Saturday, July 16, 2011

Kentucky History and Bourbon

On Wednesday we went to the Civil War Museum's Old Bardstown Village.  This was one of the hottest days of the year in Bardstown and boy did we suffer. The Village has the real log cabins where the early residents lived only they have been transferred to this location. These are some of the areas we found interesting in this 1790 frontier community.


We then cooled off in the Wildlife & Natural History Museum, a very well done display, but also too warm to enjoy.


Another museum that is a part of this 2 block, 5 museum complex, that we visited was the Women of the Civil War.  This is only one of two museums in the US that feature the role of women in the Civil War. There are others that focus on the medical roles of women, but this also displays the lady spies, women who enlisted as men, and the role of the wives of generals and other high ranking soldiers in the Civil War.  This was fascinating and was also much cooler.

We are in Bardstown, Nelson County.  It is the second oldest town in Kentucky and the Bourbon capitol of the world!  At one time there were 130 distilleries in this county.  Now there are 5 major distilleries making Bourbon, Heaven Hill, Jim Beam, Barton, Makers’ Mark, and Four Roses. There are many other smaller distilleries, but all these are on the Bourbon Tour and offer tours and sampling of their product.  Being avid historians we could not pass up learning about this manufacturing process; it was amazing.   These are some of the facts about Bourbon: it has to remain in a new charred white oak barrel for a minimum of 2 years, it has to contain 51% corn, and it has to be made in the United States.  We learned about single barrel;  that is Bourbon that comes from a single barrel and the number of that barrel is on the bottle. The larger the number the higher in the rack house is is stored and supposedly better tasting.  These are pictures of the rack houses at Heaven Hill, inside the rack house at Jim Beam, and a cross section of the rack house at Heaven Hill.


Another interesting fact is the information of black fungus on everything around the rack houses, the trees, the traffic signs and of course the rack houses themselves.  It is harmless but the result of the distilling process and one of the ways bootleggers were discovered by the Feds during and after prohibition.

We also toured Federal Hill, a plantation owned by Judge John Rowan, and visited by Stephen Foster.  Foster wrote, My Old Kentucky Home, remembering his time visiting his cousin, Judge Rowan.  We went to the musical play, My Old Kentucky Home, that ‘sort of’ tells the story of Stephen Foster.  Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair was written about Foster’s girlfriend, then wife. 


When we visited the Rowan family home we were surprised at the vivid colors and patterns of rugs and wallpapers.  This was quite popular 200 years ago and we have seen this in many of the historic homes we have visited.  Even so it is always a surprise.


We usually take the city trolley when we first come to a new town, but this one only leaves from Heaven Hill and we were not able to catch it until yesterday.  We did learn more about Bardstown and made a couple of important decisions based on what we learned on our tour. First, we decided not to take the dinner train. At $75 each we thought it was a bit pricey. We also learned about Spalding Hall that was once a monastery, a prep school, a Civil War hospital, and now houses the Bardstown Historical Museum and the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History and went there today. 


We finished our day by getting a couple of downtown geocaches, sipping root beer floats at the old fashioned soda fountain at Hurst drug store,


and having dinner at Mammy’s Home Cooking restaurant. 

This is longer that I had intended, but so much to tell about our time in Bardstown.  One last note, we got our South Dakota plates. We should be easy to I.D. for geocachers now.


We will be Caching On The Road in style. Tom, Barbara & Pansy

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