Bourbon on the Banks

Bourbon on the Banks logo contributed

Next weekend, bourbon enthusiasts will flock to Frankfort for an event that organizers hope will firmly establish the city as the heart of bourbon country.

Bourbon on the Banks, a first-of-its-kind bourbon-tasting festival and competition, will highlight the rich bourbon history of Kentucky beginning Thursday.

"We want to make sure that people know that Frankfort is the center of bourbon country," said festival board Chairman Tom Bennett. 

Plans are already underway for next year’s festival. All proceeds from the main event will benefit scholarships at Kentucky State University.

Bennett said the event will be one of the largest, if not the largest, bourbon-tasting festivals in the world, as 40 distilleries will be represented. He estimated that 1,500 will be at the Saturday tasting and competition and between 3,000 and 5,000 for a street festival Friday.

Bennett said the goal of the festival is to show off Frankfort as the livable community it is. 

About 50 volunteers have been working to prepare for the event and 150 volunteers will be on site for the Saturday evening event at River View Park, Bennett said. 

Tickets, priced at $65, for Bourbon on the Banks launched in May. Executive Director Wendy Kobler said that she has heard of attendees from as far west as Missouri, as far north as Chicago and as far south as Alabama who will be making the journey to Frankfort.

“Preparations are well underway. It’s exciting watching everything come together,” Kobler said. 

Dress for the festival is casual, so T-shirts and shorts are acceptable. Saturday, the day of the main festival, is expected to be a beautiful, warm August day, Kobler said. 

Here’s the schedule for Bourbon on the Banks, according to the event’s website

Thursday, Aug. 22

Thursday Dinner @ the Farm, 5:30 p.m., Harold R. Benson Research & Demonstration Farm

This invitation-only dinner will showcase local Kentucky farm-to-table products and honor Japanese-based companies’ contributions and investment in Kentucky. The dinner, sponsored by Deloitte, will highlight student research, faculty curricula and the aquaculture program at KSU. Joshua Moore, Louisville chef and recent winner of Food Network’s “Chopped,” will prepare appetizers to pair with Bourbon on the Banks specialty cocktails. 

Friday, Aug. 23

Bourbon Street on Broadway, 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Old Capitol Lawn

Street performers, historians discussing the African American contribution to Bourbon heritage and high school students will be on Broadway Street to entertain the community. Attendees can also watch the documentary “Neat” and enjoy live music while dining at downtown restaurants. 

Master Distillers Sponsor’s Only Reception, 5 p.m., Riverview Park & Ward Oates Amphitheater

Sponsors will have an advance walk-through the festival site and can interact with master distillers and sample vendor products.

Saturday, Aug. 24

Franklin County Farmers Market, 8 a.m., River View Park Market Pavilion

Meet and buy from local food producers and artisans. Live music. 

Exclusive “Black Bourbon Cultural Experience”, 8 a.m.

Curated by the Kentucky Black Bourbon Guild, this experience is for African-American Bourbon and history enthusiasts. Historically, slaves played a huge role in making whiskey. Get a peek into what KSU is doing to improve workplace development in the distilling industry. This is included with the festival ticket, $65, and only 30 spaces are available first come, first serve. Ticket holders can sign up by contacting Michael Adams at

Bourbon on the Banks, 5 to 8 p.m.,  River View Park & Ward Oates Amphitheater

Over 100 vendors will be present at the state’s bourbon-tasting and award’s festival. Regional and national distilleries will have bourbon, and world wineries and regional craft beer producers will also be present. Regional, award-winning chefs will be on-site giving demonstrations. Regional musicians will provide entertainment. Tickets are $65. 

Official After-Party, 9 p.m., Goodwood Brewing Co. 

Enjoy live music and a specialty Bourbon on the Banks cocktail. Special guests include Ariel E. Neal, co-founder of Causing a Stir and CEO of beverage events company Leira Knows Cocktails & Events. 

Sunday, Aug. 25

Yoga & Bourbon Bloody Marys, 10 a.m., Ward Oates Amphitheater

Shari Thompson and her team at My Old Kentucky OM Yoga Center will lead a class to give festival goers a chance to reflect on the weekend. 

Bennett thanked other festival board members: Kristin Cantrell, Charlie Jones, John Senter, Chris Cribbs, Brian Delambre, Jim Tidwell, Amzie Wenning and Roger Crittenden.

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