Kentucky Bourbon Festival 2021 — (in Bardstown KY)

Bardstown, Kentucky, USA Start Date: 16/09/2021 End Date: 19/09/2021

Kentucky Bourbon Festival

When you hear the name Kentucky, the first things which come to mind are probably fried chicken or the Kentucky Derby. Well, maybe it’s time to change that and think bourbon instead.

The Kentucky Bourbon Festival, celebrates the fact that Kentucky knows a lot more about the fiery brew than anywhere else. But there’s more:

Kentucky Bourbon Festival 2021

Bardstown in Kentucky may only be a small place, but it sure knows how to hold a party. Apart from having plenty of bourbon on hand to taste during the six days of the festival, there’s a good session of boot stomping to country music and open-air concerts too. Is that it for the Kentucky Bourbon Festival? Not a chance.

  • The Kentucky Bourbon Festival 2021 is from September 16-19 | Thursday-Sunday

While the Kentucky Bourbon Festival may be a celebration of bourbon and the distilling industry, it isn’t just for adults, it’s also a real family event. There are night-time balloon glows, vintage car shows, an arts and crafts market plus lots of food which make it a celebration you really just can’t afford to miss.

* The program below is from recent years. The 2021 program is yet to be announced. 

But as the Kentucky Bourbon Festival is about bourbon, let’s start at the beginning:

Fermenting Fever

Fermentation is where it all starts and if you thought making bourbon was just a case of putting all the ingredients in a barrel and waiting for them to do their thing, then you should attend the exhibition given by Moonshine University. Yes, believe it or not, there really is a school which teaches the art of distillation and they take their bourbon very seriously.

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They go to great lengths to demonstrate on how each and every grain adds its own individual character to the whiskey during the distilling process. They’ll even show you how to cook up the grain to get a tastier end product. If you’re suddenly feeling a touch of fermentation fever coming on, the ticket price of thirty dollars could be very well spent and may even lead to a new hobby.

Filling Bourban Barrells

By Allagash Brewing


Barrel Relay Race

If you prefer your bourbon martini-style, shaken not stirred, well, you might just want to taste a drop from one of the barrels when they’ve finished using them in the relay race.

The bourbon is definitely shaken in the Kentucky Bourbon Festival Barrel Relay Race which is a show of pure skill and muscle. In individual and team events, bourbon warehouse workers manoeuvre bourbon barrels over tracks. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It’s not.

The barrels are full and weigh in at around five hundred pounds. That’s a hefty bulk to move with your bare hands and to make it even harder, it’s against the clock, the barrel bung has to be on the top when it stops rolling and the company logo must be facing in the right direction.

Tricky to say the least. Don’t be mistaken into thinking this is just a bit of competitive fun, it’s not. It’s actually a world championship event which is free to attend and has the crowds on their feet cheering the competitors on.


Whiskey City Cruisers Car Show

The people of Bardstown don’t just like their bourbon aged they love their old cars too. From Friday midday through to Sunday evening of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival, the Whiskey City Cruisers Car Club put on a vintage car show in front of Bardstown city hall.

Convertibles of yesteryear, with their chrome trim buffed till it glints, are parked alongside Cadillacs with gleaming paintwork. There’s only one word for the display they put on and that is classic.


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Craft Market

The vintage car show isn’t the only event of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival which lays siege to Bardstown city hall. A diverse market takes over the lawns from Friday afternoon through to Sunday evening so be prepared to trample over the grass to sample some of what the stalls are offering.

There’s everything from art and handicrafts from local Kentucky artisans to distillery presentations and plenty of food stalls with lots of bourbon influence.


Master Distillers Auction

Can you imagine bidding at auction for a bottle of bourbon which has been opened and half drunk? Seems a strange thing to do, but it happens at the Master Distillers Auction at the Kentucky Bourbon Festival.

Rare bottles of bourbon, bottles signed by master distillers and some which have been sitting around on someone’s cupboard shelf for more years than anyone’s counting, are put under the hammer. The money raised all goes to a good cause which is helping to keep the Oscar Getz Whiskey Museum’s doors open.


Balloon Glow

The excitement at the Kentucky Bourbon Festival doesn’t stop even when night falls. As the moon rises over the Nelson County Fairground, hot air balloonists get ready to attempt to out shine it. Bright blasts of flames from the burners inflate the huge, colourful balloons until they float above the ground.

Then the intermittent flares of the burners re-igniting illuminate the balloons from inside until they glow in the dark like enormous fireflies.

It’s a one and a half hour exhibition which starts at around seven thirty in the evening and the admission is free. Is the balloon glow the end of the evening entertainment? No, it’s just the beginning.

Boots and Bourbon

The Boots and Bourbon is a big, country-style hoedown held at the Guthrie Opportunity Centre. It’s ticket entry only for this major night out and they cost around seventy dollars. What do you get for your money?

Lots of foot tapping live music, plenty of food and of course, lashings of bourbon. When you’ve had enough of the dance floor, you just might want to test your skill on the mechanical bucking bronco. Yeehaa!

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Lawn Concerts

Do you prefer to just sit back, listen and not have to pay for your entertainment? If you do, then you need to be on the lawns of the city hall at around 5pm on Friday and Saturday of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival.

Local bands take to the stage and perform free of charge until midnight. There’s also a great Sunday afternoon session which starts at one o’clock and goes on for about four hours. That’s definitely worth spreading a blanket on the grass for.


Golf Tournament

After all the partying and consumption of bourbon, you might feel in need of fresh air and exercise. Why not get a team together and participate in the Kentucky Bourbon Festival Golf Tournament? It takes place at the Bardstown Country Club golf course on the Saturday morning of the festival.

You’ll need to be up early though as it starts at around 8am. The tournament is for teams of four, entry is one hundred and thirty five dollars each but that includes lunch and the all-important t-shirt.

No prizes for the tournament champions, just prestige. Though don’t worry if your swing is off on the day, a draw is held for door prizes so you could still end up being a winner.


So why Kentucky Bourbon Festival?

Whether you’re a bourbon connoisseur or not, the Kentucky Bourbon Festival is six fantastic days of both adult and family entertainment.

If you’re in Bardstown for the festivities, then keep an eye out for the ghost of outlaw Jesse James. Though if you do happen to see him, you’ll never really be sure if it was his ghost or a bourbon induced hallucination.

Where is the Kentucky Bourbon Festival?

Bardstown, KY. The exact location of the festival is on 114 North Fifth Street.

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