Adventures in Bourbonland, Part 2

Photo by Chris Queen

Welcome back to the travelogue of my trip last week to Kentucky, the center of the bourbon universe. In the first part, I shared a little about our trip from Georgia to Kentucky and my impressions of Frankfort, the state capital, but I promised better stories. So here they are.


Friday was our first day of distillery visits. After a surprisingly good hotel breakfast, my brother Matt and I had to make a mad dash to Dunkin for coffee because housekeeping visited our room earlier than expected. 

We had some time to kill before our first scheduled stop, so we made our way somewhat leisurely to the first destination. The Kentucky countryside is so breathtaking — and you go from town to open farmland quickly — that driving slower than usual becomes a joy.

Related: Adventures in Bourbonland, Part 1

Bluegrass Distillers at Elkwood Farm

The last leg of our drive to Elkwood Farm was deceptive. We had to turn into what looked like a municipal facility (which was actually next to the farm's driveway). The driveway to the farm was long and winding, and it had begun to rain as we pulled into the visitor parking lot. As we walked up to the farmhouse, the cold, misty raindrops stung.

Matt and his wife had been to Bluegrass Distillers in their downtown Lexington location, which is in a less-than-savory part of town. He told me that visiting their second location at Elkwood Farm was refreshing. We were early, so we had time to wander about the first floor of the antebellum farmhouse. 

The whole facility fits the archetype of a rural Southern farm. Bluegrass Distillers has lovingly renovated the house, and the company is putting up more modern barns for production and barrel storage. Logan, the employee who hosted our tasting, told us that the company has to deal with the bureaucracy of working with such a historic property.


There was something special about drinking in a nearly 200-year-old farmhouse. Bluegrass Distilling's famed blue corn whiskey wasn't available, but I bought a bottle of my favorite bourbon from the tasting.

Buffalo Trace Distillery

After Bluegrass Distilling and the beautiful Elkwood Farm, we headed over to Buffalo Trace. Talk about a completely different setting. Buffalo Trace's suburban industrial setting was impressive and striking even as it contrasted with the peaceful Elkwood Farm.

We weren't able to schedule a tour since all of the tour spots had been booked, so we were at Buffalo Trace just for the gift shop. What shocked me as we pulled into the crowded parking lot was that we would have to wait in a Disney World-style line just to get into the gift shop!

Once we got past the gates and out of the line, it was a short walk to the gift shop, which allowed us to see some of the facility without going into the buildings. The gift shop was massive and well-stocked, but I wasn't interested in buying anything I could get in Georgia.

An employee was giving out samples of the bourbon Buffalo Trace made in collaboration with country star Chris Stapleton, so I bought a bottle for my sister and brother-in-law. I also picked up a cocktail recipe book and a watermelon mixer and headed for the line. 

The checkout line wound throughout the shop — again, it felt like Disney World. One employee stood at the end of the line with a sign indicating it. It was a fun visit to the shop, but I was glad to be out of the line when I was done. Matt and I had gotten separated, so I had to wait outside in the increasingly cold weather for him to check out. (I continually questioned my choice to wear a golf shirt and shorts even with a windbreaker.)


Whiskey Thief Distillery Co.

Once we left Buffalo Trace, we stopped for a quick lunch at White Castle and popped into another small distillery with a storefront for a tasting. Their bourbons were decent but overpriced, so we went back to the hotel for a few minutes before heading to another farm for a tour and tasting.

Whiskey Thief is located on Three Boys farm, named for the proprietors' triplet sons. It was another unique facility with tours and tastings taking place inside an open barn. The wind whipped through the barn, making me even colder.

The design of Whiskey Thief's tour and tasting barn is meant for visitors to stay a while. The farm dogs wandered throughout, inviting guests to pet and play with them. An outdoor kitchen and bar offered small plates and cocktails, including frozen bourbon concoctions, and there were plenty of picnic tables for people to hang out.

The other cool thing about Whiskey Thief is that the tastings came straight from the barrels. Their bourbons and ryes were high-proof, so much so that one of them gave me the hiccups.

Recommended: The Masters: Where the Food — and the Food Prices — Are Out of This World

Anyone who purchased whiskey from the distillery also filled his or her bottle straight from the barrel as well. It's a cool concept, but their products were awfully expensive. While we didn't buy anything other than a cocktail, I don't regret visiting Whiskey Thief.


Bourbon on Main

After Whiskey Thief, we went back to the room to get off our feet for a little while before deciding to venture back to downtown Frankfort for dinner. The downtown area was almost as dead Friday night as it was Thursday, but this time we were able to get a table at the one busy spot, Bourbon on Main.

We sat outside because by then the rain had stopped and it was a little more pleasant. Our table had a nice view of the Kentucky River as it flowed through downtown Frankfort. The meal was good, and the music was fun. We were glad to have been able to eat there, but it wouldn't have been worth Thursday night's hour-long wait.

House of Commons: A Bourbon Library

On Thursday night, Matt and I had walked by a bar called House of Commons, which marketed itself as a "bourbon library," so we decided to check it out Friday night. It was another remarkable historic building with an exquisite setting. Shelves of bourbon behind the bar reached the ceiling, and bartenders would scale those moveable library ladders to get the ones off the higher shelves.

House of Commons had an impressive list of bespoke cocktails, along with the usual suspects, but what I was most interested in was a bourbon flight. Our bartender (who reminded me of someone I know) told us that we could do a bourbon flight for anywhere between $20 and $250. I opted for a $20 flight, while Matt just had a single pour. The bartender asked me about my preferences and built the flight around them.


I noticed that he recommended Johnny Drum, the third bottle from the left in the photo above, to everybody, and it was my favorite of the four. As I was on the last taste of my flight, a man sat at the bar just to the left of me. He was British and chose an $80 bourbon flight, after which he engaged Matt and me in conversation for three hours, including buying us a round of Old Fashioned cocktails. All in all, it was a terrific night at a truly unique bar.

I have more stories and unique experiences for you tomorrow, but before you go, I want to take a minute to let you know how much I appreciate your support as a PJ Media reader. Your loyalty allows me to write deeper dives and longer pieces like this.

We’re not beholden to billionaire donors, so we have to fight the uphill battle of competing for advertising dollars. That’s why our PJ Media VIPs are so crucial in helping us survive and thrive.
VIPs get access to exclusive content, the comments section, podcasts, and an ad-free experience. If you’ve considered becoming a VIP, there’s never been a better time. You can sign up today with the code SAVEAMERICA for an impressive 50% discount.

The discount allows you to become a VIP for about $2 a month, or you can go for the gold with VIP Gold — which gives you all the VIP goodies across the whole Townhall family of sites — for about $4 a month.


It’s a great opportunity to get amazing benefits and help us in our mission to report the truth.


Trending on PJ Media Videos

Join the conversation as a VIP Member