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Kentucky Bourbon Trail: Part One

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Just as Dorothy followed the Yellow Brick Road, bourbon neophytes and aficionados alike can pursue a similar storied path: the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Both lead to a world of magic and mystery, adventure and pure awesomeness – and to the Master Distillers who control the levers, so to speak, behind the curtain.

Kentucky Bourbon Trail: Part One

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Just as Dorothy followed the Yellow Brick Road, bourbon neophytes and aficionados alike can pursue a similar storied path: the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Both lead to a world of magic and mystery, adventure and pure awesomeness – and to the Master Distillers who control the levers, so to speak, behind the curtain.

 

 

In the world of bourbon, those first steps should be taken in Bardstown, KY, the Bourbon Capital of the World.

 

 

Bardstown, KY

 

 

A land of oz awash in bourbon, Bardstown is home to six distilleries, four of which are on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, including Heaven Hill and Jim Beam. Also here are Barton 1792 and Willett, the former the oldest fully operating distillery in Bardstown, the latter still using some of the original bourbon recipes developed by Master Distiller John David Willett in the 19th century.

 

 

As if the touring and tasting possibilities at some of the world’s most celebrated bourbon distilleries aren’t enough, Bardstown is also home to the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History, a great first stop to brush up on the history of American’s only Native Spirit through displays that include President George Washington’s confiscated copper still, Prohibition-era “prescriptions,” novelty whiskey containers (King Tut’s tomb!) and a stunning Art Deco bottle collection.

 

 

One might get the idea that Bardstown is the place to live, eat, sleep and breathe bourbon – and one would be correct. At Bourbon Manor, the world’s first bourbon-themed bed and breakfast inn, the innkeepers keep guests steeped in the bourbon experience. Sip bourbon in The Bunghole lounge and bar and breakfast on bourbon and bacon flapjacks covered in a secret-recipe bourbon caramel syrup.

 

 

Beyond bourbon: Go gourmet in vintage, linen-draped splendor aboard My Old Kentucky Dinner Train (www.kydinnertrain.com), murder mystery served a la carte.

 

 

One shop stop: Who needs Manhattan when you can shop Shaq & CoCo (https://shaqandcoco.com) for glam gifts and one-of-a-kind goodies?

 

 

Frankfort, KY

 

 

Perhaps the granddaddy of ’em all – some might say grand-pappy (as in Van Winkle) – Buffalo Trace holds the distinction of being the world’s most award-winning distillery, oldest continually (legally) operating distillery in the country and one of four distilleries allowed to remain open during Prohibition. For medicinal purposes only, wink-wink.

 

 

“Each member of the family was allowed up to two pints of bourbon a month and would receive a prescription written by a doctor, which they would take to a pharmacy to fill,” said Buffalo Trace tour guide Fred Mozenter. “This is why many pharmacies sell alcohol today.”

 

 

These days, the distillery has another claim to fame: A 2016 archeological dig uncovered ruins inside the former O.F.C. Distillery building – and now “Buffalo Trace Pompeii,” as the site has been nicknamed, is offered as a tour. Visitors see the foundation ruins from the 1869 and 1873 distilleries (christened by Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. in 1870) and fermenters that date back to 1883.

 

 

Also on the tour: the renovated circa 1700 Old Taylor House – the oldest structure on the grounds – and Warehouse C, a barrel warehouse Taylor built in the late 1800s.

 

 

Later this summer Castle and Key opens in restored century-old buildings at the former Old Taylor Distillery, built in 1887 by Col. Taylor and featuring a limestone castle, gazebos and sunken gardens. At its helm will be Kentucky’s only female Master Distiller, Marianne Barnes.

 

 

Beyond bourbon: Beauty and tranquility are yours for the taking at free-admission Josephine Sculpture Park (www.josephinesculpturepark.org), where some 50 works of art are set amidst native plants and wildlife habitat.

 

 

One shop stop: For gorgeous artisan-made gifts and come-hither gift wrapping, shop Completely Kentucky (www.completelykentucky.com).

 

 

Kathy Witt

 

 June 24, 2017

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