I’m not a whiskey or bourbon person. Even so, I didn’t hesitate to get excited when my in-laws invited my husband and me to go on a weekend trip to Bardstown, Kentucky. If you don’t know, Bardstown is home to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. There are several distilleries in and around Bardstown.
Even though I don’t like drinking whiskey or bourbon (or scotch or brandy, etc), I still enjoy learning about the process and seeing the distilleries. Usually the grounds and buildings are really pretty and sometimes they are just very interesting.
While there, we also went to a couple of local wineries. I think those wineries were very small because it didn’t seem like the wine was sold anywhere other than at the wineries themselves. This wasn’t like Michigan or Napa wineries, which made them very unique.
We stopped at Lux Row Distillers because we were passing by, but it turned out to be a good stop! My husband was pleasantly surprised to find that this distillery makes the Rebel Yell whiskey. They were serving Raspberry Kentucky Mules at this distillery, made with raspberry tea, ginger beer, and one of their whiskeys.
We did a tour of the distillery at Wild Turkey. It was really cool! I was fascinated by the rackhouses because they all looked so creepy with the black stuff all over the buildings and the bars on the windows. To be honest, they looked like what I would imagine concentration camp buildings looked like (not to offend anyone reading this).
The black stuff is a fungus or mold that feeds on ethanol. According to the New York Times, “In 2007, researchers published a scientific study about Baudoinia, a newly identified type of fungus. Naturally occurring, Baudoinia germinates on ethanol, the colorless alcohol that can evaporate during maturation, making the area around whiskey-aging warehouses a prime breeding ground.”
This fungus gets on everything around, even houses that are near the distilleries. At Wild Turkey, they told us that there’s a house where the family washes the outside of it all the time. When we were leaving the distillery, there was a guy out there washing his house! My father-in-law said he’d just paint his house black and be done with it. Not a bad idea! I think that’s what Maker’s Mark did, or maybe the black paint is just their branding… see next photo.
Maker’s Mark is a pretty distillery. They pay attention to the details and the cleanliness. You can even dip your own bottle in the red wax – or you can buy something else to dip, like a hat! I learned a lot on this tour. It was a little gross when they had everyone dip their fingers in the fermenter for a taste of the fermentation. I guess it gets hot enough that all the germs should disappear.
This was the first of the small wineries that we went to. It is a family-owned winery. They even sometimes host tastings inside their house, but now they’re moving the tastings out to a barn that’s still under construction. It was a nice change of pace to come to a winery like this one.
There were a couple other groups there, who seemed like regulars. One lady shared a few slices of her pawpaw cake with us, which we ate with the pawpaw jelly that the winery makes. The winery actually had several different flavors of jelly that we got to try.
This winery is definitely small, it doesn’t even have its own website! This winery used to only host tastings inside their home, but recently they built a structure where they store wine and host the tastings. This was a pretty unique winery – not because they only make fruit wine but because they had three levels of sweetness for that fruit wine. For example, you could try green apple wine that’s dry, semi-dry, or sweet. They even had wine made out of roses and another from dandelions. The rose wine was actually really good. (And I don’t mean rosé but rose like the flower.)
I’ll end my recap of this weekend with a funny story:
While sitting outside at McIntyre’s Winery, enjoying a wine slushy and talking to a local named Uncle Buck, an employee brought out a bottle of water and a glass for my mother-in-law. The water was in a clear wine bottle, but that’s not unusual at wineries. A few seconds later, my mother-in-law is gasping for air and fanning her face with her hands. She yelled “That is NOT water!!” It turned out to be moonshine… It was that employee’s first day at work and she didn’t know that it was moonshine. Really it was an honest mistake, considering the bottle wasn’t labeled and definitely should have been.