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Issue 101 - Flying the Flag

Whisky Magazine Issue 101
February 2012

 

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Flying the Flag

Charles K. Cowdery visits the revitalised and renamed Barton Distillery

Bardstown, Kentucky, fancies itself the Bourbon Capital of the World. The Jim Beam Distillery is nearby, so is Maker's Mark, but the only distillery inside the city limits is Barton 1792. Though obscured by trees, it is just a stone's throw from one of Bardstown's major landmarks, the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto- Cathedral, which was built from 1816 to 1819.

Catholic settlers, mostly of English and Irish descent, began to emigrate from Maryland to Kentucky in about 1775. The first missionaries arrived in about 1787. Many were French, fleeing the anti-clerical temper of Revolution-era France. In 1808, the diocese of Bardstown was created. It covered a vast area, from New Orleans to Detroit.

When the diocese was reduced in size and moved to Louisville, in 1841, St. Joseph's became just a parish church and was demoted to “protocathedral,” but Bardstown and Nelson County has a large Catholic population to this day. This is significant because it was Baptists and other Protestant denominations who championed the assault on beverage alcohol that led to National Prohibition in 1920. Roman Catholics, then as now, were much more tolerant in their views, and it's no coincidence that some of Kentucky's major whiskey-making districts coincide with high concentrations of Catholic inhabitants.

Despite its location so close to town, the Barton Distillery has largely been a mystery.

For most of the last two decades, it did not welcome visitors and its products were not widely distri...

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