Bourbon, boxing and horses in Kentucky

Elvis sang about the blue moon and the rain in Kentucky, but what is Kentucky really like? Harmke visited the state located in the south of the United States. The capital is Louisville. Boxing legend Muhammad Ali came from there.

Heaven Hill Distillery

Kentucky is the state of bourbon, and it’s a type of whiskey, but in order to be called bourbon, it must meet specific requirements, as I learned at the Heaven Hill Distillery in Bardstown, a town south of Louisville. I am standing in a 7-story warehouse where thousands of barrels of bourbon are matured. The requirement is that the bourbon matures in unused white oak barrels. I taste: Amber bourbon straight from the barrel with notes of vanilla. Powerful stuff! Heaven Hill also has a restaurant with a shop and tasting rooms below. If you want, you can fill a bottle of bourbon and label it your own.

Harmke’s Heaven Hill Distillery

Old fashioned from Heaven Hill

James B Beam Distillery

Like Heaven Hill, James B. Beam is also a family business. This distillery near Louisville has been making bourbon since 1795 and wants to be sustainable. For example, Beam is committed to reusing barrels for other beverages. The eighth generation at the helm. Especially the restaurant interior The Kitchen Table is a revelation! This restaurant offers great seasonal food. It’s called that because the owner’s grandfather was always home at the kitchen table tasting bourbon. The food is fresh, local and sustainable. I eat, among other things, a delicious salad of sweet potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts.

Organic food at Beam’s The Kitchen Table

Kentucky Derby

A phenomenon from Louisville is the Kentucky Derby. This horse racing is the longest continuous sporting event in the world. No version has been skipped in nearly a century and a half! The first winner was Aristides on May 18, 1875. All of the winners were caricatured on the wall. Until 2018, when Al-Sanea passed away. You can tour the Kentucky Derby Stadium and Museum year-round. Among other things, a miniature stadium made of hand-blown glass can be seen with horses, riders and an audience. It is said that Lady Dee urged glass artist Craig Colquhoun to make it.

Entrance to Kentucky Derby Stadium

Every year in May is a horse race

Drawing the winners of the first Derby

Louisville

Blue Moon from Kentucky, sung by Elvis, was originally a hit song by Bill Monroe, inventor of Bluegrass music. I don’t see that blue moon, but the Omni, where I’m staying, is an excellent hotel in downtown Louisville (pronounced Lou-e-vul), the capital of Kentucky. Other attractive neighborhoods include Historic Old Louisville, with its Victorian homes, and New Louisville, also known as Nolo. In this upcoming neighborhood you’ll find restaurants like Garage Bar in an old workhouse and La Bodeguita in a former funeral home. Clayton & Crume is a lovely leather shop and they have the best coffee please and thank you. “No decaf” is their motto!

Main Street in Louisville

Coming Nolo District

La Bodeguita restaurant in Nolo

Ali Center

Muhammad Ali was from Louisville. Of course there is Muhammad Ali Street, but there is also the Ali Museum. The Ali Center honors this legendary boxer and his ideals. Ali chose the site for the museum himself, specifically on the Ohio River which separates the slave south and the free north. He gave up the “slave name” Cassius Clay and converted to Islam. The impressive museum displays, among other things, a film about Ali’s life. He was more than just a successful boxer and did a lot of good for the world. Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” was his inspiration: “If you could dream…”

hot brown

Louisville is not only Ali’s city, but Thomas Edison’s sense as well. Edison only spent a short time in Louisville, but years later he showed the light bulb at the Southern Expo in Louisville. Louisville is also the City of Hot Browns! This sandwich was invented at the Brown Hotel in 1926. Served in a pot, this is a hearty casserole of potatoes, bacon, and turkey. Another accomplishment of the Brown Hotel is that Ali stayed there more often. Other hotels rejected him because of the color of his skin, if not mr. Brown from Brown Hotel. He used to stay in Ward 415, now Ali Ward.

The Brown Hotel in downtown Louisville

Ali’s suite at the Brown Hotel

The famous hot brown sandwich

ghost stories

The rooftop terrace at the Brown is still in its original style and the view is amazing. There are ghost stories about the hotel. Private elevator for Mr. A. Brown would occasionally open up spontaneously. But nothing compares to ghost stories about another Louisville hotel, the 1905 Seelbach Hotel. It’s said to be haunted by the Lady in Blue. The story goes that this lady waited in vain for a man who died in a car accident. Hearing this, she fell down the elevator shaft. Seelbach also appears in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby”. He often stayed there, drank bourbon, and was associated with gangsters.

The Brown Hotel’s rooftop terrace

Bourbon, Scott Fitzgerald loved it too

state park

In the aforementioned Bardstown is My Old Kentucky Home State Park, a historic park featuring an early 19th-century villa decorated in the original style that can be visited. It is said that this place inspired the American composer Stephen Foster to write “My Old Kentucky Home”. It is also said that Uncle Tom’s Cabin was his inspiration. He cared for the victims of slavery.

By the way, this park has a lot to offer. You can learn how to make Kentucky Fried Biscuits. They look like scones, but you bake them according to a traditional Kentucky recipe.

My Old Kentucky Home State Garden

Bernheim Forest

Last but not least! Bernheim Arboretum & Research Forest, the official name for the Kentucky forest, is home to up to ten species of oak and has many biking and hiking trails. There are also about five giant effigies made of wood from shipwrecks around the visitor center. The ‘Forest Giants in Giant Forest’ convey the message that nature must be saved, says the park director. One of the park’s goals is to increase visitors’ awareness of nature. All of this dedication will make the Bernheim Forest one of the healthiest and pristine forests in the United States.

One of the giants in the Bernheim Forest

Jungle giant in a giant jungle

Hurt one of the giants

gotolouisville.com, kentuckytourism.com, and the Kentucky Tourist Board.

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