8 Ways to Enjoy Bourbon Beyond Kentucky’s Distilleries
Welcome to Kentucky: Where the world’s fastest horses race, bluegrass music was born and a certain style of chicken reigns supreme. But it’s hard to say Kentucky without mentioning at least one more thing–or over 10 million if we’re talkin’ barrels–and we all know what that is.
And here in Kentucky, you’re never far from having an authentic Bourbon experience. Now, this may come as a shock–but it doesn’t have to be at a distillery. Don’t get us wrong, our world-famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail® distilleries are an essential part of the journey, but really, they’re just the beginning.
Whether you’re looking for ways to make the most of your KBT® adventure, or just want to experience Kentucky Bourbon the way the locals do, consider this your definitive guide.
1. Enjoy a perfectly-curated flight from a local restaurant
Did you know that you can sample some of the rarest, most sought-after and vintage Bourbons at restaurants throughout KY? It’s true! Ordering a flight is one of the easiest ways to try Bourbons you’ve heard about–but haven’t seen on the shelf. A flight is typically composed of 3-6 tasting glasses, each containing a different pour of Bourbon.
If you’re feeling frisky (or just like a little mystery) ask for a blind tasting. Don’t worry, you won’t be asked to wear a blindfold! But your waiter or bartender will keep the identity of each pour in your flight top secret until you’re ready for the big reveal.
Whether you build your own lineup, or choose to enjoy a selection that’s been carefully curated– a flight is a must-try Kentucky Bourbon experience. Here are a few of our favorite places to sip and share a flight while dining: Libby’s Southern Comfort in Covington (ask for their vintage and private pick Bourbon list!), Local Feed in Georgetown, the Silver Dollar in Louisville and the Miller House in Owensboro.
2. Sip a Prohibition-era cocktail from a hidden speakeasy
Imagine sneaking into a dimly-lit speakeasy from a hidden entrance to sip swanky cocktails inspired by Prohibition–also known as the darkest times in Bourbon’s history. You can do just that at Hell or High Water, a bar tucked away on the backside of Whiskey Row in Louisville.
For the ultimate 1920s-era experience, take your Kentucky Bourbon experience further by staying at the iconic Seelbach Hotel, which has hosted a slew of legendary figures ranging from Al Capone to F. Scott Fitzgerald and even nine U.S. presidents. There, you can sit back and enjoy a drink at The Old Seelbach Bar relishing in the fact that you’re in the very same city and exact hotel that inspired “The Great Gatsby.”
Best of all, in Kentucky, you can sneak into speakeasies throughout the state! But fair warning–if you’re headed to The Blind Pig in Bardstown, you’ll need a password to enter. There are also several speakeasy-inspired bars in Northern Kentucky that do not require a code or secret knock. Like Prohibition Bourbon Bar and Wiseguy Lounge, located along the B-Line.
3. Refuel between Bourbons with a piping hot Hot Brown
Few things are as Kentucky as Bourbon and horses–but the legendary Hot Brown is a close contender. The gooey, cheesy open-faced sandwich was invented nearly 100 years ago at–you guessed it–The Brown Hotel in Louisville. Made with hand-carved turkey, bacon, tomato, toast and Mornay sauce, the dish has become a Kentucky institution. Served piping hot, this fork-and-knife sandwich is even better when served with your favorite Bourbon.
While the Brown Hotel serves the original, dozens of restaurants throughout Louisville, and across Kentucky, serve their own versions of the local legend. Like the Old Talbott Tavern in Bardstown, which is home to the oldest Bourbon bar in the world–and one of the most mouthwatering Hot Browns in the Bluegrass.
4. Take a cocktail class in a rustic barn alongside majestic horses
We might be biased, but making craft Bourbon cocktails while in the presence of Thoroughbreds seems like a peak Kentucky experience–and the folks at Hermitage Farm are making it happen.
Located in Oldham County, Kentucky, right outside of Louisville, Heritage Farm offers guided tastings and cocktail classes led by experienced Bourbon stewards. While you’re there, enjoy an organic, farm-to-table feast at their Barn8 Restaurant. Just don’t forget to take a selfie with a horse before you leave!
5. Take a train through Kentucky’s countryside while dining and sipping fine Bourbon
Where else in the world can you enjoy a gourmet meal and a tasting of Bourbon hosted by a Master Distiller–all while winding through Central Kentucky’s scenic countryside in a beautifully restored 1940s vintage dining car pulled by locomotive?
Taking off from Bardstown, the Bourbon Capital of the World®, My Old Kentucky Dinner Train’s Bourbon Excursion is a whiskey and food lover’s dream, all rolled up into a 2½ hour adventure.
Before embarking on your journey, grab a cocktail from their depot bar featuring over 35 Bourbons. With their culinary team preparing the delicious prix fixe meal once you’re en route, you don’t have to worry about a thing. Other than how you’ll ever be able to top this unforgettable experience!
The next Bourbon Excursion takes off in September 2022, but you’ll want to secure your spot for this limited experience very soon–because it will sell out fast.
6. Get hands-on with a handcrafted workshop, DIY experience or cooking with Bourbon class
In Kentucky, Bourbon and craftsmanship go hand-in-hand. So it’s no surprise that makers and artisans throughout the Commonwealth have found ways to infuse Bourbon into their experiences.
Take Maddox & Rose Marketplace, where you can mix and pour your own custom Bourbon-scented candle. With locations in Louisville’s NuLu district, as well as Shelbyville, Maddox & Rose brings people, craft cocktails and charcuterie* together for a truly unique Kentucky experience.
Foodies and aspiring chefs can also take advantage of Louisville’s unique culinary experiences that offer a spirited twist. Like Cooking@Millie’s Cooking with Bourbon Date Night class, which incorporates Bourbon in every course, or Bourbon Barrel Foods’ Bluegrass Soy Sauce tasting and demonstration.
*Maddox & Rose Marketplace’s Shelbyville location does not currently offer a charcuterie package. You’re more than welcome to BYOC (Bring Your Own Charcuterie), though!
7. Kentuckify your brunch with a Bourbon Bloody Mary
Sure, a traditional Bloody is great–but leave it to Kentucky to add an even fiester kick! Next time you want your brunch to pack a flavorful punch, just ask for a Bourbon Bloody Mary or consider making your own! It brings all the savory flavors you love about the original, but our version is wrapped with a rich, oaky finish.
Looking for a fabulous brunch spot? Kentucky is filled to the brim with great options–like Coppin Restaurant, for example. Located in Hotel Covington, a stylish, boutique hotel near downtown Cincinnati, their crave-worthy menu is driven by hyper-local ingredients.
Just remember, if you see a Bloody on the menu that’s made with vodka, make sure to tell your waiter you’d like yours made Kentucky-style!
8. Score a private barrel selection that’s been hand-picked by an expert
One of the greatest things about Bourbon in Kentucky is finding bottles filled from barrels that have been privately selected by some of the state’s greatest whiskey connoisseurs.
Private barrels are unique to the retailer, reflecting the taste and expertise of the individual who selected them. Sometimes called “store picks,” these bottles are a great way to try Bourbons from your favorite distillers–but with a more personal, localized spin.
Louisville’s own Westport Wine & Whiskey is known for their incredible selections–hand-picked by Owner Chris Chris Zaborowski–and will often allow you to purchase a sample before buying a bottle to ensure that you love the pick. They also have an entire schedule of educational tasting events and classes, all led by some of Kentucky finest Bourbon experts.
Ready to start planning your trip? Click here for more Kentucky Bourbon travel inspiration.