Until this fall, experiencing the best of the Bluegrass State’s most famous industries—bourbon and racehorses—meant traveling between Louisville, Lexington, and Bardstown. With the opening of Hermitage Farm, the new agritourism attraction owned by the founders of the high-style, art-centric 21C Museum Hotels, visitors can get their horses and bourbon all in one place, with a side of contemporary art.
A thoroughbred tour is a good way to get acclimated. You’ll meet glistening chestnut mares nurturing frisky colts that could one day thunder to victory at the Kentucky Derby. The farm has a long history of producing racing royalty (1953 Kentucky Derby winner Dark Star, for one). Actual royalty, horse-loving Queen Elizabeth II, visited in 1986.
Next, warm up with a bourbon tasting. You’ll find comfort and joy from whiskeys like Old Forester Straight Rye and Elijah Craig Small Batch. If there’s a bourbon connoisseur on your gift list, peruse the bourbon library for rare bottles or vintage options, such as a 1970 Old Fitzgerald in a collectible wildlife decanter.
Inside the 1830 Federal-style farmhouse, quaint turns avant-garde thanks to the owners’ eye-catching contemporary art interspersed among the antiques, a house of funky opposites. Tours are available when the house isn’t occupied. If you aren’t overnighting, you’ll want to stay for dinner. Barn8 restaurant truly deserves that overused phrase “farm-to-table.” The holiday menu incorporates produce from an on-site climate-controlled greenhouse and meat from nearby Woodland Farm, also owned by the 21C proprietors.
After a slice of a seasonal tarte, bundle up and take an after-dinner stroll along the new 1,500-foot-long Art Walk curated by artist Ricardo Rivera. Site-specific contemporary sound-and-light installations simultaneously highlight and transform the beauty of the natural landscape for an immersive outdoor art experience unlike anything else in Kentucky.