Planning a visit along the Bourbon Trail? You’ll be working your way through Lebanon Kentucky, a quaint little town with hidden historical gems, like Henley’s Restaurant or the Fagan Reservoir. Although some of the sites are off of the beaten path, they’re easy to find. Here’s some of the sites we found.
Our first stop was Penn’s Store, the oldest general store in the country owned by the same family. Originally built in 1845, it was purchased by Gabriel Jackson Penn in 1850. Today the store is owned by the 5th generation of Penns’ and is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays and Sundays. The current owner, Jeanne, explains the store has seen many changes since she was a girl. Once the surrounding area was a thriving farming community. When the crops failed, most of her generation moved away. She is the only one who has returned. The shop is still set up as it was in the older days, with rustic countertops, a candy display in glass jars, and merchandise lining the walls.
We were greeted by the two (friendly) yellow labs who live at the store, and as a result of their friendliness, are often picked up by strangers. If you’re hungry, Penn’s Store is known for their bologna sandwiches and cold drinks are available. The entire building was damaged by flooding a few years ago and took two years to repair and air conditioning is a recent addition, added in 1997. If you have to use the restroom, Penn’s Privy was added in 1992. It’s the first and only restroom they’ve ever had!
Our next stop was the Independent Stave Company Cooperage factory. Offering free tours at 9:30 AM and 1:00 PM Monday through Friday, ISC shows how barrels are made for the different bourbon distilleries in the area. We watched as a worker was able to put together a barrel in minutes and then followed the process for barrel inspection and repair until the barrel was ready to be shipped. Barrels made for different companies have different char levels on the inside to create the unique flavors each distiller is known for producing.
ISC has been a family owned and operated business since its’ inception in 1912. I was surprised to learn none of the materials are wasted. Everything from wood chips to unusable staves are recycled in some way. Fun Fact: You can tell if an ISC barrel is made at their Kentucky plant by checking the metal ring around the top half of the barrel.
Looking for a quick lunch or dinner while in Lebanon Kentucky? Stop by Ragetti’s Italian Restaurant. We sampled the Mostaccioli, including penne pasta smothered with homemade meat sauce and melted mozzarella cheese and the Manicotti, a dish of homemade crepes filled with cheese, then baked and covered with meat sauce and mozzarella cheese. Both dishes were huge. My Mostaccioli could easily have served two, and was topped with tons of gooey melted cheese. Both meals were served with garlic bread.
We spent the night at the Hampton Inn, which included free wi-fi and a continental breakfast, before journeying to our next destination. I recommend calling ahead to make reservations as rooms are limited in Lebanon and they sell out quickly.
Check out these sites in Lebanon Kentucky:
If you are interested in learning more about these restaurants, visit the tourism page of Lebanon,VisitLebanonKY.Com.