Kentucky swoon

Kentucky swoon

In the latest in our series,Rob Allanson looks to bourbon country

Travel | 14 Apr 2006 | Issue 55 | By Rob Allanson

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From the hills and hollows of eastern Kentucky through the rolling bluegrass of its heartland to the massive lakes and flatlands of the west, Kentucky has much to offer, although for the bourbon aficionado it is truly Mecca.Most of the mouth watering brands are based in this pretty county, and taking a trip here can lead to some challenging decisions about how many bottles you can fit in your bag to carry home. The choice is almost as mind boggling as a visit to Speyside with a new visa card.There are – as with many American states – some interesting and rib tickling facts about Kentucky.More than $6 billion worth of gold is held in the underground vaults of Fort Knox. This is the largest amount of gold stored anywhere in the world.The public saw an electric light for the first time in Louisville. Thomas Edison introduced his incandescent light bulb to crowds at the Southern Exposition in 1883.Another claim to fame is that Middlesboro, Kentucky, is one of only a few cities in the United States built within a meteor crater.Just one more impressive fact to bear in mind before heading off in search of the golden bottled stuff: the world’s largest baseball bat, 120 ft tall and 68,000lbs, stands at the Louisville Slugger Museum – you may win points with the locals for that one.The two first ports of call for anyone visiting the region on a bourbon expedition are going to be Bardstown and Louisville as most of the big players are situated nearby, making both cities great hubs for exploring.Bourbon seems to be following a similar trend to whisky, in that most producers are now concentrating on handcrafted, high quality smaller batches of bourbon – so although you may not get the mass quantities you do get a more interesting tipple.Heaven Hill’s Bernheim Original Wheat Whiskey, for instance, has recently launched to almost unanimous approval. Limited to just 12 markets and already in short supply, the new whiskey has a minimum of 51 per cent winter wheat as well as corn and rye.One thing to remember about the region is the swing of temperatures – perfect conditions for making great bourbon, but it can get very cold in the winter.You can be looking at 40 degree temperatures or more during the summer, but in winter icy winds cut across the state and bring snow. The difference in temperature across the year is massive and that has a big effect on the maturation of the whiskey.One of the more noticeable distilleries, Barton Brands, is a monster of a facility just a few hundred yards out of Bardstown.It boasts one of the success stories of recent years, with its Ridgemont Reserve 1792, and also lays claim to the state’s youngest distiller.Even in late summer the warehouses are scorching hot at the top levels and just about bearable at ground level. The highest warehouses at Barton have commanding views over the surrounding area.In the state capital, Frankfort, sits a similar sized establishment. Rich in heritage and legend, Buffalo Trace Distillery is located on an ancient buffalo crossing that became a pathway for westward moving explorers, pioneers and settlers.Distilling began here more than two centuries ago, making it the oldest distilling site in the US.Set in 110 acres Buffalo Trace Distillery provides for the complete production of bourbon whiskeys. The distillery boasts 12 of the largest fermenters in the industry, and a four-storey still tower.Not far from Louisville, set in rolling and picturesque countryside, sits the grandfather of bourbon distilleries, Maker’s Mark.This 19th-century distillery, the oldest operating, on its original site, was beautifully restored by T.W. Samuels, Sr. and is now a national historic landmark where it still makes bourbon and hand-dips bottles.But let’s not forget that Kentucky is not all bourbon – the state boasts one of the world’s most famous horse races, held at an equally legendary racetrack.Churchill Downs is one of the most hallowed shrines in American sport, and since its founding in 1874, has hosted the nation’s top thoroughbreds in competition for some of the sport’s largest purses.On the first Saturday in May, the sports world’s spotlight shines on Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby, known as the ‘Greatest Two Minutes in Sports.’ But that’s only part of the story. The Spring Race Meet runs from the last Sunday in April through to the first Sunday in July.The Fall Race Meet runs from the last Sunday in October through the last Saturday in November.For those of a more participatory nature there are numerous walking trails and fishing opportunities across the state including round and under the Barren River Lake at Glasgow.The10,000-acre lake is set in slightly rolling, timbered countryside. Barren River Lake is located in southcentral Kentucky and is approximately 35 miles south of the largest cavern system in the world, Mammoth Cave National Park.The lake was completed by the Corps of Engineers in 1964. The lake area has many federally protected Native American villages and burial sites.The river was the historic route for westward traveling pioneers. They would travel down the Barren River to a trading post at present-day Bowling Green, Kentucky, and then continue by land.Life can be slow in the southern states, so just like the whiskey it is best just to sit back, savour and enjoy a stay in the Bluegrass State. A sample of distilleries. Most host tours but it is best ring in advance to check times and availability.Bourbon Trail
110 West Main Street
(859) 336-9612Buffalo Trace Distillery
1001 Wilkinson Blvd
(502) 696-5926Four Roses Distillery LLC
1224 Bonds Mill Road
Lawrenceburg info@fourroses.usFour Roses Distillery
Warehouse Operations
624 Lotus Rd.
Cox’s Creek
(502) 543-2264Heaven Hill Distilleries Bourbon
Heritage Center
1311 Gilkey Run Road
(502) 337-1000Heaven Hill Distilleries Trolley
1 Courthouse Square
Jim Beam American Outpost
149 Happy Hollow Road
(502) 543-9877Maker’s Mark Distillery
3350 Burks Spring Road
(270) 865-2099Wild Turkey - Austin Nichols Distillery
1525 Tyrone Rd
PO BOX 180
wildturkey@qualitycustomercare.comWoodford Reserve
7855 McCraken Pike
(859) 879-1812Where to stay – this is by no means an exhaustive list and there are plenty of other places to stay. Check out for a definitive list.Bardstown
Bardstown Parkview Motel
418 East Stephen Foster Ave
(502) 348-5983
(502) 839-3436Best Western General Nelson
411 W Stephen Foster Ave
(502) 348-3977Comfort Inn
984 Frost Ave
(502) 349-9400Days Inn of Bardstown
1875 New Haven Road
(502) 348-9253Hampton Inn
985 Chambers Blvd
(502) 349-0100Old Bardstown Inn
510 East Stephen Foster Ave
(502) 349-0776Old Kentucky Home Motel
414 West Stephen Foster Ave
(502) 348-5979Ramada Inn
523 North 3rd Street
(502) 349-0363Red Carpet Inn
1714 New Haven Road
(502) 348-1112Wilson Motel
530 North 3rd Street
(502) 348-3364LouisvilleAmeriSuites Louisville/ East
701 South Hurstbourne Parkway
(502) 426-0119Archway Motel
10615 Dixie Highway
(502) 937-0937Biff’s Motel
13305 Dixie Highway
(502) 937-1970Breckinridge Inn
2800 Breckenridge Lane
(502) 456-5050Fairfield Inn by Marriott
9400 Blairwood Rd
(502) 339-1900Four Points Hotel & Suites
9802 Bunsen Way
(502) 499-0000Galt House Hotel & Suites
140 North 4th Avenue
(502) 589-5200Seelbach Hilton
500 Fourth Avenue
(502) 585-3200Sleep Inn East
1850 Priority Way
(502) 266-6776The Brown A Camberly Hotel
335 West Broadway
(502) 583-1234The Inn at Jewish Hospital
100 East Jefferson Street
(502) 582-2481Travelodge Hurstbourne
9340 Blairwood Rd
Louisville (502) 425-8010A few other attractionsAbraham Lincoln Birthplace
National Historic Site
2995 Lincoln Farm Road
(270) 358-3137Civil War Museum
310 East Broadway Street
(502) 349-0291International Bluegrass Music Museum
117 Daviess Street, Owensboro
(270) 926-7891Kentucky Derby Museum
704 Central Ave
(502) 637-1111Louisville Slugger Museum
800 West Main Street
(502) 588-7228My Old Kentucky Home State Park
501 East Stephen Foster Avenue
(502) 348-3502Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History
114 North 5th Street
(502) 348-2999Old Bardstown Village
310 East Broadway Street
(502) 349-0291
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