September 2017 by Michael Pendley
September is Bourbon Heritage Month. To celebrate, the city of Bardstown, KY throws a week-long, bourbon centric party for the entire world. Last year’s Kentucky Bourbon Festival saw approximately 53,000 attendees hailing from 44 States and 14 different countries descend on the small, central KY community for a week of bourbon games, bonfires, food, bourbon tastings, seminars from bourbon experts, and cocktail parties.
Why Bardstown? Because the area truly is the Bourbon Capital of the World. The community of Bardstown has been making bourbon since 1776. Today, 69% of the world’s bourbon is distilled in Nelson and the adjacent counties. Expand that range out a few more counties, and you get a staggering 95% of the bourbon produced on earth.
This year’s Festival runs September 11-17. Sponsors include Barton 1792 Distillery, Buffalo Trace Distillery, Four Roses Distillery, Heaven Hill Distilleries Inc., Beam, Maker’s Mark Distillery, Rebel Yell, Wild Turkey Distillery, and Woodford Reserve Distillery plus the Independent Stave Company and the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. Additional major sponsors include Bulleit Bourbon, Blanton’s and Michter’s.
Full events list and ticket costs can be found at kybourbonfestival.com and include live Music on the Lawn Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. till midnight and Sunday from 1 p.m. till 4 p.m. Ticket costs vary by event, and range from free to $185 per ticket.
This year’s seminars include talks from The Moonshine University on The Science of Maturation. During this session, they will take a look at how whiskey matures within the barrel it calls home. Barrels have additive, subtractive and interactive properties, each will impact the whiskey in different ways. The seminar will explain what each action does and how the barrel, and where it is stored, will affect what is happening to the spirit inside. Instruction includes analysis of barrel pulls and how each individual barrel imparts its own unique flavor. (Thursday, September 14th from 10a.m-12 noon)
Moonshine University will also present the “A Whiskey and Its Grains” in which they will host an in-depth class that examines how each individual grain can greatly affect the spirit that comes off the still. They will examine corn, rye, wheat, and malted barley, the four grains that make up on 99% of whiskeys, and how each grain adds its own specific flavors and aromas to whiskey. Learn the nuances of each grain and how it will impact the final product. They will also cover the fast-growing trend of using alternative grains and how those will change the whiskeys that we know and love. Instruction includes a thorough analysis of each individual grain distillate, as well as the production process of milling, cooking, fermentation, and distillation. (Friday, September 15th from 10a.m-12 noon)
The Bottled in Bond Fire is always a must tend event. This year’s will be held at Wickland, Home of Three Governors from 7 – 11 pm on Saturday the 16th. Kick back and cozy up to the bonfires as you enjoy Bottled in Bond Bourbon while host Susan Reigler, Executive Bourbon Steward and President of the Bourbon Women Association discusses the nuances of Bottled in Bond Bourbons.
For classic car buffs, the Whiskey City Cruisers, the area’s largest club, will hold a car show at Bardstown City Hall on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The event is free to the public and always features some outstanding custom automobiles.
Since you can’t have bourbon without barrels, the coopers from Independent Stave Company will demonstrate the historic craft of making special oak barrels for aging Bourbon. The event will be held at Spalding Hall Lawn on Saturday and Sunday afternoon. This event is also free to the public.
As you would expect from a Bourbon Festival, cocktail parties abound at the event. Events like the Sip & Savor in the Spirit of Old Kentucky, The Great KY Bourbon Tasting & Gala, Boots and Bourbon, and the Bourbon, Cigars & Jazz offer something for everyone.
If you get thirsty, be sure to stop by the Spirit Garden to sip a Kentucky Bourbon cocktail, such as the Petal Pusher, the Official Cocktail of the 2017 Kentucky Bourbon Festival. A variety of Kentucky Bourbons and cocktails will be available for purchase. Beer will also be available for purchase. Pick up a drink and head over to the Food Court to sample the wares of numerous food venders from around the area.
While you might not think of a Bourbon Festival as a family event, there is always entertainment for attendees of all ages. A Family Fun Area will feature a variety of interactive games, inflatables, train rides and more for family enjoyment. The Hot Air Balloon Glow will light up the night sky with the glowing colors of numerous balloons. Arts, crafts and Kentucky Proud booths will be scattered throughout the downtown area. A four-person golf scramble will be held on Saturday at the nearby Bardstown Country Club at Maywood course.
If you are a fan of bourbon, or even just a fan of a good time, head on down to the Kentucky Bourbon Festival and enjoy the events.
All Photo Credit / Kentucky Bourbon Festival
Michael Pendley lives in the heart of central Kentucky’s bourbon country. When he isn’t poking around local distilleries, he can usually be found searching for dusty bottles of old whiskey that might be hidden in the back rooms of liquor stores. He, along with his wife and three children, are very active in the outdoors. Michael also writes the twice-weekly wild game cooking blog Timber2Table at Realtree.com