Where to Stay on a First-Class Kentucky Bourbon Tour
September is National Bourbon Heritage Month and so it is only fitting for this week’s post to celebrate that great Kentucky whiskey:
Our whirlwind Bourbon Tour involved 3 other couples, a rented van, and a lot of details, but it was worth every second of the planning. We had great weather and in just four summer days drove through beautiful horse country, ate incredible meals, and tasted some mighty fine bourbon. Our travels took us from Buffalo Trace (home of Blanton’s and the famous Papy Van Winkle), to Woodford Reserve (official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby), Makers Mark, Heaven Hill and Jim Beam (where my favorites Basil Hayden and Knob Creek are distilled), and last, but not least to the Craft Distillery, Willetts.
21c Museum Hotel | Lexington, Kentucky
The 21c Museum Hotel is a great hotel with a contemporary vibe and a focus on historic preservation and art; what a winning combo. And yes, there is an art museum. This is one of several art museum/hotels in renovated sites by this innovative company. I loved the rooms in this repurposed historic bank building. I particularly enjoyed the fun the designers had with color and art. Bright colors were used as accents in the rooms and public spaces, and photography by one of the owners was beautifully featured in the room.
The room was comfortable, bed great, shower excellent. We had no trouble getting feather pillows. Our corner room was on a high floor and the views of the city were terrific. I arranged the trip for a group of friends and we enjoyed the bourbon package. Breakfast was excellent and our bourbon flight was a lot of fun, with a super bourbon steward. Valet was efficient and the staff was very friendly. The only hitch was check-in which was very slow and disorganized, a contrast to everything else about the hotel and our stay.
The Brown Hotel | Louisville, Kentucky
The Brown Hotel was a real step back into another era. We loved the hotel’s colorful history. We were traveling with a group of friends and enjoyed the Club Level service – it proved very convenient, and was more than adequate for breakfast and afternoon wine, beer, (no hard liquor) soft drinks and snacks.
Our Chef’s Table dinner in the kitchen of the English Grill was a wonderful and memorable occasion. Under the direction of English Grill Manager (and Sommelier/Bourbon Steward extraordinaire) Troy Ritchie and Chef Dustin Willett, we enjoyed a first-class event. I had worked with Troy in advance to put together the details and he was delightful, creative, and very easy to work with.
I had some rooms issues upon arrival, but all was resolved by the staff in the most wonderful and surprising way. We ended up with a wonderful upgrade to the fabulous Muhammad Ali Suite which made our stay extra special. Ali was from Louisville and stayed here; the apartment is beautifully decorated and filled with interesting Ali memorabilia. Keep in mind, because this is an older hotel, some rooms have better views and rooms can vary dramatically in size, even on the Club level. Take note, the 25-line seemed very nice and large.
While here, you must try a Hot Brown (turkey, bacon, and toast with Mornay sauce) – it is wonderful and also huge, so ask to share and they will split it for you in the kitchen. Save room for the Derby Pie which is another treat. Other notables included the wedge salad and the fried chicken in the Lobby Bar.
There are only 2 handicap accessible rooms at this hotel, but the staff will add a shower seat and safety bar in the tub shower upon request. The bathrooms could use an update with walk-in showers and higher vanities.