– Come find Bourbon!
While this term lacks the gravity of “The British are coming” or “Remember the Underworld,” it is powerful enough to lure armies of tourists to Kentucky.
Last year, more than 1 million visitors blazed on Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail, which is 130 miles from north to south. Taking advantage of this, three enterprising tourism directors teamed up to connect their cities based on the twin pleasures of bourbon and food.
The idea of Julie Kirkpatrick, president and CEO of Northern Kentucky Tourism, was embraced by tourism officials in Frankfurt and Bardstown with the idea of the trifecta. The result is a campaign that encourages everyone to “Come, find Bourbon.”
“I knew I wanted to achieve what we were doing here in Covington with the B-line (the northern terminus of the Bourbon Trail) and I want to connect with Bardstown, the world’s Bourbon capital,” Kirkpatrick said. “It was a bonus to join us in Frankfort, the home of the rich 200-year-old Buffalo Trace.”
I became one of the pioneers of Come Find Bourbon on a recent three-day trip that began in Covington and ends in Bardstown. I spent a day and a half eating and drinking through every city, but stay calm as long as you want. You will not regret it.
It starts in Covington
Covington offered three unique bourbon tasting experiences.
In the beautifully furnished tasting room of the New Riff Distillery, I experienced their barrel-proof tasting with brick walls, floor-to-ceiling windows and ornate chandeliers. There are five products on the tasting, one of which is bourbon not made from glass but made directly from barrels. In the Bourbon terminology, this is tantamount to eliminating the intermediary, in this case the glass. This is a practice that is appreciated by bourbon fans.
The $ 25 barrel tasting, which includes a tour of the warehouse and bottling, is only offered several times a month, so pre-booking is essential.
In stark contrast to the elegance of the New Riff, the Quirky (and yes, this big Q was intentional) Second Sight Distillery. A large Egyptian eye gestures toward the distillery, which at first glance may be confused with a replica, but in reality it is real.
The stainless steel cookware was purchased from Craigslist; the crystal ball condenser came from a dismantled street lamp and the double boiler came from a company that made timepieces.
This may seem like an unusual way to run a distillery, but the partners, Carus Wagoner and Rick Couch, are all but non-traditional. The men, both of Kentucky descent, worked with Cirque de Soleil in Las Vegas before returning home and opening Second Sight.
At the bar, where you can taste the fruits of their labor (rum, moonlight and the first legal bourbon in Kent County since the ban), entertainment continues in the form of seances and burlesque shows.
We can safely say that there is no other distillery in Kentucky like Second Sight.
Tasting opportunities in Covington don’t stop at the distilleries. Be sure to jump into Revival Vintage Spirits, where you can sample bourbons older than any of the owners, 39-year-old Brad Bonds and 23-year-old Anthony Bley.
Specializing in 1980s and earlier vintages, you can walk in and try bourbons off the three shelves – the $ 5-10 shelf; the $ 15-25 shelf and the platinum shelf for $ 35.
Bourbon and food are a natural pairing, and the Northern Kentucky area is becoming a mecca for good restaurants. The two best are Libby’s Southern Comfort and Bouquet.
In the former, which was once a grocery store, southern food reigns like your grandmother.
I don’t remember my grandmother making devil eggs with pork and chives, or a Goetta hush puppy served with remulade sauce and citrus honey cream, but I’m glad Libby made it to someone’s grandmother, and both are appetizers.
As an appetizer, sample the skin of the boneless chicken legs fried in Chef Shawn’s pan with caramelized almonds and a sawmill sauce, served with andouille hash.
In Bouquet, on the German-influenced Mainstrasse, the mission is to embrace local and sustainable farming, and this is also on the menu, such as pork and seafood scones, sweet pepper flavor, plum jam and chili oil, and Maple Leaf Farms. duck with smoked carrots, wheat berries, carrot and celery root.
Head to Frankfort
On the second day, I arrived in time for the Kentucky capital, Frankfort, to have lunch at the Goodwood Brewing Restaurant, a pleasant spot overlooking the Kentucky River (be sure to ask for a table on the riverside balcony in warm weather).
This is the place to have burgers and decoctions, but there are other tempting menu items as well. Appetizers include roasted green tomatoes with panko breadcrumbs, goat cheese and roasted scallion aioli, as well as brisk tot-chos with cheese cheese queso, peppers, onions and vinegar jalapeno.
Next to the hamburger, you can choose Drunken Chicken with bourbon bacon jam, beer cheese, chopped iceberg lettuce and homemade pickles.
When very hungry, appetizers range from chicken and waffles to bourbon-glazed salmon with asparagus and smoked dirty rice.
A hearty lunch picks up an afternoon tasting at Buffalo Trace, the state’s oldest and state-of-the-art, continuously operating distillery (1858).
If you’re lucky, you’ll get Freddie Johnson as a tour guide and taster. Freddie, the third generation of his family who works at Buffalo Trace, is considered a local treasure for his charm and impeccable knowledge of bourbon.
It doesn’t hurt if your philosophy is, “You only bring out the good things to the people you love to be with.”
I’m sure on Freddie’s A-list because I had a three-distilled Wheatley vodka on my tasting; Bourbon samples from an 8-year-old Buffalo Trace barrel and a 10-year-old Eagle Rare barrel (“same recipe but affects where they are in stock,” says Freddie), EH Taylor Small Batch bourbon colonel, Bourbon Cream and the end of Freddie’s a combination of root beer, real cane sugar, birch oil and Malagasy vanilla.
You know you have to be a star if you get one of their products named after you.
After an afternoon at the Buffalo Trace, I wanted to relax before embarking on my next culinary adventure. The Serafini Frankfort’s most famous fine dining facility combines warm hospitality, ambience (the Greek Rebirth-style Old State Capitol Building was built in 1830 with a view from the front window) and stellar Italian cuisine.
For starters, sample the grilled brie with fig fig and go over to the Steakhouse Wedge salad before choosing from the eight pastas (I’m next to the lasagne).
If there’s room for an appetizer, I recommend the salmon with shaved Brussels and sweet potato risotto, coriander and chili plum with sesame sauce.
Serafini also has an extensive bourbon list.
Before I left Frankfort for the last leg of my trip, I stopped at B’s Bakery for a fluffy croissant and talked to Beth Carter, the naming B, who returned to her hometown after cooking for Taylor Swift and Ree Drummond, the pioneer of TV. The Food Network has described its bakery as one of the 10 best places in the United States for “the cutest food.”
Last station: Bardstown
The last station was the unofficial capital of Bourbon in the world. Along with Jim Beam, Makers Mark, Heaven Hill, and a bunch of other distilleries, it’s almost impossible not to find bourbon in this town.
I took a little sip here, but had never been to the Preservation Distillery before the visit, and that was my loss. This family-owned distillery is described on its website as “the first and only 100% pot-distilled producer in County Nelson.”
I would add that this is a beautifully placed hidden gem that you can easily overlook if you are not vigilant. It would be a shame because then you would miss an informative tasting with the main distillery Matthew Jackson.
Since the Preservation has only been open for four years, none of their spirits have been released, but Jackson says rye will be released with bourbon this year in a few years.
I’ve been able to taste more rye, and if half of the bourbons are so good, the Preservation may stand out among the big boys of Bourbon.
You won’t be hungry in Bardstown either. Go to Fresh for breakfast and take my word for it: Blueberry scones are the best you can find in the Commonwealth.
The Willett Distillery Bar is an excellent lunch stop. Their egg-sandwich is like never before and the Croque Monsieur gets a rave too.
The dinner menu at Rickhouse (named after the building for the aging of bourbon) includes dishes such as BBQ Bourbon Chicken, Bourbon Blueberry Salmon, Top of the Rick Hot Brown and a selection of steaks accompanied by sites such as green beans, comb potatoes . and bourbon mushrooms.
Choose from the newly opened Kitchen Table at the Jim Beam Distillery. Both the bar and restaurant focus on products grown in Kentucky, which means there will be plenty of country ham, catfish and pork on the menu, as well as cocktails featuring Beam’s best bourbons.
If you’re a fan of America’s only native spirit, come and find Bourbon. In these three cities, it will not be difficult.
(For more information on planning your trip, visit www.comefindbourbon.com.)