There are more barrels of bourbon than people in Kentucky. To say that Kentuckians take bourbon seriously is an understatement.
Kentucky supplies 95 percent of the world’s bourbon. Whether or not they enjoy the strong flavor of bourbon, many visitors include a bourbon tour on their itinerary to learn about its fascinating history and distilling process.
Bourbon companies continue to offer new options for touring groups. Some cities, such as Bardstown and Louisville, will welcome several new bourbon experiences, including new distilleries, bourbon-themed exhibits and the new Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center.
In northern Kentucky, New Riff Distilling recently released its flagship bourbon to complete its tasting experience. Other new bourbon attractions include distilleries in Lexington and Pikeville.
With so much fresh bourbon buzz across Kentucky, even veteran travelers to the Bluegrass State will find untried flavors to sip and savor.
The reason so many distillers chose Bardstown for their base of bourbon operations is simple: the water. Springs in the area were ideal for making whiskey, so over the years Bardstown has attracted several distilleries, among them Heaven Hill, the Barton 1792 Distillery and the Willett Distillery.
The distilleries keep coming: The Bardstown Bourbon Company opened in 2016, Lux Row Distillers opened this year, and the Kentucky Owl Park is slated for 2020.
“We are called the bourbon capital of the world for a reason,” said Mike Mangeot, executive director of Bardstown/Nelson County Tourism. “There is so much going on here bourbon related recently.”
The 2016 Bardstown Bourbon Company features a $24 million, 45,000-square-foot distillery in the Nelson County Industrial Park. In June, the facility also opened a whiskey library, a bar and a full-scale restaurant: Bottle and Bond. The restaurant serves seasonal local fare. Visitors can order from the restaurant’s extensive vintage whiskey collection, which includes some bottles that date back to the 1800s. The restaurant’s bar also offers wine, craft cocktails, craft beer and mocktails.
A St. Louis company relocated to Bardstown in April to begin distilling Kentucky bourbon. Lux Row Distillers, owned by Luxco, opened an 18,000-square-foot facility to house twelve 8,000-gallon fermenters and to offer tours. Luxco’s whiskey brands — Ezra Brooks, Rebel Yell and Blood Oath — will eventually move production to the new facility.
The Kentucky Owl Park will raise the bar for bourbon attractions with a planned $150 million lakeside complex with a distillery, a visitors center, a cooperage, rickhouses, a bottling center, a restaurant and a convention center. The 420-acre site will sit on a former quarry, which the company will transform into a freshwater lake and park. Plans also call for a vintage passenger train to run through the entire complex.