We are still reeling in awe after attending our first Kentucky Bourbon Fest in Bardstown! My husband Eddie and I thought we knew plenty about bourbon before the fest, now we are on overload with the wealth of knowledge from the distillers, brand ambassadors and the attendees. I probably spent more time getting the inside scoop from the guests – which line was worth waiting in, the buzz-worthy distillers, which fest bottles we had to try – it was very eye-opening for this first timer!
Note: THIS YEAR’S EVENT SOLD OUT, save the dates for 2024: September 13-15. Details here.
There was more bourbon – and rye whiskeys – being poured out of the 100+ tents than we could possibly try, even with the three days. Many made cocktails as well! There were plenty of shady spots to sit down and linger over every taste, live music and informative programs. We did focus mostly on the whisky, of course! We had favorite bottles every day – and bought our fair share – yet I know we had to have missed some great tastes too!
And of special note I want to shout out to Tracy Green with Estes Public Relations for the hard work from her and her team. They made the event quite special for everyone.
You can read (and check out the photos) my 3-days worth of social media further below; I only named the whiskeys that I enjoyed the most and not every table that we stopped at. These are my notable distilleries, some of which I had to get bottles from; and most were festival release bottles only:
Lawrenceburg Bourbon Company: “Ten x Ten” 100% rye whiskey, 10 years old, small batch, from 10 casks. 61.2% alcohol, 122.3% proof. Veteran owned. The couple that owns it is very charming, and were humbled by the amount of attention they received at the fest, they deserve your attention as well. https://lawrenceburgbourbon.com/
Red Line: “Element” non-chill filtered, straight bourbon whiskey finished with Mongolian Oak, 75% corn, 57% alcohol, and 114 proof. The use of Mongolian oak put out some amazing flavors I was wholly unfamiliar with and thoroughly enjoyed! This was my favorite bourbon of the fest. (Look for a one-bottle post on this one once I get a chance to sit down alone with it!) https://www.redlinebourbon.com/
Bardstown: The Series 10 straight bourbon whiskey, blend of straight bourbons, 114.24 proof was a big winner at the fest. And a second bottle was just as amazing: Collaborative Series Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey finished in Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout barrels, cask strength, 50% alcohol – a taste of that was incredible, again the barrels – this time stout – makes all the difference in a bourbon. We were lucky to taste this one with Master Distiller Steve Nally, and got into a conversation about their collaborative bottles as an early one was made with one of our favorite Napa wineries, Phifer Pavitt. https://www.bardstownbourbon.com/
Bakers 13: Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey, limited edition, aged a minimum of 13 years, single barrel, 107 proof, and 53.5% alcohol. This was another buzz-worthy bourbon people at the fest were on the hunt for; I waited in a long queue for our bottle and can’t wait to try it. (Yes dear reader, this is the first for me: buying bourbon I hadn’t tasted before based on the buzz and the limited festival-only release.) https://www.bakersbourbon.com/
Luca Mariano: Signature Select bourbon whiskey, 113 proof, 56.5% alcohol. Okay, I’ll admit that I was drawn to try this one, as it is Italian-owned. Again a first for me to see from a Kentucky-made bourbon. We bought a bottle and I’m currently proudly wearing their T-shirt as I write this post. Liked their rye as well. https://www.lucamariano.com/
Yellowstone: Hand picked selection Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey, single barrel, 119 proof, Limestone Branch distillery. This was my second favorite bourbon of the fest, very well done. (No relation to the popular television show.) https://limestonebranch.com/spirits/yellowstone-select-kentucky-straight-bourbon/
Heaven’s Hill: Elijah Craig 1789 single barrel, private barrel, “barrel proof uncut, straight from the barrel”, Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey, 124.9 proof, 62.45% alcohol. Eddie bought two of these, again without tasting and based on it being a festival only release that practically everyone wanted to get their hands on! https://heavenhilldistillery.com/
New Riff: 2023 Sour mash Kentucky single malt, cask strength without chill filtration, 113.8 proof, 56.9% alcohol. “A sophisticated vatting of five unique malt whiskeys, encompassing eleven different malted barley varieties and a multitude of cask types.” This was a special pour that we were able to try, it was quite unique and we appreciated the work and thought that went into it. https://www.newriffdistilling.com/
Penelope: “Architect”, straight bourbon whiskey, finished in French oak staves. 110 proof, 65% alcohol. The Penelope table had quite the following, but we were able to visit at least twice to try more than one bottle. The Architect was my favorite, possible for the French oak influence. https://penelopebourbon.com/
Chef Nokee is a Filipino chef that lives in Kentucky; she was tasked with making dishes with bourbon and teaching us some of her tricks! We watched her make, and then ate with delight: Tomato Salad with Salted duck that was both sweet and savory, Pork Belly Humba that benefitted from plenty of braising and searing with an Old Fashioned cocktail mixed with soy sauce on top and served over grits, and a dessert of Filipino Banana Pancakes…all made with Woodford Reserve Bourbon.
Social Media, AKA your abbreviated coverage:
From Friday: Day one of the Kentucky Bourbon Fest is done! With tips from experienced KY Bourbon Fest guests we found some very unique bottles, bought some festival bottles before they sold out and waited in lines we would normally skip to be rewarded with some very special pours. Again, all of the details will be on EveWine101 come October but let me shout out to a few favorites of the day: EJ Curley and Co., Lawrenceburg, Penelope, Red Line, Old Bourbon County, Barrell Bourbon, Wilderness Trail and New Riff. Link with day one photos.
Saturday: Day two of the Kentucky Bourbon Fest done! This time we went straight for the lines to get a few more exclusive festival bottles including a limited-edition and signed Bakers 13, as well as tastes (and some bottles) from Milam & Greene, Three Chord, Luca Mariano, Russell’s, Town Branch and Lux Row. We even took in a cooking class with Chef Nokee and a tour of a bourbon museum! Link with day two photos.
Sunday: Last day of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival was FUN! Got an opportunity to have tastes and take pics at Four Roses, Old Forrester, Lawrenceburg, great drone video of the entrance and the festival tents, a few bottle shots from Bardstown, Yellowstone, RD One, Hemingway, Chicken Cock, Green River, Old Louisville, Heaven’s Door and Monk’s Road! Three days of our lives we will never forget. Link with day three photos.
KBF website: kybourbonfestival.com
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in the first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Proof Awards, Cellarmasters, LA Wine Competition, Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits.