Our third and final fun day on the Bourbon Trail…
526 Happy Hollow Road
After breakfast, we started our day with some Jim Beam and a tour of the family home of the second largest distilled spirits company in the U.S.
The Beam family home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has two centuries of family memorabilia on display.
Unfortunately, this distillery is not set up for visitors to view the stills, but we were able to see a crew rolling barrels through the warehouse.
Booker Noe, a grandson of Jim Beam, was the Master Distiller for 40 years. He possessed a truly larger than life personality. No, literally… he weighed more than 300 pounds. The owner of the Jailer’s Inn explained to us that Booker was a friend of his parents, and they had a chair made specifically to bear his weight when he visited their home. He passed away in 2004 and was cremated. His dog still lives with his widow, and when the dog dies he also will be cremated and his ashes will be combined with Booker’s so they may be companions for all time.
So, not only did Booker make great bourbon (I love the small batch Booker’s), but he was a dog lover, too? My kinda guy.
3350 Burk Springs Road
Loretto, Kentucky 40037
This distillery is very visitor friendly. Because it is small and all processes are located on-site, it makes it easy to see and understand all aspects of bourbon-making from milling the grain to barrel aging to bottling.
We were fascinated to learn that besides making tasty bourbon, Maker’s Mark is also an innovator of green energy. The energy needed to heat their stills and produce alcohol vapor is methane-rich biogas, not fossil fuels. The distillery feeds the stillage, or leftover grain and water from the stills, to bugs who in turn produce methane that heats the stills. Cool, huh?
After some lengthy experimentation, the Master Distiller recently developed a new bourbon, Maker’s 46. The bourbon is made as usual and aged in charred oak barrels. Once it has fully matured it is dumped from the barrel and the barrel head is removed. Lightly seared French oak staves are then placed inside the barrel. The bourbon is returned to the barrel for additional aging. The addition of the carmelized wood adds extra sugar to the bourbon and we found it quite reminiscent of cognac.
You can also see America’s oldest remaining retail whiskey store, which was built in 1889 and was where Maker’s Mark was originally sold.
End your tour in the gift shop where you can dip your own souvenir bottle of Maker’s Mark bourbon into the signature red wax.
City of Bardstown, Kentucky
Apart from touring distilleries, we also spent time in the community of Bardstown, the self-proclaimed Bourbon Capital of the the World. It is a typical Southern small-town. Established in 1780, Bardstown is Kentucky’s second oldest city, and is home to Annual Bourbon Festival every fall.
Oscar Getz Whiskey Museum
114 North Fifth Street
Curated by the Bardstown Historical Society, this museum houses an amazing and extensive collection of rare artifacts and documents of the American whiskey industry from pre-colonial days to present. The displays were fascinating and definitely worth the stop. Admission is free, but donations are suggested.
Hurst Drug Store and Soda Fountain
102 N. Third Street
I couldn’t remember the last time I had been to an old-fashioned soda fountain. It is a fun place to stop for a hand-made sandwich or afternoon treat of a milkshake or float. The ice cream is from regional Mayfield Dairy Farms.
The drug store is right on the courthouse square and is surrounded by antique and gift shops, so you can pick up souvenirs for the folks back home.
Keene’s Country Hams
8 Old Bloomfield Pike
If you really want to make folks back home happy, though, I recommend bringing back food. Not only can you buy a country ham and other Kentucky specialities, but Keene’s Depot also sells guns and hunting accessories; fishing tackle and bait; beer; and ice. What more do you need?
What is country ham you ask? A Southern specialty, country ham is ham that has been salt-cured for several months, then smoked with hardwood (like hickory), and then aged for another several months, or even years. It is drier and saltier than most hams you can buy in the grocery store. You may see whole bone-in hams being displayed unrefrigerated and hanging in rough cotton bags. You can buy a whole ham or purchase a portion. Read the labels carefully, if it is uncooked, it must be scrubbed and soaked to remove the salt cure and mold.
We purchased a cooked ham and served it sliced very thin at room temperature with biscuits. A delicious companion to bourbon.
Old Talbott Tavern
107 W. Stephen Foster Avenue
This 200-year-plus-old tavern represents the oldest western stagecoach stop in America and past guests include Abraham Lincoln, General Patton, and Jesse James. Bardstown is not a hubbub of activity on weekday evenings, but the Tavern’s dining room is open for dinner and drinks. The staff are very friendly and attentive, and the space is cozy and conducive for conversation. We enjoyed bowls of burgoo, fried chicken, and a bourbon sampler. Yum.