Rosemary and I were invited out to the Bardstown Bourbon Company to have lunch at their new restaurant – Bottle & Bond Kitchen and Bar. The invitation included a tour of the distillery with Steve Nally and a chance to have lunch with Steve and the President & CEO David Mandell and John Hargrove. I always enjoy talking with Steve so I could not say no to such an invitation. We made the trip and were glad that we did. Bardstown dining has been lacking of options for decades. There was Kurtz Restaurant and Talbot Tavern as the only options for many years unless you wanted fast food. About the turn of the century other options came to town and the quality of food has improved. Bottle & Bond is one of those improvements.
The restaurant is located in the distillery. It has a well-stocked bar that includes brands other than those made at Bardstown Bourbon Company. They also have a menu of old labels that include Bourbons and Ryes. Kentucky recently changed the law to allow the sale of pours from bottles that are not in the current market. This allows people to taste the whiskey and other spirits their grandparents and great grandparents might have drank. The Bardstown Bourbon Company was quick to make use of this vintage spirits law and collected an inventory of old bottles for the bar. Rosemary and I did not partake of any of these old products when we sat at the bar waiting for our table, but instead had a Manhattan. The cocktail was excellent. Dan Calloway, The Director of Beverage Operations, came to Bardstown from Louisville’s Decca restaurant and has experience in the growing cocktail culture growing in the United States. During lunch we were treated to several of the cocktails offered on a regular basis and all were very good. Rosemary particularly liked a gin cocktail called the “Gin Blossom”.
When our table was ready we joined Steve, David, John and Dan for lunch. We did not so much as order off the menu as sample many options off the list of appetizers and our choice of main course. Once again the food was well prepared with a great presentation. We were pleased with the meal and the conversation with our hosts. We discussed the difficulties of creating a fine dining experience in Bardstown versus Louisville. David had to hire much of their experienced help from Louisville. He also has a program in place to hire immigrants new to the country, helping these aspiring new citizens to be and supplying the help he needs in the restaurant. A win-win situation.
After lunch we took a tour of the distillery and warehouses. Steve gave an excellent tour. The one thing that impressed me most was their business model of making whiskey for other companies. This is a difficult situation as there is more to it than simply giving the customers a barrel of the whiskey Bardstown Bourbon Company is making. They are making whiskey to the specifications of the customer which means multiple mash bills and more importantly multiple yeast strains. This means the system has to be kept clean, especially between customer batches to prevent cross contamination of the yeast in fermentation.
At the end of the tour I selected a cigar from their cigar menu and humidor on the bar and headed back to Louisville. I will give Bottled and Bond 2 points for overall selection and another 1 point for their old whiskey selection. I also give them a bonus point for the cigar menu. I will give them 1 point for the general presentation and atmosphere of the restaurant and 2 points for the knowledge of the staff. They offered whiskey flights so that is worth 1 more point and they had decent whiskey glasses for neat pours for 1 more point. They are also very reasonably priced on their drinks for another point. That gives them a total of 10 points in my book. I think we will definitely return to Bottle & Bond Kitchen and restaurant when we eat in Bardstown.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller and Maggie Kimberl