Seven Standout Southern Bourbon Festivals

Bourbon and music, bourbon in the Big Easy, bourbon meets Kevin Bacon—see what’s flowing at these upcoming events

A bottle pours bourbon into a glass cup a person is holding.

Photo: Great American Whiskey Fair

Sampling at the Great American Whiskey Fair in Columbia, South Carolina.

Throwing a successful whiskey fest requires more than just a roomful of bourbon. While a handful of brands have the marquee appeal to draw a crowd (witness the line outside your local liquor store before an allocated release), a great bourbon gathering emphasizes the spirit of America’s native spirit, with opportunities to mingle with distillers, entertainment, education, camaraderie, and, of course, plenty of sips to try, too. Kentucky remains the epicenter with both longstanding and new events on the docket this year, but other states bring their own bourbon immersions. Here are seven upcoming Southern festivals that fit the (mash) bill.

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New Orleans Bourbon Festival

March 20–24, New Orleans, Louisiana

photo: New Orleans Bourbon Festival

Leave it to the Big Easy to host an over-the-top bourbon bacchanalia. The five-day event kicks off with several options for parties and pairing dinners on Wednesday and Thursday evenings and doesn’t let up from there, putting on spirits and culinary competitions, seminars presented by bourbon luminaries, and tasting events on both Friday and Saturday evenings with light bites, live jazz, and pours from more than seventy brands. A culminating get-together on Sunday affords an opportunity for last sips and farewells. 

Texas Whiskey Festival

April 20, Bee Cave, Texas

photo: Lauren Black Photography

If you’ve yet to taste, Lone Star State distillers are producing a bevy of bold and flavorful bourbons made with locally grown grains and aged in the Texas heat. Try a representative sampling at this fest comprised entirely of Texas-based distillers, including Balcones, Garrison Brothers, Milam & Greene, Treaty Oak, and many more. The one-day event, held on Star Hill Ranch just outside of Austin and now in its seventh year, also features food trucks, cigar pairings, and live music. New this year is a discussion devoted to the past, present, and future of Texas whiskey, and a panel highlighting the state’s female whiskey makers.

G&G Distilled

April 23–28, various locations, Kentucky

Yes, Garden & Gun is hosting a celebration of bourbon and the Bluegrass State this spring with a weeklong series of experiences showcasing top-notch Kentucky distillers, chefs, musicians, and more. Kick off the week with a launch party at the historic Stitzel-Weller Distillery, home to the Garden & Gun Club. Other events include a behind-the-scenes tour and dinner at James B. Beam Distilling Co. with master distillers Fred and Freddie Noe, a Women of Whiskey luncheon at Yew Dell Botanical Gardens in Crestwood, small-batch suppers prepared by noted chefs and hosted at private homes throughout Bardstown, and the chance to be an “owner for a day” at Keeneland’s Spring Race Meet and Horses of Racing Age Sale.

Bourbon Boule

August 29–September 1, Louisville, Kentucky

photo: Jonathan Cooper/@CoopernicusPhotos

The premier event of the Black Bourbon Society, Bourbon Boule has grown into a multifaceted, multi-day affair since it was first held in 2018. Attendees include BBS members from across the country who gather in Louisville over Labor Day Weekend to recognize pioneering Black industry leaders past and present, attend seminars and tastings, and participate in distillery tours and other special excursions, many of which aren’t available to the general public. Other highlights include a bash at the Louisville Thoroughbred Society and a Black-owned spirits summit brunch.

Kentucky Bourbon Festival

September 13–15, Bardstown, Kentucky

photo: courtesy of Grizzly Media

Kentucky’s largest bourbon celebration began in 1991 as a humble tasting and dinner—back when you could fit all of Kentucky’s distillers around the same small table. It’s still a great place to meet and mingle with bourbon makers while sampling sips from the more than fifty distilleries and dozens of vendors that now populate the Great Lawn outside the Oscar Getz Museum of Bourbon History. Educational seminars, VIP lounges, and separately ticketed events like the “Bourbon in the Air” opening night party top off the fun. A crowd favorite is the World Championship Bourbon Barrel Relay, where distillery teams compete to roll and rack barrels the fastest.

Bonus: Get in the spirit during Bardstown’s inaugural National Bourbon Week, June 11–16. Along with events at a host of distilleries around town, the week brings a Bourbon City street concert and the release of the 2024 Bardstown Collection.

Bourbon & Beyond

September 19–22, Louisville, Kentucky

photo: Bourbon and Beyond

Should you need any more proof that master distillers and chefs have achieved rock-star status, look no further than Bourbon & Beyond. At this year’s event, bourbon and culinary luminaries including chefs Edward Lee, Amanda Freitag, Chris Santos, and bourbon expert Chris Blandford share the spotlight with such big-name musical acts as Zach Bryan, Tyler Childers, Neil Young, Dave Matthews Band, and dozens more. Panel discussions and demos keep the mix going, pairing brands like Pappy Van Winkle and Uncle Nearest with artists, including My Morning Jacket, Melissa Etheridge, and Kevin Bacon. Rare and vintage pours are on offer, and taste bourbon’s tropical side at the Tiki Barrel Bar.

Great American Whiskey Fair

October 4, Columbia, South Carolina

photo: Great American Whiskey Fair

The Great American Whiskey Fair bills itself as the “largest celebration of American whiskey in the Southeast,” with more than a hundred brands pouring at the event. Bourbon is, of course, well represented, as are ryes and international whisk(e)ys from Scotland, Ireland, Canada, and Japan. Add in educational classes, a cocktail competition, a cigar lounge, and a barbecue buffet, and it’s a great place to sample the breadth of the modern whiskey landscape.