If you listen to football broadcasters you know how much they love the phrase “most underrated” as in, “I believe he is one of the most underrated defensive ends in the NFL.”
I will steal the cliche and say I believe Kentucky may be one of the most underrated states in the country, at least from a tourism standpoint. There’s so much here that it’s difficult to answer the question, “What’s your specialty?”
Is it Churchill Downs in Louisville, along with signature Derby foods like the Hot Brown? Is it Mammoth Cave, with its guided tours of miles and miles of limestone caves? Or is it the Bourbon Trail, drawing unprecedented numbers of tourists due to Americans recent fascination with this uniquely American tipple?
They all qualify, but if we had to limit ourselves to a single “don’t miss” nod, it would have to be to historic Bardstown and its bourbon distilleries.
Three years ago, when interest in bourbon escalated, the savvy folks at Kentucky distilleries started offering tours. Each tour is radically different, so it’s best to visit at least two or three. Our favorite was the true behind- the- scenes tour at the family-owned Willett Distillery. We got up close and personal with each part of the distillation process, including the huge open vats filled with mash. It bubbled wildly from the addition of yeast,and threw off heat like it was boiling.
But when we stuck our fingers in the vat (at the guide’s invitation, I swear!) the liquid tasted cool and sweet. Then we tasted the mash from a vat where the yeast had stopped bubbling and looked like sludge, and it was sour – hence the name sour mash.
Willett doesn’t a second distillation of the bourbon in their signature “pot still.” (see photo) One of their bottles is
shaped like the still.
After the tour, we enjoyed a tasting. Well, Mark enjoyed the tasting. I coughed and choked and sputtered until the guide suggested I add a few drops of water (literally…the water came with an eyedropper). Much smoother.