Saturday, September 19, 2015

What do you do in the Bourbon Capital of the world?

We heard that there is a Bourbon festival up in Bardstown KY. Sounded fun so we took the hour drive north to check it out. Bardstown is an old town. They have a historic downtown area that is quite quaint. And like many older towns, the streets are narrow and crowded with too much traffic for our gi-normous Dodge daully pick-up. We found a nice side street, parked and walked the historic district to the visitor center.

Now the festival is only a night thing, so we were there at 10 a.m. They have craft booths, food trucks and live bands beginning at 4 so we had to occupy our time till then. Bardstown is the Bourbon capital of the world, so they say.  There are 6 distilleries within a 20 mile radius of the town. Never having been to a distillery before we decided to pick one out and take a tour. Plus most have tastings after the tours also. Win, win if you ask me.

We chose Willet Distillery.
Willet distillery

Not knowing anything about it but it is rated the number one tour on Trip Advisor. On our way out we passed another distillery. It was huge. It was Heaven Hill Distillery.
Rick houses that store the Bourbon barrels as they age.
These Ricket houses hold all the whiskey barrels as they age. They have to age at least 2 years to be called Bourbon. Most will age them for at least 4 years to get a better quality of Bourbon. The Ricket houses at Heaven Hill are 7 stories tall. They are huge. Holding thousands of barrels in them. These distilleries make Bourbon for many different labels. You may not know Heaven Hill but you may have heard of Evan Williams, their most popular label.

Willet distillery is just as old as the others but it is very small compared to them. I think they produce 5 thousand barrels. Jim Beam is 20,000 in one ricket house. They specialize in small batch or single barrel rare selections.
Willets ricket house. Small compared to the others.
The fermenting vats.
This is bubbling because of the yeast in it.
The distiller. I forgot the actual name to it.
The still?
The ricket house with Bourbon barrels packed inside. It smells of the Bourbon just wafting through the entire place.
It smelled so good in here.
The smell is what they call the Angel's share of the Bourbon. Because it is the evaporation of the Bourbon from inside of the barrels. They naturally loose up to about 40% due to evaporation over the 4 years of aging. So Willets is trying an experiment. They had some Virginia hams inside one Ricket house to see if they would take on the Bourbon flavor. I hope it works because that sounds amazing.
Hams hanging to get flavor.
After the tour we got our tasting. We have decided that we are not Bourbon drinkers. It is definately whiskey. The first sample we got burned like your chest was on fire. The second one I chose was much smoother. I kind of liked that one. I think it was called Kentucky Vintage. I would also like to thank Willet because they asked if either of us were military. I said I was retired. They thanked me for my service and gave Lisa and I complimentary tours. That was so nice of them.

We still had time to kill so we went over to the Bourbon heritage museum at Heaven Hill distillery. We decided not to do any more tours because the process is all the same. 

We then took the short drive over to the big kid on the block. Jim Beam distillery.
Bourbon girl Lisa
Their Ricket houses where huge. Just like the company I suppose.
8 stories tall 
It was time to get back to Bardstown and check out the festival. Lots of Bourbon related crafts. If you want an original Bourbon barrel or just parts of a barrel come here to get one. They can only use the barrels once to make bourbon. So they are barrel parts all over the place. The barrel tops with the names of the distilleries were very popular. If I had a place in the camper for one I would have picked one up. They were neat.The food looked good but it was to early to eat. 

Well that is our Bourbon day. Lots of interesting facts learned today and fun was had by all.


  1. Sounds like a fun day. Barb and I are not bourbon drinkers either but it would be interesting to see how it is made and taste a few.

    1. It was very interesting. We are more for the Winery and beer tours. Although I did buy a Bourbon glass for when I feel snooty.

    2. Great, I can just see you walking around the floors of Amazon holding your Bourbon glass and sticking your nose up in the air at everyone. I am with you on the beer and wine, much more our style!