24 Hours in Bardstown: The Bourbon Capital of the World

Ever since my last Kentucky Bourbon Trail trip in 2019, I’ve been itching to go back and visit more distilleries! We’ve been a couple of times and stayed in downtown Louisville. But this time, Bardstown made much more sense because so many of the distilleries are located right there. Bardstown, KY is the bourbon capital of the world after all.

Our goal for this trip was simple: taste some bourbon! That, and fit as much as we possibly could in just a little over 24 hours. Since we have a few trips planned for this year, we wanted to make this a one-night trip without taking any time off of work, and it was a success! Our itinerary involved us arriving in Bardstown around 11am Saturday, and leaving around 2pm on Sunday afternoon.

I’ve put together this guide on planning the ultimate weekend trip to Bardstown, KY including where to stay, what to do and, of course, where to eat and drink.

Where to stay:

Short answer: One of Bardstown’s many bed & breakfasts!

I couldn’t believe all the options I found when first searching for a spot to stay during our trip. We originally were looking at some of the larger chain hotels outside of town until we realized how many locally owned spots were right in town. I highly recommend checking out the different options in town for the complete small town experience.

We ended up booking the “Jesse James” room at the Talbott Inn, which is above the Old Talbott Tavern. Since we were only staying one night, I definitely wanted to try something different- I’m so glad we did! It’s located right in the center of downtown just steps away from restaurants, shops, and historical landmarks. The Talbott Inn has a variety of more updated rooms in a separate building, and then a few themed rooms above the tavern that are named after historical figures who visited there. Some of these include the Lincoln Suite, Daniel Boone Room, and the Jesse James Room (where we stayed). There are even real bullet holes in the walls left from when he was there, which was so cool to see!

Another bonus about staying here is that we were able to grab lunch and drink at the Old Talbott Tavern! I’ll cover this more in the where to eat + drink section.

Bardstown Bed & Breakfasts:

There are many more, these are just the ones we looked at.

What to do:

This one is pretty simple: taste some bourbon and tour some distilleries.

This is exactly what we did, and there is no other way I would want to spend a weekend! There are SO many distilleries in the Bardstown, KY area. After all, it is the bourbon capital of the world. Below is a complete list of spots you can check out in the area.

Distilleries Near Bardstown:

  • Heaven Hill Distillery
  • Jim Beam American Stillhouse
  • Preservation Distillery
  • Four Roses Distillery
  • Lux Row Distillers
  • Barton 1972 Distillery
  • Bardstown Bourbon Company
  • Limestone Branch Distillery
  • Willett Distillery
  • Makers Mark Distillery
  • Log Still Distillery (coming Spring 2021)

When trying to plan out a bourbon trail itinerary, reservations are very important. We went in March, which would be considered the “off season” and still booked our tours and tastings 3+ weeks out. We did it this way in order to squeeze as much into one day as we could, so make sure you are taking into account travel time in between, how long the tour is, gift shop time, etc. You can sometimes get lucky with an opening for a tour or tasting last minute, but I highly recommend booking pretty far in advance. You can check the distillery website to see how far out they’re booking up for certain days and times.

We ended up visiting four distilleries in the 24 hours we were there. Below is a general outline of our itinerary including tour times at each spot.

Sample Itinerary:

Saturday:

11:30am – Tour + Tasting at Preservation Distillery

1pm – Tour + Tasting at Lux Row Distillers

2:30pm – Late lunch at Old Talbott Tavern

4pm – Check in to our room at Talbott Inn

5pm – Willett Distillery gift shop visit and reservation for drinks and small plates at The Bar at Willett

Back to the hotel to rest for a little

8:15pm – Dinner and drinks at The Rickhouse Restaurant

Sunday:

11am – Barrel Thieving Tasting Experience at Bardstown Bourbon Company

1:30pm – Brunch/lunch reservation at Bardstown Bourbon Company

This schedule worked perfectly for us! I love how much we were able to see and do in just a short amount of time, and we’re definitely going to be planning a few more weekend trips like this. Again, I highly recommend making reservations for everything ahead of time if you want to fit a lot in.

Preservation Distillery:

Our first stop was Preservation Distillery, which is the first female founded distillery in Kentucky- known for Very Olde St. Nick, Rare Perfection, and Wattie Boone. It’s located on a farm complete with longhorns right on site! They offer a few different tasting options, and the standard tour is the Preservation Distillery Tour and Level 1 Tasting. This lasted about 45-60 minutes including both.

The tour was really educational on the history of the brand, and the tasting includes a variety of their most popular spirits. Additional tastings can also be purchased in the gift shop which was really helpful. The staff know their product and it shows. Everyone was very friendly here! We ended up leaving here with a bottle of the Very Olde St. Nick 8 Year Bourbon.

Lux Row Distillers:

Lux Row was our next stop on this bourbon trail trip. Some of the products they have are Blood Oath, Lux Row, Ezra Brooks, Rebel, Daviess County, and David Nicholson Reserve. Their standard one hour tour includes a walking tour and tasting experience. I will say they have one of the most impressive rickhouses I’ve ever seen, so definitely have your camera ready to snap some photos in there. Each tasting was paired with a different chocolate, and they had cocktails available in the gift shop area as well.

Willett Distillery:

While Willett was not offering full distillery tours during our visit, we still were able to stop by the gift shop and make a reservation at The Bar at Willett for drinks and small plates. I’m so glad we did because we were so impressed with it. The cocktails were incredible, the we were even able to sit on their outdoor terrace overlooking the rickhouses since it was such a nice day. All the shareable small plates we tried were delicious, especially the egg salad sandwich (which apparently has its own Instagram page!) I’ll go into more detail on this in the Where to Eat + Drink section below.

The gift shop does close at 5pm, and the bar closes at 6pm. We made a reservation for 5pm and got there a little early to pick up a bottle of their Family Estate Bottled Small Batch Rye at their gift shop, which worked out perfectly.

Bardstown Bourbon Company:

To be honest, I was blown away with Bardstown Bourbon Company and all of the different experiences they have to offer! They have truly done an amazing job at perfecting the whole distillery experience from tours and tastings, to having a full restaurant and bar onsite. We ended up booking the Honey Spot Barrel Thieving experience, which was a hands on tasting right in the rickhouse. We got to sample three bourbons and a rye straight out of the barrel, as well as one last tasting in their private rickhouse lounge. I highly recommend booking this experience!

Bardstown Bourbon Company also offers a standard tour, cocktail classes, and rare tastings in their vintage whiskey library. They also have The Kitchen & Bar onsite offering a variety of flights, cocktails, lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch menus. We made a reservation for brunch there after our tasting and really enjoyed it! You could probably spend an entire day a Bardstown Bourbon Company alone with all that they offer. I’ll go into more detail on their Kitchen & Bar in the Where to Eat + Drink section below.

Where to eat + drink:

We ended up grabbing something to eat at four different spots while we were in town, and they did not disappoint.

Lunch: Old Talbott Tavern

We loved being able to grab lunch here while we waited to check in at the Talbot Inn. It’s definitely pretty cool to say you’ve had a drink at the world’s oldest bourbon bar! I had the Bourbontini which was delicious. They also have a pretty large variety of bourbon to try. As far as food we tried the Hot Brown and the Country Fried Steak, which was exactly the type of southern food I was craving on this entire trip. Overall, the food was all delicious! I definitely recommend making a stop here for lunch. It’s considered a must-see when visiting Bardstown.

Drinks + Appetizers: The Bar at Willett

This was one of the spots I was most excited about checking out! All the cocktails are stunning, and I love the atmosphere of the bar itself. We got lucky and had great weather for March so we were able to sit out on the terrace overlooking the rickhouses. I tried the Manhattan, and Austin got the old fashioned. You know you’re at a fancy place when they have their logo stamped into the ice cubes!

Their menu consists of sharable small plates, which is why I considered it the perfect spot for appetizers. We tried out their famous Egg Salad Sandwich and the Pork Paillard, which was the perfect amount of food for us to split as a snack. They closed at 6pm, so we made a 5pm reservation for drinks and appetizers since we weren’t heading to dinner until around 8pm. Definitely make a reservation in advance here.

Dinner: The Rickhouse Restaurant

By splitting our meals up into drinks/appetizers at one spot and then dinner/drink at another we were able to try more places on our trip. The Rickhouse Restaurant and Lounge was the perfect spot for dinner in Bardstown. It was a quick 10 minute walk from the Talbott Inn, and you will notice that the entrance has a very speakeasy feel to it once you spot it! The interior feels just like, you guessed it, a rickhouse! We were big fans of the brick interior and barrel accents everywhere.

I was very impressed with everything we had at The Rickhouse from the bourbon and cocktails to the food. We were a little early for our reservation so we enjoyed cocktails in the bar and went with a classic Manhattan and Old Fashioned, which were delicious! We also ordered a flight to share (the pours are a pretty good size) and sampled variety of bourbon from their very large selection.

For dinner we tried the Bourbon Blueberry Salmon and the Top of the Rick Hot Brown. Both of these were delicious, and I was really pleased with the portion sizes as well. We loved how they have an upscale setting but don’t skimp you on the entree portions at all. I’d recommend trying either of these for sure. For dessert we absolutely could not pass up the Bourbon Bread Pudding, and you shouldn’t either because it was perfection!

Brunch: Bardstown Bourbon Company

The Kitchen & Bar at Bardstown Bourbon Company is the perfect spot to grab brunch during your visit to Bardstown! The food and drinks are just as impressive as all of their our experiences. We made a reservation for right after our barrel thieving tour which worked out perfectly since you definitely work up an appetite during those.

For drinks we had their Barrel-Aged Old Fashioned and Manhattan (can you tell these are our favorite cocktails?) and a flight of their bourbons. For food, we tried the Wagyu Burger and the Nashville Hot Chicken and Waffles, which were both fantastic! Odds are if there is chicken & waffles on a menu then I’m ordering it. The dining room is stunning with all the natural light and logo greenery wall. It’s the perfect spot to take photos!

Overall, we had such a great time during our short visit to Bardstown, KY! There is so much to see and do that we already can’t wait to go back. I can definitely see why it’s called the Bourbon Capital of the World!

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