Plan your year in American whiskey tourism with this handy list of events, seminars, distillery openings, festivals and bars.

Vintage Old Grand-Dad 114 at the Oxmoor Farm Bourbon Salon 2018

Vintage Old Grand-Dad 114 at the Oxmoor Farm Bourbon Salon 2018

All photos by Maggie Kimberl.

If 2019 is anything like the previous year in Bourbon Country, it’s shaping up to be great! In 2018 alone I visited 12 distilleries outside of Kentucky, including Treaty Oak outside of Austin, Texas and J.Carver and Dampfwerk in Minneapolis. I made the pilgrimage to New York, where I finally visited The Flatiron Room, Fine & Rare, and The Brandy Library, among many others. I checked out Northern Kentucky’s B-Line, the new Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center at The Frazier Museum in Louisville, I was on stage for the Bourbon Writers’ Panel at the Bourbon Classic, and I checked out ALEX&DER, the beautiful rooftop bar at Copper & Kings. I finally made it to the black tie gala at The Kentucky Bourbon Festival and I rocked out at Bourbon & Beyond. Believe it or not, I still haven’t even scratched the surface for all the things there are to do in the whiskey world. Here’s my bucket list for 2019:

Festivals & Events

  • Bourbon & Beyond is pretty high on my list again this year. Even in the rain the 2018 festival was fabulous—some were calling it “Bourbon Woodstock”. Can’t wait to see the 2019 lineup of musical guests and bourbon panelists!

  • The Bourbon Salon At Oxmoor Farm was pretty great in 2018, and it’s going to just keep getting better. Topics this year include cooking with bourbon, women distillers, great bourbon bars, and more. Included with the cost of a ticket is a bourbon tasting that includes a dusty selection from the estate’s cellar.

  • The Bourbon Classic is one of my favorite events every year. It’s an opportunity to meet bourbon legends all in one place, and I absolutely love the cocktail and small plates competition as well as the Bourbon University breakout sessions.

  • The New Orleans Bourbon Festival never disappoints. The seminars are run by some of the best experts in the industry, including yours truly discussing the topic of cigar and whiskey pairing!

  • The Kentucky Derby Museum Legends Series never disappoints, and it keeps growing year after year. Past guest have included everyone from Julian Van Winkle to Michael Veach, and the 2019 lineup includes the Michter’s team, Kentucky Owl Founder Dixon Dedman, and more.

  • The Kentucky Bourbon Affair specializes in unique distillery events. Last year I attended a Derby party at Woodford Reserve as part of the event, and past events I have attended include throwing axes at Jeptha Creed and shooting skeet at Wild Turkey.

  • The Kentucky Bourbon Festival is one of the oldest celebrations of bourbon around, and I always love attending the barrel rolling competition and the Master Distiller’s Auction.

  • Whisky Live! USA is under new management, and locations for 2019 include New York, Washington DC, and Chicago.

Angel’s Envy at the Bourbon Legends Series 2018

Angel’s Envy at the Bourbon Legends Series 2018

Distilleries

  • Michter’s is finally opening up its Fort Nelson Visitor’s Center. Several years ago Michter’s was the first to announce a distillery and visitor center in Downtown Louisville, but because of the difficulty in rehabbing an historic building there were numerous delays. Now it is finally happening and I can’t wait to see what is in store!

  • The J.W. Rutledge Distillery is set to break ground in 2019 with legendary Master Distiller Jim Rutledge at the helm. They’ve already released the revived brand Cream of Kentucky to the market and there are plans to contract distill elsewhere until the distillery comes on line.

  • Distilleries outside of Kentucky are near the top of my list this year. There’s a lot of exciting stuff happening at places like Balcones (consistent winners in the NY International Spirits Competition), Breckenridge, Bainbridge, and many others that don’t start with the letter “B”.

Bars

  • Fine & Rare is the newest addition to Flatiron Room Proprietor Tommy Tardie’s portfolio, and while I was in there briefly before it officially opened, this is on my short list to return to on my next trip to New York.

Cat Platz repping Old Forester at the Bourbon Classic 2018

Cat Platz repping Old Forester at the Bourbon Classic 2018

  • Seven Grand keeps adding new locations and I still haven’t been to any of them. It’s time to get back out to the West Coast and do some serious exploration!

  • Cannon in Seattle is high on my list and has been for quite some time, although I’m not sure I’m prepared to choose from the over 4000 labels on the menu.

  • Elixir in San Francisco has been on my list ever since I crossed paths with Proprietor H. Joseph Ehrmann at Castle & Key last summer.

  • Jack Rose in DC is one of my favorite bars anywhere, and if you haven’t been yet you owe yourself the trip.

  • Louisville’s Urban Bourbon Trail is full of bourbon bars and restaurants that will not disappoint, and now there’s even enough bourbon stuff in Louisville that you can spend an entire weekend here and barely scratch the surface! Get your UBT passport and get six stamps and you’ll get a free t-shirt to commemorate your journey.

If you haven’t been to Kentucky yet, 2019 is the year to plan a trip. Even if you can’t make it to the undisputed home of America’s Native Spirit, chances are there’s a distillery, class, club, festival, or epic whiskey bar near you. It’s time to get out there and meet some fellow whiskeyphiles and deepen your relationship with the amber nectar of the gods.

Is there a distillery, bar, or event you think I should know about? Leave me a comment below!