BLUE­GRASS AND BOUR­BON

Get on track for the best of Ken­tucky

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - DESTINATION UNITED STATES - AN­DREA BLACK ARKENCOUNTER.COM THE WRITER TRAV­ELLED WITH TRAVEL SOUTH USA

Think Ken­tucky is only about horse rac­ing? With end­less rolling pas­tures full of thor­ough­breds and year­lings, it might seem so, but there’s much more to do and see in the blue­grass state.

While Louisville (pro­nounced Louuh-vull), Ken­tucky’s largest city and gate­way to the South, is home to the Ken­tucky Derby, this city on the Ohio River has many other at­trac­tions. And so does nearby Lex­ing­ton and sur­rounds. Here’s why you need to go.

VISIT MUHAM­MAD ALI CEN­TER

He was the great­est, and not just for his sport­ing prow­ess in the box­ing ring. Muham­mad Ali, who died in 2016, was also an artist, a civil rights ac­tivist and cel­e­brated hu­man­i­tar­ian.

Set aside a few of hours to wan­der through Muham­mad Ali Cen­ter, ded­i­cated to the three-time world heavy­weight box­ing cham­pion who could “float like a but­ter­fly, st­ing like a bee”. The in­ter­ac­tive dis­plays and wel­come video con­tex­tu­alise his life, from when he got his start in box­ing at age 12 af­ter his new bi­cy­cle was stolen and the po­lice of­fi­cer he asked to help find his bike en­cour­aged him to start box­ing; to re­fus­ing to be drafted into the Viet­nam War.

Yes, there’s a speed bag to punch and you can shadow box with Ali, but what stands out is a truly inspirational man and men­tor to many.

ALICENTER.ORG

GO ON THE BOUR­BON TRAIL

Any­one from the blue­grass state will tell you that warm feel­ing when you take a sip of bour­bon is called a “Ken­tucky hug”. There’s never been a bet­ter time to visit the dis­til­leries of the state, as bour­bon, af­ter decades of be­ing passé, is hip again; it’s the new gin. Due to the re­vival of craft cock­tails, bour­bon tast­ings are as big as they were in the days of Pro­hi­bi­tion.

There’s an abun­dance of dis­til­leries to visit be­yond Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark. In Lex­ing­ton, head to the dis­tillery district where you can take a tour, sam­ple sour mash and then feast on pizza or ice cream. Drop into Bar­rel House where gin­ger pussy­cats roam the premises to keep rats at bay from the oak bar­rels as the bour­bon ages.

Bour­bon tour buses make a bee­line for the rolling hills of Ver­sailles, about a 20-minute drive from Lex­ing­ton and an hour from Louisville, to visit the renowned Woodford Re­serve dis­tillery. Walk among bar­rels where the bour­bon is aged for about 7.4 years. Rus­sell Crowe loved it so much, he forked out $10,000 to have his own bar­rel here. This is the state’s only fa­cil­ity mak­ing bour­bon with the orig­i­nal Scot­tish “pot still” method.

Most im­pres­sive though is the new Cas­tle and Key dis­tillery in Frank­fort, 20 min­utes away. Chem­i­cal en­gi­neer and dis­tiller Mar­i­anne Barnes is age­ing bour­bon in this mag­nif­i­cent build­ing, a huge cas­tle built in 1887. The first batch is yet to be re­leased but you can tour the in­cred­i­ble grounds.

LEXINGTONDISTILLERYDISTRICT.COM, CASTLEANDKEY.COM, WOODFORDRESERVE.COM

SEE THOR­OUGH­BRED HIS­TORY

Even if you’re not there for the derby, it’s worth a trip to the hal­lowed turf at Churchill Downs to visit Ken­tucky Derby Mu­seum. Learn about the “run for the roses”, the long­est con­tin­u­ous sport­ing event in US his­tory. View the derby wreaths, a horse­shoe-shaped man­tle of roses that is placed around the neck of the win­ning horse.

There’s a green­house where the roses bloom. You can also do the “back­side” tour of Churchill Downs and meet some of the thor­ough­breds.

Ask to go up­stairs to the club­house level to see the 10,000-piece glass replica of Churchill Downs by artist Craig Colquhoun. His in­spi­ra­tion? He met Princess Diana as a child, who urged him to fol­low his dreams.

Then take a guided walk­ing tour at the Old Friends Thor­ough­bred Re­tire­ment Farm in Ge­orge­town, an hour away, where ex-race­horses live out their lives in green pas­tures.

CHURCHILLDOWNS.COM; DERBYMUSEUM.ORG; OLDFRIENDSEQUINE.ORG

EAT A HOT BROWN

This con­coc­tion – Louisville’s most fa­mous dish – is a sta­ple at the his­toric Brown Ho­tel. The open-faced turkey sand­wich with bacon is heavy on the cheese and cream mor­nay sauce. The dish was in­vented in the 1920s when, af­ter hours of danc­ing in the ball­room and sip­ping on smooth bour­bon, guests han­kered for a late-night snack. Chef Fred Sch­midt wanted to serve them some­thing more glam­orous than ham and eggs.

The wood-pan­elled grand Brown Ho­tel is worth a visit just to see the per­fectly pre­served Ge­or­gian-Re­vival architecture. It’s listed on the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places.

BROWNHOTEL.COM

GET ON BOARD THE ARK PARK

This gi­ant Noah’s ark Chris­tian evan­gel­i­cal theme park is cer­tainly a spec­ta­cle. It’s worth see­ing for the kitsch-fac­tor alone. As tall as a sev­en­storey build­ing, and 155m long, the wooden ark houses an an­i­ma­tronic Noah and pairs of life­like crea­tures in­clud­ing bears, gi­raffes and ju­ve­nile Tyran­nosaurus rex.

This $US100 mil­lion dream of for­mer Bris­bane teacher Ken Ham opened in 2016. Ham is a “young Earth cre­ation­ist” who be­lieves hu­mans once lived along­side di­nosaurs, and the six-day cre­ation ac­counts in the book of Ge­n­e­sis are true.

The theme park is in Wil­liamstown, pop­u­la­tion 4000, 50-min­utes’ drive from Lex­ing­ton. Ken Ham is also be­hind the Cre­ation Mu­seum in Ken­tucky, a 45-minute drive away.

THAT WARM FEEL­ING WHEN YOU TAKE A SIP OF BOUR­BON IS CALLED A ‘KEN­TUCKY HUG’

PIC­TURES: TRAVEL SOUTH USA

Visit the hal­lowed turf at Churchill Downs; set aside a few hours at the in­ter­ac­tive Muham­mad Ali Cen­ter; walk among the bar­rels at Woodford Re­serve dis­tillery.

MUHAM­MAD ALI CEN­TER

BOUR­BON DIS­TILLERY

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