Experience Bourbon Like Never Before

In the foothills surrounding Louisville, Kentucky, a post-modern mansion was recently overtaken by Bardstown Bourbon Company. Dubbed the “House of Bardstown,” the interactive two-night pop-up event tantalized the senses — this seamless blend of whiskey, ingenuity, and fellowship in the heart of bourbon country.

“‘House of Bardstown’ is a way to bring the company and all that magic to consumers on the road,” says Dan Callaway, vice president of product development for Bardstown.

Formed in 2016, Bardstown Bourbon Company is known as the “most technically advanced distillery.” Across its 400-acre distilling property in the town of its namesake, more than 50 mashbills targeting over 500 points of production are created, concocted and cultivated at the rural Kentucky facility.

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With the “House of Bardstown,” the rollicking showcase became an opportunity to spotlight a distillery continually pushing the boundaries of whiskey by offering up a lavish bourbon feast of curiosity, mystery and discovery in a fun, imaginative environment.

“It’s these different rooms where a guest can come in and get a hands-on experience of what we’re creating,” Callaway says.

Each “House of Bardstown” room featured a unique theme and tasting experience. There was the living room turned dimly lit dance floor, an old fashioned in-hand as guests twirled and whirled to the undulating beats radiating from the DJ booth.

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Soon, the sounds of keyboards, standup bass and percussion echoed from down the long hallway. Pulling back a large, unassuming curtain, a jazz trio was in the midst of a whirlwind jam, the cozy room reminiscent of a Chicago back-alley joint.

Known as the Goose Island Lounge, the space was an ode to the Collaborative Series between Bardstown and the storied Windy City brewery. Sliding into a seat to soak in the sights and sounds, guests were treated to special whiskey selections from the series.

“There’s a creative freedom here to kind of go out and take risks,” Callaway says. “It’s innovation, but also the willingness to try something new. Every day I’m motivated by our team.”

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For the Collaborative Series, Bardstown partners with other premier names from other beverage industries to cross-pollinate, ultimately letting the spirits age gracefully in repurposed barrels to create one-of-a-kind releases.

“It’s really about pushing boundaries on what whiskey can be,” Callaway says. “Whether that’s the grain, temperature, length of fermentation or finishing.”

On the back patio tiki bar, the sounds of a steel drum group conjured the festive, carefree vibe of the island of Barbados. The soothing melodies were coupled with fun-in-the-sun whiskey cocktails inspired by Bardstown’s collaboration with Foursquare Rum.

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Those sensory experiences were no more apparent than in the downstairs laboratory. Featuring pairing stations with a selection of fruits, guests were fitted in lab coats and handed Bardstown’s Origin Series — a 100 percent grain-to-glass estate-distilled whiskey — to sip and savor how the flavors complemented each other.

And, in what proved to be the hit of the evening, one of the Origin Series stations introduced the seemingly-unlikely pairing of Pop Rocks. Guests tapped the crackling candy into their mouths and splashed a shot of bourbon over it, creating a surprising combination of taste and feel.

Just beyond the laboratory was the blending counter, with the main attraction being Bardstown’s Discovery #11. Part of an ongoing series of whiskies focusing on the art of blending, the one-off releases are pulled from an array of Bardstown-produced bourbons and ryes.

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Guests mixed the aged bourbons and ryes to their preferred style and strength. Behind the counter, Callaway served numerous selections from the Discovery Series past, present and future. Sharing insights into the blends, Callaway spoke to the vital role each plays into Bardstown’s cutting-edge distillation techniques and blending practices.

“If you look at our three core brand values — innovation, collaboration, transparency — this has not been done in the bourbon space,” Callaway says. Callaway and his Bardstown team aim to shed preconceived notions of what a distillery is and could be, in favor of a more personal touch — this intersection of originality, education and clarity.

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“It’s an industry of myths, legends and made-up colonels — smoke and mirrors,” Callaway says. “The modern consumer wants to know what’s in their glass, and that’s what we’ve been built on since day one. It’s important to have an open, honest display of what we’re creating.”

Future “House of Bardstown” pop-ups are scheduled for Nashville and Dallas. The company is planning more “you had to be there” moments from coast-to-coast.