A December 2004 trip
to Bardstown by hersplash
Quote: "The Bourbon Capital of the World," Bardstown is located about 45 miles south of Louisville and 60 miles southwest of Lexington off both the Blue Grass Parkway and Highway 65. Incorporated in 1788, this quaint small town is the second-oldest in Kentucky.
Hotel | "Comfort Inn"
Generally I look at those hotel coupon books found at travel centers. I found the Comfort Inn and noticed the banner "Brand New" in the ad. Sounds good to me! I then went to their website, where I found that their price was $2 cheaper. I booked through the Web. From past experience, most of the hotels in the books were located near the major highways. I guess I didn’t question it, as the directions in the book state "I-65 Exit 112." Little did I realize that it was 20 minutes down dark roads to get to this hotel.
It was a typical Comfort Inn, with an indoor pool, exercise room, cable, coffeemaker, hair dryer, and deluxe continental breakfast. I didn’t take advantage of most of these, as I was in and out so quickly. I did use the free high-speed Internet in the room that worked great.
The decor was pretty simple, though a bit unattractive. It looked like it was done without any professional consultant; the curtains didn’t match the stick-on wall border or comforter in different shades of rose and cranberry. The one wall painting didn’t really match either and was hung too high, so that it looked like an afterthought. The furniture looked a bit worn, but there was a dresser and desk. They did have two nice very large pillows, and the bed was okay regarding comfort. The heat worked well.
The floor in the bathroom was extremely sticky and required wearing shoes, though the rest of the bathroom was clean. You received two of the thin towels, one Pantene shampoo/conditioner combo, and two soaps.
The woman at the front desk was very friendly and helpful. I indicated in my reservation that I couldn’t walk very far, and she had a close room ready for me when I arrived. She even offered to have her husband bring me a winter coat that didn’t fit her after I mentioned I wasn’t exactly prepared for the 26° weather! I was disappointed, though, that I received my wake-up call an hour early. I am confident that I didn’t make a mistake.
What I learned here is that I really need to look closer before purchasing. This hotel was 7-years-old, which I don’t really consider being brand-new.
There is no view from the room, although the hotel is just 5 minutes from downtown.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on January 6, 2005
Comfort Inn Bardstown
984 FROST AVE
Bardstown, Kentucky 40004
In the first building we began with the roller mill where they crush the grain. It is then cooked in an open cooker. For fermentation, they still use some Cyprus vats, along with stainless steel. You see these huge batches bubbling, which is kind of neat but gross at the same time. The smell is pretty overwhelming, so be prepared. The bourbon is then double distilled and brought to a proof of 120 and 130. The grain that is leftover after fermentation is picked up by farmers to be used for feed. I was assured that this feed doesn’t produce any drunken cows.
Charred white oak barrels are used for the aging process in the barrel warehouse. The charring adds caramel flavor and an amber color. The barrels are hand-rotated to take advantage of temperature changes in the building. No other distiller does this. They are held for 6 years and are sampled throughout the aging process.
In the final building you observe the bottles being filled, capped, and labeled. Before they are boxed and shipped, employees complete the most important and distinguishing step—hand-dipping the red wax seal on the bottle. This was a neat process to witness, as they do it rather quickly. Once in a while they will do a "slam dunk," where they dip the bottle into wax all the way to the label. These rare bottles will arrive as a surprise to the retailer.
At the gift shop you can purchase a small bottle for $13 and dip the seal yourself. You must be 21 years old, and it is not available on Sundays. Tours are given on the half hour from 10:30am to 3:30pm Monday through Saturday. Call in advance for limited Sunday tours. I was the only visitor for that tour, although they get around 30 to 40 per tour on the weekends. Maker’s Mark is in Loretto, about a 25-minute drive south from downtown Bardstown. The drive is beautiful along very windy and hilly roads.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 6, 2005
Maker's Mark Bourbon Distillery
25 minutes south of Bardstown
You can visit My Old Kentucky Home State Park, which honors the home symbolizing that great tune played at the Kentucky Derby. Tours are available for the home, which hosted frequent lavish parties. Old Bardstown Village contains a collection of original log cabins reflecting the way they looked during the town’s first settlement. The Civil War Museum contains an enormous collection of artifacts and memorabilia. There is the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral, the first Catholic cathedral built west of the Alleghenies. The Abbey of Gethsemani was founded 150 years ago and is home to Trappist Monks. There, they produce cheese, fruit cakes, and bourbon-chocolate fudge that are sold around the country. Nearby, in New Haven, is the Kentucky Railway Museum, where you can ride an authentic steam locomotive or visit the museum, which contains artifacts and model train displays.
For a more romantic outing, take a carriage ride through Bardstown. Or enjoy fine dining and gracious service on the My Old Kentucky Dinner Train. Better yet, experience a showing of Stephen Foster-The Musical. This outdoor drama held during the summer features his famous song with beautiful period costumes.
This being bourbon country, there is no excuse for leaving without knowing something about the history or process of making bourbon. Begin with the annual Bourbon Festival in September or the sampler festival in April. If these times don’t work for you, you can enjoy the Kentucky Bourbon Trail any time of the year. You can tour all seven distilleries or just one of them. A convenient map will give you directions to all of them, including Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Heaven Hill and more. Not all are located in Bardstown; you can visit each of these while traveling from Bardstown to Frankfort. All tours are free and are open most days. Tours are usually given at set times or by appointment, so check in advance. No sales of bourbon allowed on Sundays.
For more bourbon experiences, visit The Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center. They have a video and interactive displays of the early days. Or visit Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History, where they showcase the history of bourbon with artifacts like antique bottles, barrels, and art.
The town is also home to bed-and-breakfasts, charming shops, and golf courses. They have special events featured throughout the year like a Bluegrass Music Festival, the Arts, Antiques, and Crafts Fair, and Ghost Treks. For more information, visit the Bardstown website.