By Kerri Zane
A weekend away wine tasting is a classic go-to GG, but if you want to mix it up and try something truly unique the Bourbon Trail in Bardstown, Kentucky holds just the right twist of quaint, cool + boozy girlfriend getaway fun. Voted the most beautiful small town in America by Rand McNally and USA today, Bardstown is a gem in the heart of America. It is the bourbon capital of the world and home to Americas best-known brands.
While you can find a Hampton or Americas Inn in Bardstown the allure of visiting a classic small town is staying at one of the converted historic buildings that populate the community.
The Jailers Inn, Mid-Bardstown was built in 1819 and operated as jailhouse till 1987. It has since been converted and now houses seven beautifully decorated guest rooms. The iron bars on the windows and 30-inch-thick limestone walls create an interesting contrast to its current modernity.
Listed on the national register of historic places Bourbon Manor Bed & Breakfast is an officially designated Kentucky landmark. Named one of the best bed & breakfasts in the south there are 10 antique appointed rooms, gas fireplaces, and a Bourbon Café. The on-site spa is divine with Bourbon oriented treatments and an exclusive line of like-themed products.
The Historic Maple Hill Manor in Springfield, KY is just minutes from Bardstown and has seven antique appointed rooms. They serve homemade desserts, a full country breakfast and host nature walks. The most fun is the variety of farm animals, Kentucky Mountain horses, llamas and alpacas that roam the property.
We stayed at the more contemporary Huston House. What we loved about it is it’s centrally located and walking distance to Bardstown’s main street where plenty of restaurants, bars, taverns, and specialty boutiques abound. It is a 2-bedroom and 2-bathroom townhouse with a private courtyard, a full kitchen, washer, dryer and VIP concierge service. The home comfortably sleeps four and is super affordable.
There are several great dining options in and around Bardstown each with their own unique style and charm. Do not plan on dining out on Sunday..Kentucky is a Church-y kind of state and the one choice that eve is not optimal.
The first night we walked from Huston house to The Rickhouse Restaurant. We loved the convenience as it’s right across the street and the ambiance is a basement throwback to the 1920’s. It has some of the best food in town and a full bar including a deep selection of Bourbons. You can also try several bourbon flights – which is fun—and the reason to visit Bardstown anyway. Leave your low cal diet at the door. There are lots of delicious steak dishes, BBQ bourbon chicken and the Rickhouse Hot Brown, a concoction of roasted turkey and chicken, 11 cheese sauce, melted cheddar, fried pancetta and tomatoes on top of a croissant. An absolute calorie buster must!
For an elegant contemporary evening visit the brand new Bottle and Bond. With the kitchen helmed by Felix Mosso, formerly of Greenbrier, it is an unparalleled dining experience. The ambiance is high ceiling and high tech, light, bright, and white with a beautiful green peat moss wall and whiskey library. The menu is fine dining comfort food, great salads, all super fresh and locally sourced. The bourbon cocktails are delish.
Mammy’s Kitchen is THE best breakfast in town and maybe in the country! It’s a family owned and operated business. Whether you are there for breakfast, lunch or dinner, you will not be disappointed. Order a Cinnabon Pancake to share. The Hot Brown is delicious and the Bourbon Chicken unforgettable. The place is a delightful blend of both southern hospitality and comfort! Say “hey” to Mammy, she is adorbs and please tell her Kerri sent you!
There is plenty of North/South history in Bardstown with museums and a replica historical old town as well as the Steven Foster outdoor theater, but the real “must-do” is the Bourbon Trail. Let Tommy, owner of Coppertop Tours, set you up. He’s got super clean and well-appointed vans designed especially for small group private tours. Knowledgeable drivers will take you and your girls to visit three distilleries for tours and/or tastings, plus a southern style lunch. Use code “coppertop” for $10 off each ticket.
There are many distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail including Four Roses, Heaven Hill, Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Town Branch, Wild Turkey, Woodford Reserve, Evan William and Willett.
Each has its own unique history, but my favorite is the family owned and operated Willett. Run by KM Britt, granddaughter of the founder and her brother Drew, the master distiller, the property is a treat to visit. They hand sell and distribute their product, so you cannot find it everywhere. And it’s so popular, word goes out on the street when a new bottling is being released and people line up in the parking lot to be the first to purchase a bottle…then immediately turn around and resell it at double the price. If that is not an endorsement for this brand, I don’t know what is!
Britt recently opened a bar and pop-up weekend restaurant in the upstairs area of the visitor’s center. Make reservations because there is only room for 25 people. In November, she’s unveiling a brand-new bed and breakfast on the property. Can you say Girlfriend slumber party?!
Maker’s Mark is my other favorite tour. The distillery is in Loretto, KY, a short drive down a tree- laden road from Bardstown. Let Tommy from Coppertop take you. Ask for tour guide Kaily Durbin to take you and your gang on the $35.00 special 2-hour short tour. You’ll learn how to make three different Bourbon drinks. She taught me about the High Ball which makes your drink last longer. Maker’s Mark has an amazing Chihuly installation that is not to be missed.
Bardstown is a 7-hour drive from Atlanta, Birmingham, Charlotte, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Memphis, Nashville, and St. Louis. Or fly into Louisville International Airport and take a short 45-minute drive southeast.