If there is a place on earth that knows its whiskey, that place is Bardstown, Kentucky, the bourbon capital of the world.
Kentucky would like you to know your whiskey as well, and there is no better place to school yourself than the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History in Bardstown, Kentucky.
Oscar Getz, a liquor exec from Chicago, was a whiskey lover and collector. After purchasing an old distillery in Bardstown in 1957, he began filling it with the treasures he acquired, eventually gathering enough memorabilia and collectibles to have his own private museum. Clearly not as enamored with the history of hooch as her husband, Mrs. Getz demanded Oscar clear his whiskey collection out. Reluctantly, he paid the city to restore a 200-year old seminary to act as the new museum, and promptly died soon after it was finished. The Getz family has maintained the museum and kept it free, so that Oscar’s passion for the liquor he loved could be appreciated by all who came to see it.
The museum covers a fantastic array of the rich history of American whiskey—rare documents, photos and artifacts showcase its early days as moonshine, its stint as a prescribed medicine, and of course the dark days of prohibition. Whiskey is a versatile booze that walks a thin line between pretentiousness and hobo fare and the museum does an excellent job of showing both the high-brow and low-brow sides of the brown spirit. You can view Lincoln’s liquor license, hundreds of antique bottles, and George Washington’s still.
The sheer amount of rare and priceless whiskey bottles (whiskey included) is mouth-watering, and some of the antique and collectible bottles are actually for sale. Unfortunately, if you’re hoping for a sample, keep hoping—the museum has no liquor license. If you want to enjoy the museum’s fare, you must purchase it and imbibe elsewhere.