LGBTQ+ Guide To The Bourbon Trail®
Kentucky is called bourbon country for a reason: we produce 95% of the world’s bourbon! Bourbon is made in a special way with Kentucky’s limestone-filtered water, the charring of oak barrels, and a specific grain mixture and distilling process.
Bourbon is liquid gold in these parts, and there’s no shortage of inclusive, LGBTQ+ friendly breweries to tour and taste world-class bourbon. Here are some of our favorites to check out on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail®.
Heaven Hill Distillery — Established in 1935, Heaven Hill is the largest independent, family owned and operated distillery in America, producing esteemed bourbons such as Larceny, Elijah Craig, and Evan Williams. Located in Bardstown, you can tour their distillery, learn the history in their small museum area, and taste their bourbons in their massive, round tasting room. Heaven Hill is also extremely LGBTQ+ friendly as well, with queer people throughout their entire staff from the people giving you the tours through upper management, such as Jeff Crowe, the director of Kentucky Experiences, and a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
Lux Row Distillery — Although Luxco has been in the bourbon business for over forty years, Kentucky’s newest distillery in Bardstown opened its doors in 2018 where they produce brands such as Rebel Bourbon, Ezra Brooks, David Nicholson, Daviess County and Blood Oath. Located down a long, tree-lined driveway, you can tour the state-of-the-art facility and get a taste of their unique bourbons in this fabulous addition to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail®.
James B. Beam Distilling Company — Located in Clermont, Kentucky, Jim Beam has been making Kentucky whiskey since 1795 and produced some of the most famous brands like Jim Beam, Knob Creek, Basil Hayden’s, and Booker’s. The sweeping grounds of Jim Beam offers not one, but seven different tour options, so you can really delve deep into the bourbon making process. They even have the Kitchen Table Restaurant on site where you can pair locally sourced food and your favorite bourbons.
Preservation Distillery — Preservation Distillery in Bardstown is home to slow bourbon distilling, where they pot-distill in small 1–3-barrel batches. This is the place to find small-batch, intimately crafted bourbons, like their Wattie Boone & Sons, Very Olde St. Nick, and Cowboy Little Barrel brands. Preservation Distillery sits on 40 beautiful acres of farmland, raising crops and livestock with the goal of sustainability. With such a small operation, you can get some personal attention and learn all about the pot distilling process.
Barton 1792 Distillery — Barton 1792 sits on scenic rolling hills right outside the city of Bardstown, and produces 1792 Small Batch Bourbon, Very Old Barton, and Kentucky Gentlemen, among other brands. Barton is committed to fairness in the workplace, so you know you’ll feel welcome as you tour their facilities.
Explore the Kentucky Wine Trail: Kentucky has over 70 wineries, here are four of our favorite and most inclusive.
Springhill Winery - Springhill Winery is nestled in the rolling hills outside of Bloomfield, Kentucky, where they produce Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon, Chambourin, and Chardonnay on their one-acre vineyard. You can taste some locally-themed wine like the Kentucky Roots, a special blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, or the Cumberland Red, a Chambourcin wine with a deep velvet color at this welcoming vineyard.
Equus Run Vineyards - Located in scenic Midway, Kentucky, Equus Run Vineyard is surrounded by rolling horse farms, historic stone fences, and plenty of gorgeous gardens to explore over 38 acres. Try a wine tasting of their White Rieslings, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignons, or some sweet wine like the Hootie Berry made with local blackberries, or the Sweet Rooster Red with local strawberries.
Wildside Winery - This modest winery in Versailles, Kentucky offers big taste, in fact, they’ve won a double gold medal for their Cabernet Franc and the Commissioners Cup award for 2018 best red wine in Kentucky (for the second time). One Sunday each month they also welcome folks for “Sangria Sunday”, where you can enjoy live music and a glass of Sangria inspired by their travels in Spain.
McIntyre’s Winery & Berries - If you have a sweet tooth, head down to Bardstown for some homemade berry wine. Unlike traditional grape wines, you can try wines made with blueberry, blackberry, elderflower, cherry, raspberries, strawberries, and Corn Cob, as well as their popular wine slushie mix. This family-owned business will happily share what makes berry wine so special.
Go Art and Antiquing:
Bardstown For the Arts Gallery - Bardstown for the Arts lifts local artists by displaying and selling their works, which are housed in the historic 1914 post office building on court square. Here you will find works by craftsmen, painters, sculptors, photographers, and potters, many of whose works are influenced by their Kentucky home. This is an excellent way to meet and support the local artists which make Kentucky so diverse and wonderful.
Shaq & Coco - Located in Bardstown, this elevated boutique shop features funky furniture, unique gifts, stylish clothing, and plenty of fabulous art. The friendly staff will vibe with your style and help you find that certain something, whether it be a fantastic art print for your walls or a colorful couch to add a daring pop of color to your home. No need to go to a major metropolitan city when you can find such modern and chic style in Bardstown, Kentucky!
Nettie Jarvis Antiques - Why not add something new to your home by finding something old? Nettie Jarvis Antiques is the perfect place to pick up something dramatic like a canopied bed set, or something as simple as a China teapot. The saying “everything old is new again” couldn’t be truer when shopping for fine antiques, so let your heart be your guide.
The Rusty Rooster - The Rusty Rooster in Bardstown provides antiquing with a Kentucky flair. Here you can find rustic furniture and decor perfect for your country cottage, with plenty of Americana and mid-century modern items thrown in as well. With treasures at reasonable prices and friendly service, The Rusty Rooster is a must visit.
See a musical:
The Stephen Foster Story - The Stephen Foster Story is the “official outdoor musical of Kentucky,” and has been entertaining audiences since 1959! Set in the mid-19th century, the show follows the life of first superstar composer Stephen Foster and includes over 50 of his hits, including “Oh! Susanna”, “Camptown Races”, and Kentucky’s own state song, “My Old Kentucky Home”. All this paired with gorgeous gowns and consummate country musicians make this night out one you’ll remember. The production takes place at My Old Kentucky Home State Park.
Where To Stay:
Bourbon Manor Bed & Breakfast — Run by couple Todd Allen and Tyler Horton, this bed & breakfast is the perfect place for a romantic getaway and to springboard your exploration of bourbon country. What was once the home of a Colonel and later a plantation, the bed & breakfast is beautifully kept with a spiral staircase in the ruby red foyer, spacious bedrooms, and a gorgeous yellow dining room where they serve an award-winning, full country “gourmet” breakfast. And with a spa on property, you may never want to leave!
Maple Hill Manor - Located in Springfield, Kentucky, Maple Hill Manor has luxurious and aesthetically gorgeous rooms surrounded by horse farms, a moon garden, and their very own alpaca and llama farm. Enjoy an award-winning, Full Country “Gourmet” Breakfast in the morning before strolling the beautifully manicured grounds or checking out local distilleries.
Springhill Plantation Bed & Breakfast - If you want to stay and enjoy wine in a relaxing and beautiful environment, Springhill Plantation combines the best of both worlds. Nestled in the rolling hills outside of Bloomfield, Kentucky, this B&B and winery produces Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon, Chambourcin, and Chardonnay on their one-acre vineyard.
21c Museum Lexington or Louisville - 21c Museum Hotel is a great place to stay if you want to base yourself in a city where you can enjoy excellent dining and want to be close to a 24-hour museum. With the Urban Bourbon Trail® in Louisville, and plenty of distilleries right outside of Lexington, both these cities are great starting points for touring the state and checking out the local LGBTQ+ scenes.
Written by Richie Goff