to be the longest operating distillery in the United States. It continued operation even during Prohibition because bourbon was deemed medicinal by someone in the legislature. The folks at Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey claim that their whiskey is distilled, aged and bottled at the most award-winning distillery in the world.
|BUFFALO TRACE DISTILLERY
American pioneers and explorers were led to new frontiers by the ancient buffalo that carved paths through the wilderness. Four centuries of architecture, all still
fully operational, are impressively sprawled over 130 acres that the Buffalo Trace Company claims was once an ancient buffalo crossing on the banks of the Kentucky River. Their signature Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey was introduced in 1999 as a tribute to the mighty buffalo and the rugged, independent spirit of the pioneers who followed them.
|THE MIGHTY BUFFALO GREETS FOLKS AT BUFFALO TRACE
For the folks back home, who are not lucky enough to experience The Kentucky Bourbon Trail, you can always bring back a box of the renowned 100-proof Rebecca Ruth bourbon balls made in historic downtown Frankfort. Bourbon balls, a Southern delicacy incorporating bourbon and dark chocolate, are a sweet taste of Kentucky history!
|REBECCA RUTH CANDIES
Movin’ on…..BARDSTOWN, calling itself the Bourbon Capital of the World, is home to September’s Kentucky Bourbon Festival which draws people to that quaint little town for six days of celebrating the storied histor and art of distilling America’s native spirit. The event is a celebration of smooth Bourbon, delicious food, and great entertainment, with a healthy dose of Kentucky hospitality thrown in for good measure. According to KBF Chairwoman, Melissa Horton, “A deep love and appreciation for Bourbon is in our blood, and we are honored to share that love with everyone at the Kentucky Bourbon Festival.” Be sure to have a look, or a meal, at the old (circa 1779) Talbott Tavern, that has been called the oldest western stagecoach stop in America.
|BARDSTOWN’S OLD TALBOTT TAVERN
A stroll through My Old Kentucky Home State Park is a must. The park’s centerpiece is Federal Hill, the stately mansion that belonged to Stephen Foster’s cousin United States Senator John Rowan. The Rowan home was the inspiration for Stephen Foster’s most endearing song, “My Old Kentucky Home” that was made the state song of Kentucky in 1928.
|FEDERAL HILL INSPIRED “MY OLD KENTUCKY HOME”
Kentucky Distilled! According to the dictionary, one definition of ‘distilled’ means summing something up. Kentucky sums up the essence of everything that makes this gracious southern state special…from her natural charm and beauty to her world-renowned bourbon, all in one distinctly small and spirited package.
Just add bourbon!
JANET STEINBERG is an award-winning Travel Writer, and International Travel Consultant with THE TRAVEL AUTHORITY in CINCINNATI, OHIO. She is the winner of 46 national Travel Writing Awards.
TEXT AND PHOTOS BY JANET STEINBERG