Since we offer several ring styles featuring whiskey barrel wood, we attract whiskey enthusiasts to our brand. Two of these enthusiasts are Maker’s Mark Ambassadors Richard Pappas and Marc Gainey.
These guys have been friends since their late teens when they were Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity brothers at Eastern Carolina University.
Three decades later, Marc's wife, Shannon, asked Richard to help coordinate a surprise trip for Marc's 50th birthday. Shannon knew that she could combine Marc’s love of bourbon and his long-standing relationship with Richard and his other service fraternal brothers Matt, Brian, Dave, and Brad into a long weekend’s trip to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. These guys came from as far as Chicago and Texas to celebrate their friend’s 50th.
Rustic & Main got to share a bit in the fun as Richard worked with us to create a one-of-a-kind ring celebrating his friendship with Marc and their mutual love of Maker’s Mark bourbon. Together we designed a band that featured a durable titanium base, two weathered Maker’s Mark barrel wood inlays, and a centered inlay featuring the tobacco and the label from a Habana brand cigar Marc gifted Richard. This one-of-a-kind weekend and custom ring celebrated the friendship between these service fraternity brothers and their shared appreciation of this fine drink. Once Richard arrived home from his trip, we got the inside scoop on how to enjoy a long weekend in Bardstown, Kentucky.
Here are some highlights and tips from a bourbon enthusiasts’ trip!
1. Plan well ahead of time
Much preparation went into this weekend trip well in advance. Richard, Shannon, and the rest of the group had to evade Marc's suspicions while constantly going back and forth over endless text conversations. Richard started referring to the group of guys and Marc’s wife as the middle school girls since they had about 50 text conversations organizing the surprise weekend. They had a lot of details to coordinate: a hotel, a schedule, and most importantly, how to get Marc there without spoiling the surprise. The group landed on staying at the Hampton Inn in Bardstown, close to several distilleries and bourbon tours.
Their grand plan was:
Thursday- travel to Bardstown, KY, including flights into Louisville International airport, and have all the guys at the hotel that night to surprise Marc.
Friday- Spend the day on the highly rated Central KY bourbon tours that allowed them to customize their tour to include Maker’s Mark, Lux Row Distillers, and Bardstown Bourbon Company.
Saturday- Chill out together downtown at a local tap room to enjoy a game between SC and their alma mater, ECU. They wrapped up the night with a visit to The Blind Pig Bourbon Speakeasy.
Sunday- travel back home.
2. Bring your best friends that share your love for whiskey!
All the guys on this trip enjoy a glass of whiskey, but Marc and Richard share a bond over being Maker’s Mark Ambassadors. This program is for those who believe Maker’s Mark is the pinnacle of fine bourbon. When you sign up to be a Maker's Mark Ambassador, not only do you receive inside info and special offers from Maker’s Mark, but you get your name inscribed on a barrel at Maker’s Mark Star Hill Farm. When this whiskey has aged, ambassadors whose names are on the barrel get to enjoy that whiskey inside. Some ambassadors will take a trip to see their barrel.
3. Find a variety of Distilleries to Enjoy on Your Tour!
Since Kentucky still produces 90% of all bourbon, there are plenty of distilleries to choose from when planning your tours.
Marc's friends and wife carefully coordinated Marc's surprise bourbon tour to include an array of distinguished distilleries, each with its own unique feel.
Maker's Mark Distillery
Maker’s Mark was the most well-known brand they visited and their tour was more commercialized as it is a big part of their business on-premises. Maker's Mark still creates their bourbon the same way it did when the company started. Richard enjoyed seeing the old military-style rickhouses here. In these rick houses, you can also see a black ring on the ceilings, referred to as the “angel share”. This black ring is created when 20% of barrel bourbon escapes during the aging process.
Lux Row Distillers
Lux Row is a newer brand that has utilized more high-tech manufacturing practices at its distillery. Their tour was more laid back, but their modernized distilling process was definitely a fun sight for a bourbon fan to see.
Bardstown Bourbon Company
Maker’s Mark and Lux Row offered smaller samples, so the guys ordered drinks during these tours.
Bardstown Bourbon offered heavier samples than the other two and even allowed you to siphon some bourbon from the barrels! By the end of the day, these fellows were feeling pretty mellow.
5 More Tips to Help You Get the Most Out of A Trip to Bardstown, KY
Plan your day out so you can enjoy each place responsibly.
Check out the ratings of the tour company you plan to use. Central KY tours are highly rated, and one of their best tour guides is a retired policeman named Jon Ryan. A great tour guide can answer your questions and give you extra details while you are traveling around. Richard would highly recommend asking for Jon specifically.
3. Your tour will be all day long, and you will do a lot of walking so wear comfortable shoes and clothing.
4. Do not forget to include a day to enjoy downtown Bardstown. There are several local taprooms and specialty drinks to enjoy, like a Bloody Mary with local bourbon and bacon!
5. Stop by a local ABC Store, where you will find a great selection of bourbon. Marc’s wife planned on driving down and bringing him back so he could bring back some of his great whiskey finds. The guys who flew into KY had to give their bottles to the guys who drove so they could get their bourbon later.
At Rustic and Main, we love being part of our people's stories from weddings, graduation, anniversaries, and birthday celebrations. We carry a curated stock of materials, from historical woods like whiskey barrels, historic rifle stocks, and US battleships, to unique materials like precious metals, semi-precious stones, and naturally shed elk antler. Our team can take the customization a step further and incorporate your very own materials into your ring design to help craft a ring that truly tells the story of who and what you love. Contact us today to get started on your band.