Bourbon balls, fudge in every flavor, toffee, buttery pulled cream candy and all kinds of chocolatey goodness—if you have a sweet tooth, you won’t have far to go to satisfy it here in the Bluegrass State, with candymakers in every region.
In Mt. Sterling, straddling central and eastern Kentucky, not much has changed over the past century at Ruth Hunt Candies in Mt. Sterling, and the co-owners—Larry Kezele and Tobby Moore—say this is the secret to the company’s success, the reason that 2021 marks the company’s 100th year in business.
In 1921, Ruth Hunt was living in Mt. Sterling with her husband, who ran a creamery. She left their farm each morning in a Model A Ford with a tray of assorted candies on her lap to sell in town. After lunch, she returned to their home, refilled the tray and repeated the trip. By closing, the candies were all sold.
“The cream candies she sold are still one of our bestsellers,” says Kezele. “Back then, the cook made the cream candies with cream that came from their farm. The freshness of the cream made a huge difference.”
That approach continues today, using real cream and real butter, he says. “We make our candies from scratch in copper kettles. A lot of small candy companies buy caramel in blocks and use it for different purposes,” Kezele says. “We make our own.”
The favorites also remain the same—the cream candy and the Blue Monday candy bar, along with bourbon balls. During the holidays, the list expands to include bourbon caramel, bourbon butter crunch and mint julep bourbon balls.
Increasing demand for their confections prompted a move to larger quarters, which the owners say was a decision they fretted over considerably. But ultimately, it allowed for more production and received the stamp of approval from Ruth Hunt’s descendants.
Another sweet Ruth
In Frankfort, bourbon balls are still the top seller at Rebecca Ruth Candies. The two co-founders—substitute schoolteachers Ruth Hanly (later, Booe) and Rebecca Gooch—decided they were better suited for business than teaching. In 1919, they opened a business together making the chocolates they created at Christmas for gifts. Women weren’t allowed to vote yet, but the 20-somethings defied the views of the time, and their candies were an immediate success.
The candymakers at Rebecca Ruth Candies still have plenty to overcome. Weather—particularly rain, humidity and the outside temperature—affects the candymaking process, especially with chocolate, according to office manager Sarah Booe.
“We have to work with the chocolate,” she says, “but we are still able to make it no matter what the weather is. We have learned a lot of ways to work with chocolate.”
Ever wonder how a bourbon ball or other candy is made? Take a tour of the Rebecca Ruth kitchen and museum to find out; tours are Monday–Saturday, though candy-making is only Monday–Thursday.
More sweet spots
Although there is no official candy trail in Kentucky, delicious candies can be found across the state.
In Hodgenville, you’ll find The Sweet Shoppe & Dessert Cafe. Many Kentucky Living readers know this place well; the shop and cafe are frequent winners in the annual Best in Kentucky contest. They have a plethora of confections, including favorites such as fudge, peanut butter bars and chocolate chip cookies. Like many of the other shops, they also ship.
Andria’s Candies in Owensboro traces its history to Greek candy-makers who came the United States in 1906. Andria’s has continued the craft of confectionery in Owensboro since 1959. Specialties include bourbon balls, chocolates, malt balls and Mello Mints, plus seasonal favorites for Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter.
Bestsellers include a chocolate butter cream and an almond butter toffee with a hard crunchy center, says owner and chocolatier David Atkinson. “We cook it at a high temperature and stir in the almonds last. Then we cut it before it hardens.”
In Stanton, Brenda Crabtree has owned Crabtree’s Candies for 24 of the 42 years it has been open. She worked in the store when her relatives owned it and took over when they retired.
“We make everything here,” Crabtree says—peanut butter rolls, pulled cream candy, fudge, bourbon balls, 14-15 kinds of candy. “My grandfather makes cakes. Friday is mini pie day. There are different kinds of mini pies each week.”
Fudge Faced makes its homemade fudge out of its shop, The Gathering Bakery in Radcliff. Among their 51-plus fudges are lots of nontraditional, unexpected flavors, like lemon cheesecake, root beer float and red velvet Oreo.
What you can expect is that wherever you are in the state, you’re not far from sweet deliciousness.
The Kentucky Candy Trail
There are few places you can go in Kentucky without finding delicious confections. Here are some of the candy outlets in Kentucky. If you know of others, please click here and let us know and we will add it to our list. Note: many of these candy makers sell their sweet treats online in addition to their retail locations.
Specialties include bourbon balls, chocolates, coffee and espresso drinks, plus seasonal favorites for Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter.
217 Allen St.
Mon–Fri, 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m.; seasonal hours Sat
Specializes in modjeskas, the caramel-enrobed marshmallow treats.
1103 Dylan Drive
Mon–Fri, 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
More than 100 bins of sweet treats and candies of all types, plus Jelly Bellys, Dippin’ Dots.
3615 Nicholasville Road (Fayette Mall)
Mon–Sat, 10 a.m.–9 p.m.; Sun, noon–6 p.m.
Wide selection of gourmet chocolates, gluten-free, Kosher-certified.
739 S. Broadway St.
Mon–Sat 8:30 a.m.–6 p.m.
Specialty chocolate and coffee bar.
400 Old Vine St. #104
Daily, 11 a.m.–9 p.m.
Crabtree’s Candies, Stanton
Peanut butter rolls, pulled cream candy, fudge, bourbon balls, mini pies and cakes.
30 N. Main St.
Mon–Fri, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.; 10 a.m.–1 p.m. Sat
Fudge Faced, Radcliff (at The Gathering Bakery)
Homemade fudge in nontraditional flavors.
728 Knox Blvd.
Mon–Fri, 6:30 a.m.–3 p.m.; Sat, 8 a.m.–noon
Candies made by the Trappist monks, including fruitcakes and fudge.
Gummys of all kinds, including party packs, cereal straws, cartoon lollipops.
3380 Langley Dr, Hebron, KY 41048
Mon-Fri, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Family owned and operated company producing creamed pull candy.
104 S. Campbell St.
Mon–Fri, 9 a.m.–3 p.m.
Traditional candy shop filled with artisan goods, including bourbon balls and Louisville modjeskas.
630 E. Market St.
Tues–Fri, 8:30 a.m.–4 p.m.; Fri, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
Large selection of chocolate treats from sugar free to bourbon packed. Specialty options and stuffed animals.
450 Southland Drive; also in Palomar, Lansdowne, Hamburg
Mon–Fri, 9 a.m.–6 p.m.; Sat, 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m.; Sun, noon–5 p.m.
Bourbon confections, pulled cream candy, chocolates, toffees and caramels.
550 N. Maysville Road
Mon–Sat, 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m.; Sun, 1–5:30 p.m.
214 Walton Ave.
Mon–Sat, 9 a.m.–6 p.m.; Sun, 1–6 p.m.
Bourbon balls, assorted chocolates, pulled cream candy.
116 E. Second St. (store and museum)
Daily, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
Wide assortment of chocolates, fudges, caramels and much more. Specialty is opera creams in dark or milk chocolate.
420 Fairfield Ave.
Bellevue, KY 41073
Mon–Thurs, 10 a.m.–8 p.m.; Fri–Sat, 10 a.m.–9 p.m.; Sun, noon-8 p.m.
More than 100 varieties of candy, all from family recipes and all but the chocolate made from scratch.
2021 Regency Road
Mon–Sat, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Custom-made candies, truffles, chocolates, 160 bulk candy items.
1583 Bardstown Rd
Mon–Thurs, noon–7 p.m.; Fri–Sat, noon–8 p.m.; Sun, noon–6 p.m.
Riverwalk level on the promenade of Newport on the Levee
Salt water taffy, store-made buckeyes, gourmet apples, cotton candy, fudge.
Sun–Fri, 11a.m.–8 p.m.; Sat,10 a.m.–9 p.m.
The Sweet Shoppe & Dessert Cafe, Hodgenville
Specializes in hard to find items, bulk candy, gourmet chocolates, gummy candies, Jelly Bellys.
100 S. Lincoln Blvd.
Mon–Thurs, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.; Fri–Sat, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.
Homemade chocolates, ice cream, peanut butter buckeyes, truffles, caramels.
125 W. 11th St.
Daily, 11 a.m.–6 p.m.