Earlier this month, my husband, in-laws and I spent a long weekend exploring the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. My husband did a bourbon trail trip for his bachelor party and had been wanting to take me (a fellow bourbon aficionado) and his family there pretty much ever since. With two birthdays to celebrate in October, this felt like the perfect occasion to go.
For our trip, we spent four days in Kentucky. That was the perfect amount of time to see the area we were in: one day for travel, two days of exploring, and another day for travel home. It’s only about a four-hour drive from where we live in Tennessee, so it was an easy drive north, and gave us plenty of time for dinner once we arrived.
We stayed in the town of Bardstown, which is about an hour south of Frankfort and Louisville. Bardstown itself is the “Bourbon Capital of the World,” so there’s plenty to see and do there. And you’re not a far drive from other towns and cities with their own distilleries. When my husband went for his bachelor party, they stayed in Frankfort and did a day trip down to Bardstown. Wherever you stay, there are plenty of AirBnBs and hotels. We stayed in a lovely AirBnB about 10 minutes from downtown Bardstown.
Here is a breakdown of our four days on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail!
Day 1: Travel to Bardstown
We arrived to our AirBnB around 5:00, just in time to unload and pick a place for dinner. We decided on Scout & Scholar, a brewery in downtown Bardstown. This place was so cool! It’s named after the original founders of the town of Bardstown and had a really cool historic vibe. My Bardstown Shandy cocktail was crisp and refreshing, and everyone else enjoyed the beers they got. The food was absolutely delicious; we all got some form of barbecue and left very full and satisfied.
Day 2: Frankfort
We got up early the next morning and grabbed coffee and breakfast before heading up to Frankfort. Our first stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail was Buffalo Trace, and we wanted to get there as early as possible.
Here’s the thing about Buffalo Trace: they produce a lot of products at their facility. Standard Buffalo Trace bourbon, Wheatley Vodka, and then premium brands like Weller, Eagle Rare, Blanton’s, E.H. Taylor, Sazerac Rye, Pappy Van Winkle, among others. Many of those are hard to get outside of the distillery, let alone the state of Kentucky. So the earlier you get there, the higher chance you have at getting your hands on a bottle of the rare stuff, for MSRP rather than a marked up liquor store price. Each day they release a limited quantity of whatever is ready, and you don’t always know what they’re going to have until you get there. It could be E.H. Taylor, it could be Pappy, it could be Blanton’s, it could be nothing special.
So… we got there at 9:15 and waited in line for 45 minutes just to check in at the visitor center and get our wristbands. Once we were checked in, we were free to explore the grounds, do a tasting, and shop in their store. You can take guided tours around the distillery (which are free), but they book up online super fast. We opted to shop and do a tasting, which are also free.
At the end of the visit, we all left with some Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, and Weller. I picked up some Wheatley since I needed a new bottle of vodka anyway, and we got some nice glassware.
After we left Buffalo Trace, we made a quick trip to Woodford Reserve. We didn’t stay too long, just enough to browse their store a bit. Woodford is out in the midst of horse country, so it’s in a beautiful area. The place itself had country club vibes, and I felt like I needed to be playing golf instead of drinking bourbon.
Our next stop was a restaurant called The Stave for lunch. It’s just down the road from Woodford, and on the outside it doesn’t look like much. But its “elevated Kentucky cuisine” was just what we needed for lunch before heading onward to Castle & Key.
Now, Castle & Key is a place I could easily spend three hours at. The grounds are super cool, they offer cocktails and tastings, have some corn hole sets out to play, there’s a creek that runs behind the property, they often have food trucks… it’s just really cool. We did not have a tour scheduled, so we all got a drink and enjoyed the sunshine for a little bit. I would definitely go back here next time!
Our last bourbon stop of the day was Bardstown Bourbon Company. I had mixed feelings about this place. It’s newer to the Kentucky bourbon scene; they started making and selling blends of other whiskeys while their own stuff was being distilled and aging. The bourbons I tasted I really enjoyed, and they had plenty of cocktail options. I loved the Bottled in Bond variety. But the facility itself had a very manufactured vibe. My husband described it as if Apple opened a bourbon store, and that’s pretty accurate. If that’s your thing, cool, you’ll love Bardstown Bourbon Co.
We wrapped up the day with dinner at a little Italian restaurant in downtown Bardstown, and headed home to rest for the next day.
Day 3: Louisville
We started the day with breakfast at the cutest little diner in Bardstown called Pat’s Place. It didn’t look like much based on their Google page, but honestly this is the type of place I love the most. Simple menu, not too many options, cozy atmosphere, and the morning gathering spot of the town. When we sat down at our table, the older gentlemen who were seated there previously told us that that’s been their table every morning for years, and joked to “take good care of our table.” That’s the vibe I love in small towns. All of our food was warm and tasty, just what we needed to start the day. We even went back the next morning!
Our first distillery was Lux Row, located in Bardstown. I was really excited for this one, since my husband spoke so highly of it from his bachelor party trip. Lux Row is newer to the distillery scene, opening in 2018. They’ve grown quickly since then and now have a portfolio of more than a dozen bourbon brands. Our tour guide took us into one of the rick houses, and pulled some tastings straight from a barrel. Most of what we had in our tasting was rye heavy, but they have other non-rye products. They also paired a few of the bourbons with little chocolates, which was a fun touch!
After Lux Row, we ate lunch at Old Talbott Tavern. It opened in 1779 as a stagecoach stop, is still one of the oldest buildings in Bardstown, and is also home to the oldest bourbon bar in the country. We did not stay long enough to check out the bourbon bar, though.
For the second half of the day, we drove about an hour up the highway to Louisville. In downtown there are quite a few distilleries and storefronts for bigger brands like Evan Williams and Angels Envy. We spent some time at Old Forester and enjoyed a couple drinks in their bar. I won’t lie, Old Forester might be one of my new favorite bourbons! We popped in Michter’s to pick up a bottle for a friend, and squeezed in a quick visit to Rabbit Hole before they closed.
The highlight of Louisville was our dinner at The Eagle. This place is known for their fried chicken and family style meals. I think we all ordered some form of fried chicken and a variety of sides. We did not attempt the family meal! I thoroughly enjoyed my chicken and mac and cheese, and washed it down with their bourbon punch cocktail.
Day 4: Travel Home
We grabbed breakfast at Pat’s Place once again before hitting the road back to Tennessee. Biscuits are good road trip food, after all!
Overall, we really enjoyed our Kentucky Bourbon Trail trip. There’s a whole lot more we didn’t see or do, so we could easily plan another trip full of brand new experiences.
If you’re a bourbon aficionado like us, I highly recommend taking a trip along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail!
You can check out more of my Travel posts here.