It’s a new year, and that means exciting new things are happening all throughout the Bluegrass State! Find out what’s new in 2022 and plan your next adventure to Kentucky to enjoy new bourbon experiences, restaurants, hotels and so much more.
Kentucky’s bourbon industry is booming right now, with nearly 10.5 million bourbon barrels now aging in the state, and distilleries are expanding production and enhancing visitor experiences. Heaven Hill Distillery in Bardstown has an expanded visitor center with a new two-story wing, a new restaurant – Five Brothers Bar & Kitchen – and three new themed tasting rooms. There’s also a new hands-on experience called “You Do Bourbon” where guests will get to select, fill and label their own bourbon to take home with them.
One of the state’s newest distilleries is Log Still Distillery, located about 20 minutes south of Bardstown. It has a state-of-the-art tasting room, The Homestead Bed & Breakfast and The Poplar Cottage lodging and an outdoor amphitheater. Coming in 2022 in the second phase of the Dant Crossing experience will be a restaurant and bar called 47 & Poplar (2022), event venue, train depot, fishing lake and walking trails. The Kentucky Bourbon Festival® will be hosting their inaugural Bourbon Capital BBQ Challenge & Distillery Invitational June 10-11, 2022 at Dant Crossing. The ticketed barbecue event will feature multiple competition formats and family-friendly fun for all ages.
James B. Beam Distilling Co. in Clermont has undergone significant renovations to upgrade visitors’ experiences including: The American Outpost, a new visitor and retail center with new white and black farmhouse decor; The Kitchen Table, a 5,000 square foot restaurant and gathering space championing local farmers; and “Beam Made Bourbon,” an immersive consumer tour showing how bourbon is made the “Beam Way”. There’s also the Fred B. Noe Craft Distillery, a new functional production facility offering special distillation process sessions with Freddie Noe, 8th generation Beam Distilling, plus hands-on activities in the blending lab, a tasting bar and state-of-the-art classroom.
There’s also a multi-million-dollar project in the works in Pulaski County – Horse Soldier Bourbon. The project will include high-end hospitality and overnight accommodations, a chapel, outdoor event spaces, unique dining options and other activity and entertainment spaces. This American bourbon distillery is unique, as it was founded by members of the first U.S. Army Special Forces unit to enter Afghanistan following the infamous 9/11 attacks who later became known as “The Horse Soldiers.” Horse Soldier Bourbon is expected to be completed in summer 2024.
Churchill Downs in Louisville, the home of the Kentucky Derby, has plans to majorly transform areas of the famous racetrack over the next three years. The Homestretch Club is to be completed by the Kentucky Derby, set for May 7, 2022, with renovations to outdoor bleacher seating next to the Winner’s Circle Suites creating three unique seating options with all-inclusive amenities. The Turn 1 Experience will add permanent all-inclusive stadium seating with a picturesque view of the first turn framed by the Twin Spires and is set to be completed by Kentucky Derby 2023. Finally, the Paddock Area redesign, still in early stages, will transform the existing Paddock and Plaza areas and is to be completed by the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby in 2024.
There’s also two new statues in the Paddock area under the iconic Twin Spires honoring two men who loved horses, racing and the Kentucky Derby – the late John Asher and Colonel Matt Winn. While the two Churchill employees never met, local artist Raymond Graf depicted Asher and Winn sitting and talking on a horseshoe-shaped bench. Nearby in the Kentucky Derby Museum, there’s a new “Welcome to Derbyville” exhibit, featuring the wild stories and unique culture of the Kentucky Derby. The exhibit is located on the second floor in the museum’s Matt Winn Theatre. The exhibit focuses on how on Derby Day, Churchill Downs transforms into a city within a city, creating a remarkable cultural experience for its temporary residents.
Mark the calendar for November 4-5, 2022 when the Breeders’ Cup World Championships is set to return to the Keeneland Race Course in Lexington. In honour of the prestigious international horse racing event and LexArts’s 50th anniversary, the organization is bringing back Horse Mania, with beautifully decorated horse sculptures rolling out in Lexington by spring 2022 and lasting until the championships.
The world’s longest cave system, Mammoth Cave National Park, has added 8 miles to its length, bringing the total length of the south-central Kentucky cave system to 420 miles. The additional mileage was mapped and documented by the Cave Research Foundation. The park has also been officially designated as an International Dark-Sky Park, recognizing the exceptional quality of night skies in the park and opportunities for astronomy-based interpretive programming in the park. This is the first Kentucky site to receive this certification. The park is open daily for tours.
Louisville’s Waterfront Botanical Gardens plans to add a touch of Zen with the creation of an authentic Japanese garden just north of the current Graeser Family Education Center. The 2-acre garden will include a Tea House, summer house, Zen Garden, bonsai garden, pond, waterfall and traditional arched bridge. Construction is expected to begin in 2022 and will take 15-18 months.
Restaurants, Hotels & More
A new stop along northern Kentucky’s bourbon experience, The B-Line, Smoke Justis in downtown Covington offers delicious menu items such as smoked wings, a BBQ box with smoked pork and house-made BBQ sauce on top of hand-cut fries, a smoked hot brown with smoked turkey breast, brisket, ribs and more. Yum! As mentioned earlier, James B. Beam Distilling Co. opened a new restaurant, The Kitchen Table, offering scrumptious Southern favorites, including Kentucky burgoo, pulled pork sliders, smoked chicken, fried catfish and new twists such as venison poppers, pulled pork empanadas and lamb ribs, plus pizzas such as smoked pork and Hot Brown. In Bardstown, Heaven Hill Distillery also unveiled the new Five Brothers Bar & Kitchen.
Nearby, Maker’s Mark founding family transformed a historical home into an exclusive overnight experience – The Samuels House. Experience an intimate piece of Kentucky bourbon history like an insider at the 1820s manor which opened to guests in fall 2021. There are three suites (sleeping up to eight people total), multiple bathrooms and a variety of sitting areas, including a spacious back porch and patio.
In Lexington, be sure to check out Greyline Station, a long vacant bus terminal that has been transformed into a year-round public marketplace featuring a farmer’s market, local restaurants, retail shops, office space and an entertainment venue. Stay overnight in the new boutique Elwood Hotel & Suites, with a beautiful exterior floral mural viewable from South Broadway Street. The hotel features a southern lifestyle design with 62 rooms of various sizes, plus a restaurant, Fiddletree Kitchen & Bar.
In Louisville, plan a stay at new boutique The Grady Hotel, located in a renovated 19th-century history building in the Market District that originally housed a medicinal bourbon apothecary. Wild Swann, the hotel’s cocktail bar set up like a speakeasy, offers hand-crafted beverages and small plates. The name pays tribute to previous residents of the building, Swann-Abram Hat Co., an original designer of Kentucky Derby hats, and J.B. Wilder, the owner of the apothecary and bourbon distillery in the building’s basement.
For visitors flying into the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky (CVG) airport, there’s some exciting news…the airport has a new rental car and transportation center. It elevates the travel experience, with a new rental car pick-up and return area that customers can walk to without needing a shuttle bus. There’s also a new ground transportation area for parking, valet and hotel shuttles.
For information on even more new and upcoming items in Kentucky, click here.