Feature

This week’s dream:

Kentucky’s bourbon and bluegrass trail

Strong brown whiskey and high lonesome music are two American originals, said Steven Kurutz in The New York Times. The deepest roots of both can be found on the back roads of Kentucky. On a recent road trip, a friend and I “fashioned our itinerary in the style of a bluegrass song”—some structure, and plenty of room for improvisation. Our route was the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, along which lie seven major distilleries. Last stop was Rosine, where Bill Monroe, “the father of bluegrass,” was born.

The rolling hills between Lexington and Louisville form a layer of limestone ready-made for filtering whiskey. We started from Woodford Reserve, the trail’s easternmost point. Here, in a 200-year-old limestone building, visitors can “see the entire bourbon-making process, from mash to bottle.” Federal regulations require that bourbon mash be at least 51 percent corn. Since distillery tastings amount to just one sip per visit, we were able to do some serious bourbon sampling only after we settled into the Beaumont Inn in Harrodsburg. Its Old Owl Tavern features a large selection of bourbons, many of them unavailable outside the state. Moving on the next morning, we listened to CDs by such legends as Flatt and Scruggs and the Stanley Brothers, and every valley seemed like the prettiest landscape I’d ever seen.

In Loretto, we stopped at Maker’s Mark, “a collection of trim buildings, each painted dark brown with red shutters,” and sampled a moonshine-like sip of day-old whiskey. That night, on the outskirts of Burgin, we hit the jackpot—a place called the Barn that features country music every Friday night. The vibe was old-timey, the music traditional. The next day we reached Rosine, just outside Bardstown. Monroe’s restored homestead is now the setting for an annual bluegrass festival, and the grounds were filled with RVs. We arrived on the third day, in time to listen to the Stone County Boys. Since Rosine is in a dry county, no alcohol was served. “But everyone there was drunk on music.”Contact: Kybourbon.com

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