Kentucky is known around the world for their bourbon, but there is still so much more to discover in the Bluegrass State in addition to what you find along the Bourbon Trail.
We began our adventure at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. This 3,000 acre former Shaker community was at one point was the third largest Shaker community in the country, between the years 1805-1910. During our visit, we took a tour of the property and learned more about the culture of Shaker life. The surroundings of rolling hills and historic buildings serve as a reminder of simpler times.
The Shaker community was a celibate community but treated gender and race as equal, which was extremely rare during that time in 1806. The men and women even entered the buildings through separate doors and each Shaker had a job that was rotated and the men and women worked separately so that they would not be tempted by each other. There were some children that resided at Shaker Village who came with their families when they made the decision to become Shakers, the Shakers also took in many orphans. In both cases when children grew up they were required to take a vow of celibacy as an adult if they wanted to continue as a part of the Shaker community.
The Shaker community took pride in creating quality craftsmanship and were very innovative with the goods they sold. Their brooms and seeds were very popular items. Each building that you tour helps tell their story and their way of life.
Dinner at The Rickhouse
The Rickhouse is located in the basement of a building that dates back to the early 1800’s. The restaurant located in Bardstown serves up lots of tasty menu items for any palette along with a large list of bourbons to choose from. Make sure that you also leave room for dessert. You can’t go wrong with any of the menu choices. During dinner, we learned that there are 7.2 million barrels aging in Kentucky which is more than the number of people living in the state. It’s important to note that all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon and that 90% of all bourbon is made in Kentucky.
Overnight at Shaker Village
There are 13 restored Shaker buildings that provide overnight accommodations. Each one has it’s own personality and provides a surrounding that is beautiful and simple. For families and groups, I would recommend the cottage or family suite options so that you don’t have to worry about noise. During my visit, I stayed in the refurbished Trustees’ Office with a view of what was formerly the main road through town. If you are a light sleeper, you might want to use a sound machine app because the building is older, but you will love the original hardwood floors, refurbished Shaker furniture and the memory foam mattresses. Waking up surrounded by the peacefulness of Shaker Village is really a treat.
Our transportation during the weekend was provided by Central KY tours. Our driver, Bruce provided us with a safe ride and lots of information about the area during our tour.
Independent Save/ Kentucky Cooperage
During our tour at Kentucky Cooperage, we learned about the process of making barrels from the forest to the factory. We started by watching a video that shares more about the company and the types of trees they use for the barrels. Then we were given a headset and safety glasses as we stepped inside the factory to watch the barrel making process right before our eyes. We watched the assembly process from several stations which also included short video segments and additional information from our guide. While on the tour, you are not allowed to take pictures or video. If we could have, I would have definitely taken video of them charring the barrels because it is so cool to watch! Barrels vary in char level depending on their client’s request.
Limestone Branch Distillery
A tour a Limestone Branch Distillery is unforgettable thanks to guide, Steven. He seriously needs his own reality show because he is a character! His tour included animated storytelling of the history of the distillery, an opportunity to get up close and learn more about the machinery,… and the best part which was the tasting of course! You can see what I mean from this video.
My favorite moonshine flavor that day was definitely the jalapeño, but there are plenty of sweet options that could get you into trouble pretty quickly because they are soooo good.
Known for their signature bottle with the hand dipped red wax, historic Maker’s Mark Distillery provides a beautiful landscape and informative tour that takes you through multiple buildings and includes a sit-down tasting.
At the end of your hour long tour, you will step under an incredible, GORGEOUS display of Chihuly glass before you enter the gift shop. I love art and bourbon, which made this combination even more amazing.
I couldn’t leave without dipping a bourbon bottle for the first time. You can dip just about anything that you purchase in the gift shop in the signature red wax. I love an experiential souvenir!
Wilderness Trail Distillery
Unlike other distilleries with long histories, Wilderness Trail Distillery started with a strong focus on science using local ingredients for their high-quality spirits using practices from over 150 distilleries around the world. What started as The distillery also produces rum made with Kentucky molasses, bourbon, vodka, and rye whiskey. After our tour, we visited the tasting room to try the Blue Heron Vodka and the Harvest Rum.
Seed to Table Dining
Shaker Village is committed to getting back to basics when it comes to the dining experience as well. Many of the ingredients used in the meals prepared are straight from the farm on site. The farm is also used to bring educational enhancement to guests on a variety of topics surrounding sustainable agriculture practices. I would highly recommend experiencing a meal during your stay. There are wonderful menu options prepared with fresh foods from the garden and local farmers available for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Make sure that you try the honey butter prepared with honey from the bees on site.
More time in Bardstown
Downtown historic Bardstown is a gem worth exploring. We dined at Old Talbott Tavern that dates back to the 1700’s. Make sure that you take some extra time to visit the shops and explore other historic sites within walking distance.
Heaven Hill Distillery
Our visit to Heaven Hill Distillery gave us even more knowledge of bourbon during the 40-minute Whiskey Connoisseur Experience. We focused on using our senses during the tasting process. First, you examine the color, then the aroma, taste and then experience the finish.
Some bourbons rest on the front of your tongue, while others bring more feeling to the back of your mouth. The warm heat you feel on the inside as it goes down it referred to as a “Kentucky Hug.” You get to keep your glass after the tasting and will find more information about the distillery in the Bourbon Heritage Center along with lots of bourbon and bourbon related items available for purchase.
Barton 1792 Distillery
Located a short distance from downtown Bardstown, Barton 1792 Distillery offers free tours ranging from 1-2 hours. As the oldest operating distillery in Bardstown, Barton 1792, has been around since 1879. There is also the world’s largest bourbon barrel located on site. After you tour, you can try the bourbons in the tasting room.
The experience was a perfect mix of education, touring, and tasting that gave us a greater understanding of the pride that goes into Kentucky products.
Thanks again to Traveling Mom for hosting my visit. I was invited to experience the Moonshine Mamas Tour by Traveling Mom for a few days of touring and tasting on the Bourbon Trail. All opinions are my own.