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Garden & Gun says this local stay is “whimsical”.

Wake Up in a Bourbon Barrel in Rural Kentucky

These whimsical cabins may be the Bourbon Trail’s most fitting spot for a nightcap

By  STEVE RUSSELL March 6, 2024

Garden & Gun

Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail rewards brown-water fans with an abundance of bourbon distilleries, bourbon tours, bourbon bars, and bourbon-centric restaurants. The only glaring omission has been the option to sleep in a giant bourbon barrel. Until recently, that is.

Tony and Christina Happeny opened Bourbon Barrel Retreats, a collection of cabins shaped like over-sized barrels and located between Lawrenceburg and Bardstown, just last fall. How has the Bourbon Trail constituency responded? “It took off fast. We’re drawing lots of out-of-staters visiting in groups, so it’s been great,” says Tony, who isn’t new to what’s known in lodging circles as the “unique rental space,” having previously operated a glamping spot of geodesic domes south of Nashville. Looking around for their next project, the Happenys noticed that parts of Kentucky were swelling with tourists but thin on hotel rooms, prompting them to purchase fifty-three acres surrounded by rolling farmland not far off the Bluegrass Parkway a main artery of the Bourbon Trail.

“We wanted to elevate the experience and came up with the idea of bourbon barrels,” Tony says. “At that point, no one had done it, it was just a concept, so it’s not like we could copy something and run with it. We took a couple of months to build a prototype to test the dimensions and make sure it would be weatherproof. I knew if we could make it work, people would be into it.”

In this case, of course, guests literally get into it. Once within the dramatically curved walls of their barrel, they’ll find three hundred square feet devoted to a king-sized bed, kitchenette, and bathroom. (Five units also have outdoor hot tubs.) “We call it modern-rustic-cozy,” Tony says. “The barrels are bigger than everyone anticipates—the ceilings are ten feet tall.”

Though plans call for adding two more units by late summer, this is no tightly packed rickhouse. Each barrel is set off enough to be private but still close enough to others that guests can easily gather at the communal firepit. “We’ve noticed people tend to buy a bottle or two at the distilleries they visit during the day and bring them to the firepit after dinner,” Tony says. “People share their bourbon—and their opinions.”

Given Bourbon Barrel Retreats’ location within thirty minutes of seventeen distilleries, the Happenys also provide advice and suggested itineraries to Bourbon Trail newbies. “It’s a little shocking when we get guests who aren’t here for the distilleries,” Tony says with a laugh. “They’ll ask us what to do in the area, and that’s definitely easier when they’re into bourbon.”


Check these links for art, food, attractions and of course, bourbon, in Lawrenceburg, KY.