Bardstown, Kentucky

A city aged to perfection

Outside of a distillery with a lot of windows and a silo

Photo: Courtesy of Bardstown Tourism

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When looking for a destination where you can immerse yourself in bourbon, consider this: Bardstown, Kentucky, has more barrels aging than population. It has ten distilleries within eleven miles of the downtown. It’s home to the world-famous Kentucky Bourbon Festival. In short, Bardstown is bourbon.

The picturesque small town with its rich history and significant role in the bourbon industry—from the smallest boutique distillery to the giants of the trade—attracts spirit enthusiasts from around the world. No wonder it’s the official start of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Visitors come here to discover the history, culture, attractions, and tastings of America’s native spirit.

The Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History is a great place to start a visit to the Bourbon Capital of the World. The museum is named for a pre-Prohibition whiskey broker who gained fame in the city when, following the repeal of the so-called “dry crusade,” he opened the old Tom Moore Distillery. Inside the eponymous museum, you’ll find a fifty-year collection of rare whiskey memorabilia dating from precolonial days to post-Prohibition years, including authentic moonshine stills, antique bottles and jugs, medicinal whiskey bottles, and advertising art.

photo: Courtesy of Bardstown Tourism

Not surprisingly, Bardstown is home to some of the greatest names in bourbon and several newer craft distilleries. Choose from a dozen different tours at the iconic Willett Distillery, which has been family-owned since 1936. Or tip your hat as you drive by the oldest fully operating distillery in Bardstown, Barton 1792 Distillery—named in honor of the year Kentucky became a state.

Get a complete whiskey education—from grain to glass—at the Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center. Following a $17.5 million renovation and expansion, the site welcomes guests to join a variety of tutorials on the libation, from a Bottle Your Own experience to a bonded warehouse tour.

Opportunities for bourbon exploration don’t end there. In Bardstown, every day is a good day to discover more about the beloved brown water. Lux Row, one of the city’s newest distilleries, has received considerable acclaim and produces three million gallons of spirit annually. Nearby, Preservation Distillery takes a different approach, pot distilling micro batches. Pilgrimage to other landmark distilleries like Maker’s Mark, where visitors can hand dip their own bottle in the brand’s signature red wax.

Then, get spirited away after all the tours with tastings in a town where Southern food reigns supreme. At Toogie’s Table, fried chicken and the Kentucky Proud Ham Trio are favorites enjoyed with a classic old-fashioned. Comfort food reaches new heights at Mammy’s Kitchen & Bar, where country cooking means smothered meat loaf, chicken and waffles, hush puppies, and plenty of decadent homemade pies like chocolate, coconut, butterscotch, and lemon available with—naturally—flights of bourbon.

Plan your Bardstown bourbon journey at