07/11/2017 Betsy 0Comment

Bardstown- Bourbon Capital of the World – where bourbon flows from everywhere but the water taps!   Bourbon is a US history story as evidenced from the beautiful old buildings in this historic town.  Bardstown is the second oldest city in Kentucky .


Anchoring My Old Kentucky Home State Park is a beautiful golf course and Federal Hill built in 1812.


Across the golf course is Heaven Hills Distillery



Steven Foster gets credit for lots of stuff he wasn’t actually  around!  Born in Pittsburgh, died in New York, our first American Composer wrote about America.


Way Down Upon the Suwannee River , Florida, you would have thought he had been there…. But not!


Now the Rowen family, who were cousins of Steven Foster (whom he visited once, maybe), built  Federal Hill in late 1700’s and is inspiration to Steven Foster’s “My Old Kentucky Home”.


During the summer the musical “Steven Foster Story” is performed here in the park telling the story of the first American great composer.


In the Visitors’ Center they were having a tea party for the children.  The little girls were dressed in antebellum attire.  Lady V would have loved it!

IMG_7686 hats IMG_7690 hats

Inspiration for Kentucky Derby hats!



The Old Talbott Tavern built in 1779 has a wonderful bourbon sampler! Five shots of your choice for only … $34.  I mentioned to Dave he could buy a bottle and it would last longer but he had his heart set on the sampler!   His choices were:  McKennas, Knob Creek, Larceny, Old Weller 90 and Old Fitz.  I left him to his sampler but did try the Old Fitz and it was very smooth.


To accompany his Sampler and my glass for Chard we had the Old Kentucky Brown which is ham and turkey on thick toast with cheese sauce, tomato and bacon strip baked.  Very good indeed.


The Old Talbott Tavern has been around since 1779 hosting Abe Lincoln, Daniel Boone, Louis & Clark, King Louis Phillipe and Jesse James!  It is said to have been the oldest western stagecoach stop in America as the westward expansion brought explorers into Kentucky.


The two interesting facts that stand out is that Louis Phillipe painted a mural on the walls on the second floor room and Jesse James shot two holes into the wall!  In the mid 1990’s a fire almost destroyed the tavern so there isn’t much of the mural left and not sure what hole was put there by Jesse James!


When I think of Kentucky, I don’t think of the “wild west” but back in the day it was definitely the frontier!



I feel sorry for people who don’t drink.  When they wake up in the morning, that is as good as they are going to feel all day.”  (Wild Turkey Billboard quote attributed to Frank Sinatra)

WHAT IS BOURBON??????   Bourbon is America’s only native spirit!

All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon.  With corn as its predominant ingredient, Bourbon tastes stronger and sweeter.



The recipe must include:

The majority of grains must be corn.  Also includes rye, wheat, malted barley but 51% corn

Must be distilled under 160 proof

Must be stored in new charred oak barrels

Nothing can be added to bourbon except water



A short answer …. if you wanted to open a distillery after prohibition, Kentucky had the most abandoned distilleries and they were all set and ready to go!

Ninety-seven percent of all bourbon is still produced in Kentucky …. and in order to be considered Kentucky Bourbon, it must be aged in Kentucky for a year and a day.


This is my favorite part of the bourbon story, it is an American story.  In the mid 1700’s, this area was the Kentucky Territory of Virginia and in 1792 Kentucky became a commonwealth state along with Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

In 1789, in order to pay France and others for their help in the Revolutionary War, an excise tax on domestically distilled spirits was passed affecting the farmers who had small family stills and did not operate year around.  This resulted in the Whiskey Rebellion as farmers moved as far west as they could to get away from Government scrutiny.  The “Corn Patch and Cabin Rights” was established in 1776 to encourage westward development.

Kentucky had just become a commonwealth in 1792 and settlers were given free parcels of land if they built a cabin and grew corn, the native crop.  Barley  and rye were not common crops but corn was plentiful.

Settlers from Scotland, Ireland & Europe had distilling skills.  They brought rye and barley with them and planted corn for their free land.  Corn became a main grain in whiskey softening up the taste and the corn based whiskey was very popular.   Some farmers used their entire corn crops to make corn whiskey finding  they made more money from the corn liquor than from the grain and it was cheaper to transport liquid than the grains

So the manufacture of Kentucky Bourbon is most definitely an American story.


Conditions in Kentucky are perfect for whiskey making.  The state is situated right in the center of the country with extreme cold in the winters and extreme heat in the summers.  This allows the whiskey to work in to and out of the barrels imparting the flavor and color.


Fresh springs, creeks and lakes carry the pure limestone-filtered water that filters out the iron.  Kentucky water also contains calcium which is why the horse industry thrives here.  Horses eating the grass and drinking the water obtain the calcium needed for strong ankles.  However, that doesn’t necessarily work on humans!  So environmentally, Kentucky was the ideal spot to distill and manufacture bourbon



The interaction between the charred barrels and the aging whiskey enhances the flavor and the longer the time in the barrel, the deeper the color and richer the flavor as the whiskey seeps into the barrel.

Barrels were shipped down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers with the sun beating down heating up the barrels.  The expansion of liquor seeping into the wood passing through the “red line” gave it the amber color and cooler nights forced the whiskey out of the wood passing through the “red line” adding flavor.  It could take up to six months to make the trip and the taste of the whiskey changed dramatically from the start to the finish.  The barrels rounded off the rough edges and softened up the white dog.

COOPERS’ UNION – Barrels only used once

To ensure the cooper’s union had forever work a law that bourbon had to be stored in brand new charred oak containers was passed.  After prohibition the identity was written on the barrel and enforced protecting the coopers’ union.

Today the used barrels are sold to distilleries in Scotland and Ireland where there is a HUGH market for these used bourbon barrels as well as micro breweries.


There are various opinions from six years as a minimum with some bourbons to twenty years or more.  The recipe, barrel and aging provide the flavors depending on the aging process, type of warehouse and location of the barrels inside the warehouse.  Barrel aging is responsible for 50% and 75% of the final flavor of bourbon.


PROOF   Originally bourbon was sent to the taverns in barrels and some barkeeps watered down the whiskey to make more money.  To ensure the customer was getting what he asked for a simple experiment would be run:  Taking gunpowder on the bar in a little pile and wet the powder with whiskey.  Alcohol burns just over 50% alcohol content so if you lit the match and put it to the gunpowder and it burned yellow and fizzled out the whiskey was watered down.  If it burned blue and flashed, it was proof of how good the whiskey was.

Bourbon Whiskey cannot be  distillate at more than 125 proof.  If it is distilled at a higher proof, more filtered water needs to be added diluting the taste and color.  Evaporation takes 4% a year … angels share.  Stored at the higher floors where it is hot and dry the proof will rise from 125 to 145 proof after evaporation.  If you put 160 proof whiskey in the barrel it could rise up to 180 proof and then you’d have to add water to get it down to 80-100 proof in the water so you’ve watered down what you worked so hard for.  Bourbon cannot enter the barrel at anything more than 125 proof.