Kentucky Bourbon Festival provides authentic bourbon experience

By KAITLIN RUST | WAVE 3 News

Dueling bourbon events take over WAVE Country this weekend as we celebrate Kentucky’s signature spirit.

In its 28th year, The Kentucky Bourbon Festival has been known to draw a crowd of up to 50,000 people in Bardstown each year.

This year, for the first time, the event falls on the same weekend as the Bourbon and Beyond Festival in Louisville.

Bourbon Festival
Bourbon and Beyond has been making headlines the last few years, but the annual Bourbon Festival is alive and well in Bardstown once again this summer. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

Will the crowds at the Expo Center steal some of Bardstown’s thunder? The proof is in the bourbon.

“We’ve been here 28 years,” executive director Mike Mangeot said. “We are the original, we are the authentic bourbon festival. That’s not a criticism of others, but if you want that real experience of a bourbon festival, it’s here in Bardstown, the bourbon capital of the world.”

The festival provides a unique and intimate look inside the industry.

“You have visitors from all over the world,” said Jimmy Russell, a master distiller for Wild Turkey. “In the bourbon biz, we’re all friends in Kentucky. The more we can get the word bourbon out, the more it means to everybody.”

From chatting up master distillers like Russell, to learning about the history of Kentucky’s most prized spirit, you’re guaranteed to leave with a love of bourbon.

“I really was not a big bourbon fan,” Charlotte Taylor said. “I’m starting to like it better.”

The event brings in people from six different countries and more than 40 different states.

Taylor came in from Louisiana with a caravan.

“This is a national caravan,” she said. “We have people as far away as Oregon here specifically for the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.”

Bourbon tourism, also known as bourbonism, is a huge boost. Over the five-day festival, around $5 million to $6 million is brought in to the small city of Bardstown.

But even for Louisvillians like Rick Redman, it’s all about the authentic experience you can even smell — the warm scent of grain and corn floating over the grounds.

“Where else can you go to enjoy that culture other than Bardstown, Kentucky?” Redman asked.

The festival says it will be looking at the possibility of some sort of partnership with Bourbon and Beyond in the future, but right now they’re just happy supporting the industry and getting the name out there.

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