Monday, April 22, 2024

A Train Ride to a Distillery? Yes, Please!


For special events, you can park at the Kentucky Railroad Museum
in New Haven and ride the train to Log Still Distillery.
Okay, I'm a sucker for a train ride.

Log Still Distillery’s premier event venue, The Legacy, kicks off its Southern Supper Series on Friday, May 10th. Lee Brice performs that night at The Amp, Log Still's concert venue. You can drive to Log Still and park at the venue if you want, but for a $20 up-charge you can park at the Kentucky Railroad Museum in New Haven and ride a vintage train to Log Still. At the end of the evening, the train takes you back to New Haven. The ride is about seven miles and offers "a scenic view of Kentucky’s landscape." Ticket information is here.

Wait! You can take a train there? How is that possible?

As you may know, Log Still is an entertainment complex that happens to include a whiskey distillery. It is about 50 miles south of Louisville and about 140 miles north of Nashville. 

Log Still is the work of Wally Dant and other members of the Dant family. They chose the site for many reasons. Their ancestors made whiskey there before Prohibition and many living family members grew up nearby. But the people who built the first distilleries there, which included members of the Beam, Head, and Pottinger families as well as Dants, chose the site in part because it was located on a new branch of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, the Lebanon Branch, which opened in 1857.

Although regular service on that line ended in about 1987, the tracks are still there. The section going northwest out of New Haven, toward Boston (Kentucky, not Massachusetts) is maintained by the Kentucky Railroad Museum, which uses it for excursions. (The museum was originally located in Boston.) Log Still is in the other direction, at what the railroad called Gethsemane Station, a reference to the nearby Abbey which, apparently unbeknownst to the railroad, spells it Gethsemani. Distilleries all along the Lebanon Branch were the railroad's biggest customers.

Back in the day, of course, you could get the train in Louisville, Frankfort, or Lexington and ride to Gethsemane, Lebanon, New Haven, Athertonville, and many other places. The main line connected Louisville and Nashville. Athertonville had its own, short branch that connected it to New Haven. North of the Lebanon Branch there was another branch for distilleries called the Springfield Branch. That's the line the Kentucky Dinner Train uses, starting in Bardstown.

Some of Kentucky's distilleries still have rail access for shipping grain, new barrels, and empty bottles in, and full bottles out. Only Log Still, and only for special events, has passenger service. (Which, by the way, includes cocktail service.)

The Kentucky Dinner Train goes as far as Chapeze Station before heading back to Bardstown. The  Chapeze Distillery used to be there (it played Czechoslovakia in the movie "Stripes"). What's left is now part of Beam's Clermont complex, which is where all their visitor attractions are located. The train doesn't stop there but it could. Beam's bigger distillery, named for Booker Noe, doesn't welcome visitors but it's on the Lebanon Branch, close to where the Kentucky Railroad Museum excursions turn back to New Haven. 

Many other distilleries have train tracks near their sites, even though in some cases they haven't been maintained. How cool would it be if you could do the whole Kentucky Bourbon Trail by train?


Sam Komlenic said...

Now that I've relocated to SWPA, I take the train to NYC for WhiskyFest. It's the only way to go.

Brian (AKA The Dean) said...

I love traveling by train. Got to take the City of New Orleans from Chicago to New Orleans when I was in my 20's. When I lived in Boston, I almost always traveled by train to NYC, Philly and DC for meetings. And while I consumed my share of bourbon on trains, I've never had the opportunity to take a Whiskey-centric Train. That sounds like a great time.