A City of Tradition
Nestled just 40 miles from the heart of Louisville, Kentucky, is the unassuming town of Bardstown. Named the most beautiful small town in America by Rand McNally, there truly is something special about this little town. It’s surrounded by rolling hills with green pastures, and horses and cows dot the hillsides.
This sleepy little town holds the key to crafting Kentucky bourbon. In fact, 95% of the world’s bourbon is produced in Kentucky.
If you make the trip, bourbon or not, you have to stop for a slice of the best chocolate pie you will ever taste at Mammy’s Kitchen. Then take a stroll among the local shops on Main Street. The shops on Main Street are filled to the brim with one-of-a-kind products.
The Kentucky Bourbon Festival
But back to the bourbon. Each September, the spirit is celebrated in a big way, and why shouldn’t it be? After all, bourbon is responsible for the town that Bardstown has become. Did you know: there are more barrels of bourbon in Kentucky than there are people. So of course, the town holds an annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival!
The festival has grown so much in recent years that many of the major players in the bourbon industry consider it can’t miss. You can expect to see bourbon from the likes of Barton 1792 Distillery, Buffalo Trace Distillery, Four Roses Distillery, Heaven Hill Distilleries Inc., Beam, Maker’s Mark Distillery, Rebel Yell, Wild Turkey Distillery, and Woodford Reserve Distillery. Who knows? With choices like these, you might just find your new favorite.
What to Expect
First things first – even though this is a bourbon festival, there are many activities and events that are suitable for the entire family. The whole clan will be fascinated by the balloon glow, an evening event that kicks off the festival. Numerous colorful hot air balloons are launched together at dusk, filling the sky with a gorgeous amber glow and setting the tone for the entire event.
Not all of the rest of the festival is off limits to children either, so keep that in mind while you plan. In fact, there is a whole family fun area set up at the festival with bounce houses, train rides, and other activities that keep the kids occupied and happy.
The kids can cheer on their parents as adults participate in the bourbon barrel races, which second to none. But be warned: the bourbon barrel relay isn’t as easy as you may think! The barrels being raced (rolled?) are 500 pounds and contestants are judged on accuracy and speed. The contestants are separated by gender. After all, we wouldn’t want to embarrass the men, would we, ladies?
Speaking of ladies’ events, I am loving the fact that a special “girls only” bourbon tasting takes place. Did you know that there is a right and a wrong way to sip bourbon? Entire classes are devoted to teaching would-be whisky enthusiasts the proper way to taste the historic spirit.
Perhaps trying your hand at bourbon barrel making is more your speed? In fact, there is an issue with keeping up the high demand for bourbon barrels. If you find yourself particularly adept at making the barrels, perhaps the Independent Stave Company will give you a job!
There are many events that take place during the 6-day festival. Some are free, like the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History. Other events, such as the VIP loft experience, cost up to $400 per person. All of this is to say that prices vary wildly and the event can be as expensive or inexpensive as you would like it to be.
Have you been to Bardstown before? What about the Bourbon Festival?