- There are a lot of places in the US that bourbon lovers might like to visit.
- In many parts of Kentucky, you can tour bourbon distilleries and partake in drink tastings.
- Outside of Kentucky, several major US cities have specialised whiskey bars that offer vast selections of bourbon.
- There are several bourbon-themed festivals that happen throughout the country every year, like The Kentucky Bourbon Festival.
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There’s no spirit that’s quite like bourbon. Made primarily in the US and aged in special barrels, this type of whiskey is a popular ingredient in cocktails like an old fashioned or mint julep.
Those who love bourbon are in luck – a lot of places around the US host special festivals and run specialty bars in its honour.
Here’s a list of cities you may want to visit and events you might wish to attend if you’re a huge fan of bourbon.
If there’s one destination that belongs at the top of any bourbon lover’s list, it’s the Kentucky Bourbon Trail
Travellers can start anywhere along the famous route and embark on a self-guided tour throughout the Kentucky countryside to visit 16 major distilleries.
Some well-known stops along the way include Bulleit Frontier, Jim Beam, Woodford Reserve, Four Roses, and many more.
Each facility offers guests a tour through their picturesque grounds, a bit of a history lesson, and a tasting of their signature bourbon. Some places even give you an interactive experience in which you can bottle your own bourbon.
Thanks to the mix of newer bourbon brands and multi-generational, family-owned operations along the route, your journey will include plenty of unique experiences at each stop.
If you’re interested in exploring smaller brands, you can also follow the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour, which highlights 13 micro-distilleries in the region.
Louisville, Kentucky, is a must-visit place for bourbon lovers
In addition to being the home of the Frazier History Museum, the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail welcome center, Louisville has a lot of bourbon-themed fun to offer visitors.
Louisville is where you’ll find a city-dwellers’ alternative to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, aptly named the “Urban Bourbon Trail.” Visitors who follow this self-guided excursion can explore a variety of acclaimed restaurants, hotels, and bars throughout the city that offer special bourbon cocktails and foods that contain bourbon.
Stops on the journey include historic outposts like the renovated Old Seelbach Bar that once reportedly served drinks to literary-legend F. Scott Fitzgerald. Other spots include craft bourbon bars, saloons, and restaurants that serve creative dishes that incorporate the spirit, like Down One, which serves brisket tacos topped with a citrus-bourbon BBQ sauce or Bourbons Bistro, which serves a bourbon bread pudding.
If you visit this city during the autumn and are over the age of 21, you can participate in Louisville’s official Urban Bourbon half marathon. The 13.1-mile race takes runners through the heart of the city and culminates in an epic Urban Bourbon Bash that features food, live music, and of course, bourbon samples.
Louisville also hosts The Bourbon Classic, an upscale food and wine festival that invites some of the biggest names in the bourbon industry to speak on its panels every year. The event also features tastings of special bourbon varieties from distilleries like Buffalo Trace and Bulleit Frontier Whiskey.
And if that’s not enough, in the summer, Louisville offers a five-day “bourbon fantasy camp” called the Kentucky Bourbon Affair in which campers can go behind-the-scenes of distilleries and learn from world-class mixologists.
Finally, who can forget the famous Kentucky Derby? If you’re lucky enough to attend this famous horse-racing event, you’ll have the chance to sip on premium versions of the event’s official bourbon cocktail, the mint julep.
WhiskyFest is a nationwide event for bourbon lovers who can also appreciate other types of whiskey
Although the event doesn’t exclusively focus on bourbon, it’s an opportunity for connoisseurs to meet big names in the bourbon business. A general admission ticket grants you a tasting experience and entrance to seminars where you can learn a bit about this famous spirit from seasoned whiskey and bourbon experts.
WhiskyFest currently has events planned in a variety of major US areas including San Francisco, California; Chicago, Illinois; Washington DC; and New York.
Bardstown, Kentucky’s bourbon festival hosts a week of festivities for both amateur and seasoned bourbon connoisseurs
This festival has just about everything your bourbon-loving heart could desire from tastings to expert-led workshops. There are even highly competitive barrel relay-races.
You might be impressed by New York City’s variety of bourbon-centric cocktail bars
Given the city’s reputation as a trendsetter in the craft cocktail and premium spirits business, New York is definitely somewhere bourbon lovers should add to their list.
For starters, anyone who’s a fan of premium bourbon might want to make at least one visit to The Flatiron Room. Its jaw-dropping collection of premium whiskeys and bourbons includes rare selections like Jefferson’s Presidential 25 year, among hundreds of others.
The Flatiron Room also hosts several levels of spirits classes for anyone who wants to better understand how to taste and appreciate the complexities of whiskey.
In addition, both NYC’s Maysville and The Brandy Library boast huge collections of the spirit that will keep you coming back for more. Of course, these places are just a small sample of what the Big Apple has to offer for bourbon aficionados – the city has dozens of impressive whiskey bars.
San Francisco, California, can be a great place to order cocktails made with high-quality bourbon
California may seem like its a ways away from bourbon country, but it’s actually home to some of the most prestigious bourbon bars in the world.
For example, just steps away from the San Francisco Bay is Hard Water, a one-of-a-kind, modern whiskey bar that offers a massive collection of more than 200 bourbon varieties. In San Francisco, there’s also Bourbon & Branch, a brick-walled bar with a hidden, underground speakeasy that you’ll need to give a special password in order to enter. If you make it inside, you’ll have the opportunity to order rare bourbon varieties, like the hand-numbered Rittenhouse 21 Year.
But if you’re looking for something a little more open and lively, check out Rickhouse. This craft-cocktail hotspot is named after the storage space that whiskey barrels sit in as they age. Patrons who spend the evening here can gather around these special barrels and enjoy artfully crafted bourbon cocktails and whiskey from around the world.
In Chicago, Illinois, you’ll find a handful of bars that seem like they were made for bourbon drinkers
Sophisticated spots like The Berkshire Room will delight aficionados with their rare collection of vintage varieties of bourbon. The bar also offers specialty cocktails that are aged in whiskey barrels before they are served.
A visit to The Office will leave you feeling as if you stepped on the set of a noir film from the 1920s. To enter this exclusive speakeasy, you must be invited or reserve a spot in advance. While there, you can sip on many rare varieties of bourbon.
Another spot bourbon lovers are sure to enjoy is Delilah’s, a lively bar on the eastern section of Lincoln Park. The bar boasts an outstanding collection of more than 800 whiskeys, including decades-old bourbons like the A.H. Hirsch 20 year reserve, which can retail for $US135 per ounce.
New Orleans, Louisiana, attracts thousands of bourbon fans every year thanks to its bourbon festivals and whiskey bars
According to Bourbon House, it’s believed that the high demand for bourbon in New Orleans during the 19th century inspired the spirit’s ageing process that many distilleries use today. As a result, the city has a rich connection with the famous Kentucky spirit, making it quite a hotbed for bourbon-heavy bars and bourbon-centric events.
Once a year, you can even attend the New Orleans Bourbon Festival, which showcases well-known bourbon distilleries from around the country along with local, Louisiana cuisine. Throughout the weekend, festivalgoers can attend seminars about bourbon and cigar pairings, feast at exquisite dinners, and hear from key influencers in the bourbon industry.
During any other weekend, bourbon lovers are still sure to find a spot they will love in New Orleans. You may also want to check out Barrel Proof, a charming bar and kitchen with a notable collection of more than 300 whiskeys.
Or head to the previously mentioned Bourbon House, which is conveniently located on Bourbon Street. In addition to offering an extensive selection of bourbons to pair with their Cajun dishes, the eatery is currently home to the New Orleans Bourbon Society, a special club for that regularly meets for bourbon tastings. It’s free to become a member and, by doing so, you can score invitations to special seminars and events.
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