Bardstown, Kentucky has certainly earned its reputation as the Bourbon Capital of the World. With 26 distilleries in the area before Prohibition and 75% of the world's bourbon in the area today, Bardstown is indeed the epicenter of the Bourbon world. Bourbon and Barns recently caught up with Dawn Przystal of Visit Bardstown to learn a little more about Bardstown and how her agency promotes the area.
Bourbon & Barns: Bardstown is the Bourbon Capital of the World. What is the history of Bardstown and what led it to be the epicenter of the Bourbon world?
Dawn Przystal: There were 26 distilleries in the area pre-prohibition. From the center of downtown Bardstown you are within 20 miles of 9 distillery experiences and 75% of the world’s supply of bourbon. The history and heritage of our distilling culture and as well as our current dedication to the art of making fine bourbon has cemented our place as the bourbon capital.
BB: How does your agency promote Bardstown and Bourbon Country?
DP: We promote Bardstown as a destination for bourbon enthusiasts via digital media, traditional media and public relations both domestically and internationally. To leverage our somewhat limited budget with work closely with the other communities in Bourbon Country and our local industry partners.
BB: How many people visit Bardstown each year? How has that changed over the years?
DP: There are about a half a million visitors to Bardstown annually. Bardstown has experience overall growth from 5-8 percent annually in recent years. We have a mix of bourbon and non-bourbon attractions, but as the bourbon attraction attendance grows we see an increasingly diverse mix of visitors.
BB: There are six distilleries in the area (Jim Beam American Stillhouse, Barton 1792, Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center, Maker's Mark, Four Roses and Willett). What is the best way to visit the distilleries? Do you recommend using one of the tour companies?
DP: If you count the 3 new visitor experiences that will be coming on board in the next 12-15 months (Bardstown Bourbon Company, LuxRow and Preservation Distillery) we have 9 visitor experiences in the area which can be a little overwhelming for most. If you want to tackle them all you’ll need to allow 2-3 days. While we certainly have guests who are on a mission to visit every distillery in one visit, others prefer to space it out over a couple of visits. In that case, I recommend to start with “your brand”, you’re go-to-bourbon’s distillery and then add a couple more in of diverse sizes so you get a feel for the largest scale of operation down to the smallest. The local tour companies are a great way to leave the worries up to someone else and there is a complete list on our website. http://www.visitbardstown.com/listing/transportation-services/
BB: In addition to distillery tours, Bardstown has many more activities and destinations for fans of Bourbon, including the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History, the Kentucky Bourbon House, the Old Talbott Tavern and the Rickhouse Restaurant? How would you describe these destinations? Are there any other must-sees for Bourbon lovers?
DP: The Oscar Getz Museum is an award-winning museum that due to its limited resources often gets overlooked, but it’s definitely worth a visit. Allow at least 30 minutes to visit. The Kentucky Bourbon House has cocktail making class which is a lot of fun. It’s reservation only so be sure to call in advance. The Old Talbott Tavern, Kentucky Bourbon Marketplace and the Rickhouse, to name just a few, all have extensive bourbon collections, a lot of them have bourbon-inspired and infused menus.
BB: Bardstown has so many fun and interesting activities, including the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival, which features six days of bourbon, food, entertainment and more. How would you describe this event? How has it changed over the years?
DP: The Kentucky Bourbon Festival in September started 26 years ago with 250 people for a one-night event and that has blossomed to a 6-day 30+ event festival welcoming more than 50,000 guests from around the world. www.kybourbonfestival.com
BB: The Bardstown Bourbon Sampler event is on March 25. What is this event? Are tickets still available?
DP: As the name suggests, the Spring Sampler is a fantastic opportunity to try different bourbons from different distilleries all in one spot. There are still tickets available. https://www.kybourbonfestival.com/spring-events/