Bourbon Industry

Where can you sample Kentucky’s best bourbons with fans from around the world?

While bourbon, Kentucky’s signature spirit, has been created and consumed in celebration for more than two centuries, the state’s festival that celebrates bourbon has only existed for a fraction of that time.

That being said, over the past 27 years, the Kentucky Bourbon Festival in Bardstown, which started as a bourbon tasting and dinner in 1992, has grown to become much more than a party for the Bluegrass State.

“The festival started out as the International Bourbon Festival and that is more true today than ever,” said Mike Mangeot, interim executive director of the festival. “We have sold tickets this year to people from 40 states and seven to eight countries and I think the fact that so much of this wonderful product comes from a small, iconic town is attractive to our customers.”

This year, the Kentucky Bourbon Festival will take place from Sept. 18 through Sept. 22.

The festival will allow spectators to get well acquainted with the offerings of the state’s best distilleries, whether through signature events like Flights of Bourbon at Nelson County Airport; Bourbon, Cigars & Jazz at My Old Kentucky Home State Park; or The Great Kentucky Bourbon & Cocktail Party at the Guthrie Opportunity Center.

There will also be multiple events where attendees can learn about bourbon’s history, bourbon cocktail mixology or even take classes that focus on aspects of the bourbon’s making process.

Murray photo
Actor Bill Murray was in Bardstown in 2016 for the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. From left to right: Jared Hyman, Justin Thompson, Willett’s Drew Kulsveen, chef Newman Miller, Justin Sloan, chef Sean Brock, Seth Thompson and Bill Murray. Photo provided

The festival is also adding a new event that promises “An Evening at the Jim Beam Family Home,” allowing festival-goers the chance to interact with master distillers Fred Noe, Freddie Noe and the rest of the Jim Beam Family on Friday, Sept. 20.

Mangeot assures guests they also have offerings for people who aren’t seasoned bourbon drinkers.

“This year, we have an Education Stage on The Great Lawn that will allow people who know nothing about bourbon the opportunity to learn about it from master distillers and others in the industry,” he said.

Bourbon specialist Christine Voll poured glasses of Willett bourbon for sampling at Willett Distillery during the 2013 Kentucky Bourbon Festival. Charles Bertram Herald-Leader

In addition to plenty of opportunities to sample and learn, the Kentucky Bourbon Festival has the World Champion Bourbon Barrel Relays, an event for any age group. That also goes for the 2019 Music on the Lawn Lineup, which will feature headliner and Bardstown native Kaleb Cecil, among others.

The Kentucky Bourbon Festival is a celebration of not just bourbon, but of the distillers who make and the community of Bardstown that has come to support it in what has become known as the Bourbon Capital of the World. It’s more than enough of a reason for a favorite bourbon cocktail.

In Mangeot’s case, that’s “ussually on the rocks, or just a little drop of water,” he said.

Visitors took a tour of the Willett Distillery in Bardstown during the 2013 Kentucky Bourbon Festival. This year’s festival continues through Sunday. Tours of area distilleries are popular during the festival. Charles Bertram

The Kentucky Bourbon Festival

When: Sept. 18 through Sept. 22

Where: Bardstown, Kentucky

Tickets: For a complete list of events, to purchase tickets and more information, call 502-275-8384 or go to

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