You have made it to Bardstown, KY! Congratulations! Why not start off your trip with a quick and educational visit to the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History?
The museum is named for Chicago businessman Oscar Getz, who founded the Barton distillery with Lester Abelson in Bardstown following Probition. Barton no longer exists, sadly, but during its time, it carved out a place in whiskey history, mostly thanks to Oscar’s colorful personality and devotion to his favorite drink. If you are familiar with the Midwest at all, especially with Chicago, Getz is probably a name constantly in the back of your mind. He and his wife, Emma, have plenty of things named after them– including the beautiful Art Deco theater at Columbia College Chicago.
But let’s get back to Bardstown. Located at historic Spaulding Hall in downtown Bardstown, the museum hosts artifacts from all over American whiskey history– from pre-Prohibition and even back to pre-Colonial days. The hall itself is almost as old as whiskey’s place in American society– it was originally a seminary but served as a hospital on both sides during the Civil War. In the meantime, it’s also served as a prep school for boys, an orphanage, and even a museum for Bardstown history.
And don’t think this museum will take up all day– you’ll get out to the stillhouses for drinking soon enough, my friend. A tour takes generally under an hour but will teach you all you need to know to really look like an expert on those distillery tours. Seriously. You will see everything from old whiskey bottles (aged WAY beyond the years listed on their bottles), newspaper articles from Prohibition, distillery equipment from the days of the moonshiners, and even the famous REDRUM bottle from The Shining (complete with mirror to show the omen that drove Jack Nicholson mad).
And what was our favorite item on the tour? The dial combination bottle locks used in the late 1800s, to keep your children (and servants!) away from the goods.
We have mentioned the Oscar Getz in other articles before— mainly devoted to their great space. And you can rent that space for weddings, parties, and even just a good, old-fashioned bourbon tasting if you have friends and family in town. They even do yoga!
The museum opens at 10AM Tuesday-Saturday, Noon on Sundays, and is closed on Mondays throughout the winter. From May 1st to October 31st, it’s open every day of the week. If you are in town for the holidays, make sure you call ahead to make sure they will be open.
Have a piece of whiskey or Bardstown history you’re looking to sell? Contact the museum. They are always looking for new items. Have any other questions about your visit? Call (502) 348-2999 or email them at [email protected]