This is the sixth in my series on Muhlenberg County, Kentucky. On August 18, 2021 I was invited by Misty Deason, the owner of Apple House Mercantile and a member of the Muhlenberg County Board of Tourism, to come out for a visit. She now carries my Less Beaten Paths books in her shop and wanted me to come out and sign them and then visit some of the major tourist attractions in this small, but unique, Kentucky county.
Among the many places visited was The Bard Distillery located in the small community of Graham, Kentucky. Though I don’t drink alcoholic beverages of any kind, I am still interested in the processes that distillers use. Obviously, Central Kentucky is home to the Bourbon Trail and the Bard Distillery is out on the western fringes of the trail.
The Bard Distillery is fairly new on the map, but there is some great history behind the name. I visited with Thomas Bard and his wife, former NASCAR (Busch series) driver, Kim who filled me in on some of the history. Yes, the Bard in this name is the same Bard that Bardstown was named after. Thomas is the fourth great grandson of William Bard, the founder of Bardstown, which is considered to be the heart of Bourbon Country in Kentucky. William was the son of Irish immigrants and first came to Kentucky to seek salt to shop back to his home in Pennsylvania. William is also noted for creating the first map of Louisville in 1779. Along with his brother David, they settled south of Louisville founding the town of Bardstown.
Jump forward to 2015. Thomas and Kim purchased the old high school facility located in Graham which had been abandoned in 2004 after the decline of the coal industry in the county. Comprised of thee buildings, it has a nice art-deco feel and is up on a hill overlooking the community of Graham. As a youth Thomas actually attended school there. After purchasing the property, Thomas and Kim began the difficult and costly task of renovating this large complex in order to develop a world-class craft distillery. Still in its youth as a distillery, a visit there really shows off the amazing work that Thomas and Kim have put in to get this rolling.
Misty and I arrived in the midst of a third wave of COVID and the Bards are very strict about their mask policy. My first sight of anything at the distillery was their comical signs requiring masks. Each side was different…but hilarious. This joviality and friendly nature continued on with our visit with the Bards.
While sitting in the spacious area that once was the gym of the high school, they told the story of their efforts to create this new distillery. The first signs were all of the working equipment that was sitting up on what used to be the stage. The spacious area will sometime become a dining area and also an event space for weddings and other activities.
Thomas and Kim are very professional and forward thinking, but also very personable. Turns out that they are also John Prine fans. They told the story of a John Prince concert they attended shortly before his passing. Since they were one of the sponsors of the event in the county (John Prine’s ancestry is also from the county and his famous song “Paradise” is all about the coal industry decline), they got to meet with John Prine after the show. Thomas asked him to sign his arm, which Prine did. Just after the show, Thomas and Kim booked it to the nearest tattoo shop and made the signatures permanent. They showed off their matching eternally autographed arms.
Obviously, it takes a few years to create product in a distillery. Bourbon needs to be aged in barrels and you need plenty of equipment to make large quantities. They have developed some unique spirits, but they are still in small quantities. These include their “Cinder & Smoke Straight Bourbon Whiskey” that ages for 13 years. They also have limited products with that “Mühl” name in them — Muhlenberg Silver Mühl Whiskey; Muhlenberg Apple Pie Mühl Whiskey; and their popular Muhlenberg Blackberry Mühl Whiskey.
And, they have prepared for tourist visits with numerous gift items and their lobby has a warm, welcoming atmosphere where visitors can view the various items along with the varieties of Bourbon.
The distillery is not on a major highway. To get there, take the Western Kentucky Parkway to the Graham Cypress Rd. / KY 2693 exit (exit 48) and then head north just a little over a mile on KY 175. The distillery is well-signed and is on the right side of the highway. Make sure to bring a mask!
Did you find this post interesting? I have visited many interesting places across the United States. You can find my Less Beaten Paths books on Amazon.com! Currently there are four in print (and in Kindle version too!!) You can see my books on my author page at https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B0784XVGSW
MY NEW BOOK “8154” is NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON (and also on the Muhlenberg County Apple House Mercantile Website)