Part 1 of a 2-Part Series
Some call it a golden elixir. Others say it’s the devil’s
own brew. But whether you swear by it, or swear at it, there’s no denying that
bourbon is inexorably linked to the history, culture, and economics of the Commonwealth.
You can experience some of bourbon’s past and present
firsthand by following the Bourbon Trail from Georgetown to Clermont. Along the
way, you’ll visit historically important sites, and see how bourbon is made in
several distilleries that conduct public tours.
Start your tour in Georgetown’s Royal Springs Park.
Royal Springs, a single, large spring that pours water from a rock wall, is where
Georgetown began. It still provides the town’s drinking water.
One of Georgetown’s founders was a Baptist minister
and businessman named Elijah Craig. Craig is credited as the first person to distill
what is now called bourbon, and thus was the father of an industry that once numbered
more than 2,000 distilleries in Kentucky. Commemorating his contributions is a
chainsaw sculpture in the park of Reverend Craig. The sculpture, carved from a
tree that stood on the spot, is an oversized rendition of the minister, with a
Bible under his arm and a barrel of whiskey by his side.
From Georgetown take I-64 west to U.S. 127, follow
it south a couple of miles, then follow the signs to Labrot & Graham Distillery,
(859) 879-1812, the first of your distillery tours.
Arguably the prettiest distillery in Kentucky, Labrot
& Graham traces its roots to 1797, when Elijah Pepper began making small batches
of whiskey in Versailles. As his business grew he moved it to the Grassy Springs
branch of Glenn’s Creek, where it still sits today.
In the 1960s, Brown-Forman, who then owned it, closed the facility and moved all
its bourbon production to Louisville. Then, in 1994, looking to re-create an era,
Brown-Forman repurchased the property and restored it to its former glory.
Labrot & Graham is unique among Kentucky distilleries
in that it uses the pot still method, more usually associated with single-malt
Scotch whisky. On the guided tour of the distillery you actually visit the three
copper pot stills used to make small-batch whiskey.
Take some time to explore the small museum of bourbon
history and memorabilia found in the visitor’s center. Then return to U.S. 127
and take it north to Frankfort.
In addition to being the state capital, Frankfort is
a center of bourbon making. Four of the remaining 10 bourbon distilleries lie
in or near Frankfort. Within the town limits is Buffalo Trace Distillery, (502)
223-7641, on Wilkinson Blvd. (U.S. 421).
Buffalo Trace claims to be the oldest distillery in
Kentucky; there is evidence of distilling on this site as early as 1775, and by
1787 a working distillery was shipping whiskey downriver to New Orleans.
The first modern distillery was built here in 1857,
and was the first in the United States to use steam power. Since then, the company
has had a history of innovative techniques. For instance, it was the first to
have climate-controlled warehousing and the first to commercially market a single-barrel
Your tour of Buffalo Trace starts with a short video
presentation in a meeting room surrounded by bourbon-making memorabilia. Knowledgeable
guides, such as Floyd Gardner, not only explain the processes, but they pass on
tidbits of bourbon-making history and lore. You’ll learn, for instance, that the
smell within and just outside the warehouse is called “angel’s breath,”
or “angel’s share.” What you experience is the smell of bourbon that
evaporates through the oak barrels. That portion is said to belong to heaven,
and thus the nicknames.
Just outside of Frankfort, in Lawrenceburg, are two
other distilleries: Four Roses, (502) 839-3436, and Austin Nichols, (502) 839-4544.
Four Roses offers tours by appointment only, however. And Austin Nichols (Wild
Turkey) has tours just on weekdays. Historically, Bardstown was also a center
of bourbon making, and bourbon remains an integral part of the town. We’ll explore
that part of the Bourbon Trail next month.
Victorian Adsmore House
In 1857, John Higgins built a large brick
house in Princeton. A typical Victorian home, it was neither better nor worse
than many others. Then, in 1900, John Parker Smith bought the home on North Jefferson
One of the first things the Smith family did
was add a classical columned portico to the house. Then they put on Federal touches,
and made other architectural improvements. Pretty soon, people were talking about
how “they’re always adding more” to that old house. And so the name
Adsmore was coined.
Today Adsmore House stands as a fully restored legacy of the lifestyle of a prominent,
well-to-do western Kentucky family.
What makes Adsmore House special is that most
of the elegant furnishings, clothes, and personal treasures you see here are original
to the house. Most of them belonged to the Smith and Garrett families. This is
a rarity among house museums, most of which are furnished with items from the
time period, but few of which actually belonged to the owners.
Adsmore House is interpreted as a 1902-1907
Victorian dwelling. But there’s more involved than the opulence of the late-Victorian
period. Eight different themes are interpreted (the museum calls them “settings”),
commemorating events that took place in the house. For instance, on our last visit,
the house was set for Selina Smith’s wedding to Jr. John Osborne.
The Victorian Christmas setting will start
on November 5, and continue until the Victorian Wake starts on January 2. “I
especially like the wake setting,” another visitor tells us, “because
that’s the only time they serve real food.”
Tours are offered Tuesday through Saturday,
11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Sunday from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m., and closed on Mondays.
Without doubt the greatest conservation story
in Kentucky is the restoration of its deer herd.
Whitetail deer were one of the things that
brought longhunters and settlers to Kentucky in the first place. Deer hides were
worth a dollar each in colonial days, which is why we refer to a dollar bill as
Both market and unrestricted sport hunting
took its toll, however. By the 1950s, whitetail deer were on the brink of extinction
in Kentucky. But thanks to enlightened management policies and realistic hunting
regulations, deer populations are at an all-time high, and whitetail are now actually
pests in many parts of the state.
The seasons and limits reflect this recovery.
Anybody who wants to hunt deer has ample opportunity.
In Zones 1-3, for instance, during the November
modern firearms season, your statewide license entitles you to take one antlered
and one antlerless deer. Deer opens November 9 in all four zones, but you have
to watch the closing dates, which vary. In Zone 1, in addition to the statewide
license, you can purchase an unlimited number of bonus antlerless-only deer permits.
Bonus antlerless-only permits are not available to modern firearms hunters in
Zones 2-4. However, bowhunters are eligible for them in all zones.
The number of seasons has grown out of sight
as well. The archery season extends from September 21 through January 20. Then,
in addition to modern gun, there are youth-only firearms seasons, two muzzleloading
seasons, and a crossbow season. Plus there are numerous special quota hunts on
33 wildlife management areas and state parks throughout the Common-wealth.
Landowners were once very reluctant to grant
hunting permission. But deer are so plentiful now, and the damage they do so extensive,
that many farmers are more than happy to have hunters thin them out. Thus, if
you ask politely, you’re more likely than not to gain access to private lands.
Indeed, the landowner will probably even point out the best place to hunt on his