Bourbon lovers never seem to get enough of Kentucky’s signature drink. Not only do you want to drink it, but you also want to eat it and sleep now. First it was restaurants that made bourbon an essential part of the kitchen, and now it seems that bourbon also makes for a good night’s sleep.
If you’re planning a trip on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, bourbon is just as essential as high-thread-count sheets in these seven places.
Old Talbott Tavern, Bardstown
The bar at this historic six-room inn on Bardstown’s Courthouse Square claims to be the forefather of all bourbon bars. The rustic tavern has been satisfying thirsty customers since 1779, when the inn opened as the oldest stagecoach stop west of the Allegheny Mountains. Yes, that makes it the oldest bourbon bar in the world.
Their inventory includes more than 300 bourbons, but many visitors opt for the bar’s signature cocktail, the Sidecar Named Desire. This blend of Woodford Reserve Bourbon, homemade strawberry syrup, lemon juice, apple cider and Cointreau, garnished with raw sugar on the rim of a martini glass, won Cocktail of the Year at the 2014 Kentucky Bourbon Festival.
Be sure to treat yourself, but don’t overdo it, as one of the bar’s most famous customers did.
Outlaw Jesse James was a bourbon lover, and after a night of drinking he stumbled upstairs to his room. When he saw painted birds on a mural, he mistook them for real birds and fired off a round of shots before realizing his mistake. The bullet holes are still in the wall.
The information: 107 W. Stephen Foster Avenue, Bardstown; (502) 348-3494; talbottstavern.com
The Samuels House, Loretto
Who knows more about bourbon than the Samuels family? Visitors to Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto learn about their contribution to the industry, but guests checking into The Samuels House get an up close and personal bourbon experience.
The Confederate style house dates back to 1820 when it was built by John Samuels, whose father Robert made whiskey for George Washington’s troops during the Revolutionary War.
The house was the scene of the surrender of the last armed guerrilla group after the civil war. This group, which included future outlaw Frank James, surrendered to Sheriff TW Samuels – yes, a family member.
For a different kind of history, the home contains the personal memorabilia of the Samuels family, including the deep fryer used by Margie Samuels to perfect the signature red wax seals on Maker’s Mark bottles.
Today, Samuels House operates as a three bedroom bed and breakfast for the true bourbon lover. Rooms are luxurious, two with fireplaces and vintage wardrobes. There is a well-appointed chef’s kitchen, a dining room with an original 200-year-old mural, a stone patio with a fire pit, and a drawing room with a custom-built bar displaying more than 50 bottles of whiskey made by the Samuels family ( sorry, these for looking at, not for drinking).
However, drinking is encouraged during a private chat and sip with Bill Samuels Jr. or a bourbon dinner with the Samuels House’s private chef (both add-ons to the price of a stay).
This is the ultimate insider’s bourbon experience coupled with a good night’s sleep.
The information: 160 S St Gregory Church Road, Samuels; (502) 906-2076; thesamuelshouse.com
Hermitage Farm, Goshen
Spend the night in a five-bedroom mansion on a farm owned by Brown-Forman (whose portfolio includes Woodford Reserve Bourbon), heiress Laura Lee Brown, and her husband Steve Wilson.
Guests must rent the entire home and have a choice of several bourbon-related activities as add-ons: a DIY Old-Fashioned class with one of the farm’s bourbon stewards, a single cask pick upon arrival, or when you’re visiting properly plan, one of the quarterly distillers’ dinners.
One thing guests can always enjoy is a meal at Barn 8 Restaurant, a unique experience that brings together the two distinctive industries of the Commonwealth – bourbon and horses.
Book a Wednesday-Saturday dinner or Sunday brunch and reserve one of the three stalls, once inhabited by a famous thoroughbred horse. (I ate at the stables of Isolde, mother of 1953 Kentucky Derby winner Dark Star.)
With your meal, enjoy a craft Old Fashioned or Cowgirl coffee (Rittenhouse Rye, spiced coconut cream and walnut syrup) and then a nightcap in the cozy bar, which Wilson has stocked with 160 bourbons and 32 ryes.
Then, retire to your accommodations, surrounded by stately pine oaks and lush green farmland, and decorated with a mix of antique furniture and contemporary art from the museum hotel’s 21st-century collections (Brown and Wilson also own the upscale contemporary ones hotels).
The information: 10500 US-42, Goschen; (502) 398-9289; hermitagefarm.com
Chateau Bourbon, Prospect
This inn offers “comfort with a spritz of bourbon.” For starters, your accommodation will be in one of four suites: Reserve, Single Barrel, Angel’s Share, and Stillhouse. How can you have only pleasant dreams?
The three-course breakfast also includes the chateau’s eponymous drink — bourbon muesli, anyone? And that’s just for starters.
Missy Hillock, who owns the Chateau Bourbon with her husband John, is the executive bourbon steward and is happy to provide guests with a bourbon guide on everything from the distilling process to sharing cocktail recipes.
She’s also happy when they drink their bourbon and eat at the nightly “Sip and Sweets” happy hour. Bourbon cocktails with fresh herbs, fruit or homemade syrup are paired with delicious treats like bourbon toffee truffles coated in Ghirardelli chocolate.
Extras include a bottle of bottled bourbon and two cigars to enjoy on the balcony or patio, and a craft bourbon flight – four pours from some of Kentucky’s top craft distilleries.
The information: 10630 Meeting St., Prospect; (502) 290-6553; Chateau Bourbon.com
Bourbon Manor, Bardstown
Only in the “Bourbon Capital of the World” will you find a property as Bourbon-centric as Bourbon Manor. Innkeepers Tyler Horton and Todd Allen believe it was the first bourbon-themed bed and breakfast in the country when it opened in 2013.
It was fashioned from two pre-Civil War plantation homes—an 1810 Federal Style and an 1820 Greek Revival Antebellum mansion—and was occupied by both Confederate General Braxton Bragg and Union troops en route to the Battle of Perryville, 33 miles away.
There was no time for bourbon drinking in any of the above locations, but that’s not the case for today’s visitor, with the emphasis on bourbon.
The 10 liquor-themed guest rooms are named after cocktails offered nightly at the bourbon bar. Whether you prefer Mint Julep, Manhattan or Scarlet Starlet – either the room or the drink – it’s yours).
Currently, the bar is set up in the main house lobby, but in Spring 2023 the owners plan to reopen the fire-damaged Bunghole Bar in its original location in the barn.
In addition to a gourmet breakfast, the inn also offers three bourbon tours (self-drive, local excursion shuttle, or private transportation and driver) that visit two distilleries, the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History, a case of Rebecca Ruth bourbon scoops, and two Cocktails include in the mansion’s bar.
Even the New York Times was impressed, praising the property as “a stylish place to stay while touring the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.”
The information: 714 N. Third St.; Bardstown; (502) 512-0122; bourbonmanor.com
Charred Oaks Inn, Versailles
This peaceful inn in its park-like setting is a bit of an anomaly among bourbon-themed inns. It doesn’t have a liquor license, so you won’t be able to sneak to the bar for your late-night bourbon.
However, you are welcome to bring your own favorite bourbon and take advantage of the inn’s wet bar with all the necessary utensils to make a cocktail to enjoy in the living room, on the patio, or in the privacy of your room.
Don’t worry, you’ll get your bourbon shot at the full breakfast, where dishes like bourbon hoecakes, Woodford pudding and Race Day pie are on the menu.
The information: 341 Lexington St; Versailles; (859) 513-6156; charredoaksinn.com
The Galt House, Louisville
One might not think of this historic property as Bourbon-themed, but it’s certainly Bourbon-centric. A visitor can sip bourbon to their heart’s content.
Start with a signature drink at Jockey Silks Lounge—perhaps a Bluegrass Rose (Four Roses Bourbon, Blueberry Puree, Triple Sec and Lemon Juice) or, if you’re feeling brave, a Kentucky Iced Tea (Evan Williams Bourbon, Rittenhouse Rye). , Carpano Antica Vermouth, Peach Schnapps, Peach Puree, Goslings Ginger Beer and Lime).
Jockey Silks’ list of 150 bourbons is surpassed by the newly opened Down One Bourbon Bar, which stocks 200 bourbons.
This sleek, New York-style eatery has an underground speakeasy ambience and upscale American pub grub that goes well with one of the handcrafted cocktails. To honor the Derby, have a Mint Julep or, if you prefer the mares, an Oaks Lily.
To further highlight bourbon at Galt, the Swizzle rooftop restaurant hosts a monthly bourbon dinner featuring local distilleries, and also starting in November, America’s most celebrated chefs will be showcasing bourbon-infused dishes.
Dallas-based celebrity chef Kent Rathbun will kick things off. His dishes will remain on the Swizzle menu through February, when chef Noah Sandoval of Chicago’s two-Michelin-star restaurant Oriole takes the helm.
Thanks to The Galt House, guests can have their bourbon and eat it too.
The information: 140 N. Fourth St., Louisville; (502) 589-5200; gilthouse.com