Posted by: justnaturallyme | March 12, 2012

Bardstown–The Bourbon Capital of Kentucky

Cindy explains the workings of Barton's Distillery

Our Bardstown post tour began Wednesday morning when we drove away from the Gault House with our huge bus filled with under a dozen of us. Dawn Przystal, Vice President of Tourism Expansion and Marketing for Bardstown, had prepared an extensive tour of her town. We began with the Barton’s 1792 Distillery.  Here, our guide, Cindy, led us through the bottling process and answered many question about the production of bourbon. We were treated to a tasting of Barton’s best products.

Dining aboard My Old Kentucky Dinner Train

Of course, Bardstown was not going to be outdone by its big brother, Louisville, in the culinary department. Lunch was served aboard on of the town’s finest attractions, My Old Kentucky Dinner Train. We met our chef, Gil Logan, and were blown away by his creations, all produced n a small train kitchen. That’s talent!

The tasting room at Heaven Hill

After that lunch, only Heaven could get any better and that’s where we head. Heaven Hill Distilleries Bourbon Heritage Center that is We are welcomed into a state-of-the-art visitor center with its own museum-like exhibits showing the bourbon producing process. Next we tour a bourbon warehouse with a knowledgeable guide, Billy Joe. The warehousing process is more than just a storage area. Bourbon’s unique taste is created while it ages in white oak barrels that have been charred. The place it is stored is referred to as a rickhouse and whether a barrel is placed near the fifteenth or the first floor makes a huge difference in the final product.  Our  tasting here is in the “Parker Beam Taste of Heaven”  barrel-shaped tasting room. These products are also similar yet subtly different from our last tasting, mainly a result of a different storage time and position.

Love that still!

Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, our next stop, is a real family business. We were greeted by brothers-in  law, Drew Kulsveen and Hunter Chavanne. They along with Drew’s father, Even, and sister, Britt, operate a boutique style distillery. Their plans are ambitious and after the tour,  I have no doubt they will not only be achieved but exceeded. Here we saw the entire distillation process. Love that pot still. It is so close to those old time moonshine stills. And why not. After all it performs the same task. Naturally we finished off with a tasting.  One point I want to stress for anyone planning on visiting Bardstown do not think you can tour just one distillery. Each one offers something different.

Note the two orbs. Are they somthing mystical or just camera misfunctions?

Bardstown is old. Really old. Founded in 1780, it’s the second oldest city in Kentucky. Almost 200 of its downtown buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. We took a little time to browse and naturally, I had to buy yet another pair of black slacks. I use that term loosely as after all the food (and bourbon)  I have been shoveling in, these pants are anything but “slack.”

Two of my favorite buildings downtown are the Old Talbot Tavern and the Old Jail. The Talbot Tavern was built in 1797 and had been a mercantile store, a tavern and a hotel in turn. The jail was in use until 1987. It is currently a bed and breakfast. If you ever wanted to sleep in a jail cell, here’s your chance. I am not sure if the Old Jail has a ghost story but I took three pictures and all three have orbs. The Nelson County Courthouse is great also. It dates to 1820.

Michael explains about the aging process of bourbon

We spent a refreshing night at the Hampton Inn. All the conveniences of the fancier hotels, free internet, clean comfy rooms, a huge swimming pool, gym and even a free breakfast. Wish the big hotels caught on to the free internet and breakfast!

After a short down time to put our feet up and take a break, we set out for the Rickhouse Restaurant. They offer a selection of 120 bourbons and are housed in historic Spalding Hall, home of the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History. Michael from Jim Beam Distillery met us there and gave us an in-depth background of the history of bourbon. The Bourbon Blueberry Glazed Salmon worked magic with a simple fish.

From left to right: Kate, Michael and Dixie at Wickland

We finished the evening with a nightcap and spirits tour at Wickland, the Home of Three Governors. Judith Wickliffe Beckham, one of the homes former residents, is the only woman to ever have been the mother, sister and daughter of a governor.   This was the most remarkable experience I have ever had on a fam tour. We were met at the stately old home by Dixie Hibbs, a local historian,  and two young twin sisters, Kate and Michael. These two remarkable young ladies are mediums. They explained that they have always had spirits come to them and communicate. Sometimes by simple voices in their heads often by showing them visually. Just a few minutes with them and you are convinced they are genuine. These young ladies are not trying to fool anyone or make a buck. They are still trying to cope with a strange give or curse–sometimes they seem unsure which–that they have been given. Kate with Dixie’s assistance “spoke” with several former slaves who “visit” Wickland, where they were happiest in life. For me the icing on this particular cake is that Frank James “visits” Kate. Dixie and Kate consider him arrogant as he told Kate in answer to one of Dixie’s questions she was “only a woman and could not do things.”

Since Frank James is one of the characters in my current work in progress, Under a Black Flag, I was fascinated to learn all I can about him. It was arranged for me to take a tour with Dixie in the morning.

Mammy's in historic downtown Bardstown

We didn’t take advantage of the breakfast at Hampton’s which did look good as I passed by as we were heading for Mammy’s. Dawn told us it’s where all the locals eat. A restaurant can have no better endorsement. It did live up to expectations. The ham slice was so big, I couldn’t eat it all and the eggs were cooked to perfection. Can’t fault the biscuit either. Yumee!

This exhibit relates to musicians. Drummer boys were often as young as 12 or 13 years old.

The others were going to tour the Kentucky Cooperage and see the white oak barrels that are such an integral part of making bourbon built. I headed out with Dixie. She took me to the places significant in Quantrill’s last fight at Wakefield Farm where he was fatally wounded. We drove the distance Frank James would have ridden to attempt to help Quantrill escape. Since Quantrill was paralyzed from the waist down, he realized it was useless to attempt to escape so Frank rode away alone and Quantrill died several weeks later in a  Louisville Hospital. We finished the tour with a quick visit to the Civil War Museum which deals with the war in the west. Since this is exactly the information I am using in my book it was a wonderful experience.

Last on the agenda was lunch at Kurtz Restaurant. I finally tried the famous Hot Brown and was not disappointed. Then it was back to Louisville for the trip home. The flight was an experience of a different  kind as I was stranded overnight in Louisville due to a flight being so delayed I could not make my Atlanta connection.

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