Kentucky distilleries are waking up to the possibilities of tying bourbon and culinary tourism into a tasty package.
More bourbon makers are adding restaurants to their offerings for the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit the state’s distilleries every year.
This week, the Bardstown Bourbon Company, a new distillery in Bardstown, is opening Bottle & Bond Kitchen and Bar, a full-service restaurant and bar that has serious culinary chops. The menu includes gourmet fare from executive chef Felix Mosso, formerly of the historic Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, and can be paired with more than 200 American whiskeys currated by author Fred Minnick.
The kitchen will serve comfort food, seasonal salads, farm-fresh meats and cheeses in an atmospheric location that showcases both the locally sourced food as well as craft cocktails, spirits, wine and local draft beers.
"Bottle & Bond Kitchen and Bar is an experience," said David Mandell, president and CEO of the Bardstown Bourbon Co. "We've created an inviting, fun and approachable environment where people can enjoy an exceptional meal, great cocktails and try a wide variety of brands from our unique whiskey collection."
The collection includes a vintage whiskey library with extremely rare spirits. Minnick's Signature Spirits Series includes American whiskeys dating back to the late 1800s as well as pre-Prohibition spirits.
The restaurant in the distillery's visitors center is open for lunch every day and for dinner Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Reservations can be made on OpenTable or call 502-252-6331. Private events also can be booked.
Meanwhile, Star Hill Provisions, the restaurant at Maker's Mark Distillery in Loretto, is again hosting a season of dinners by chef Newman Miller on Saturdays. The dinner series (make reservations if you're going because last year's series sold out) features a special seasonal three-course meal with bourbon pairings for $100 per person.
Star Hill also is serving lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday and will stay open until 7 p.m. on Friday. Besides the regular menu of Kentucky-centric cuisine, look for specials such as smoked fried chicken with potato puree, country greens and beans.
And on June 16, Star Hill also will host James Beard award-winning chef John Currence for an annual Maker's Mark TasteMaker dinner. The dinner celebrates the Oxford, Mississippi chef with cocktails and some of his favorite dishes such as bourbon-braised pork belly and more. Tickets are $125 per person.
Later, on July 14, the distillery will honor Louisville chef Edward Lee, founder of 610 Magnolia, Milkwood and Whiskey Dry. Tickets for that event are also $125 per person. Tickets for both events are available online at maker'smark.com.
In Versailles, the Woodford Reserve Distillery has a restaurant that will showcase Kentucky foods once a month in a summer dinner series. Woodford Reserve also hosts a special dinner buffet with live music every Friday in July, August and September.
The distillery also has a separate restaurant, Glenn's Creek Cafe, that serves sandwiches, salads, chili and more daily.
And if your idea of gourmet runs more to barbecue, the Jim Beam American Stillhouse in Clemont has Fred's Smokehouse, which barbecue and other sandwiches and fixings to go with.