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American Queen Steamboat Company has released details of its upcoming Bourbon & Bluegrass itineraries onboard the 436-passenger American Queen. The nine-day cruises between St. Louis, Mo., and Cincinnati, Ohio, combine music, history and the famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Calls include Cape Girardeau, Mo.; Paducah, Henderson and Louisville, Ky.; and Madison, Ind. Departures begin in August.
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail — where 95 percent of the world’s bourbon is made — has a venerable history, dating from the 1700s when farmers found it was easy to convert corn and grains to whiskey. Bourbon County gave the liquor its name, and the rest is history.
The long trip in oak barrels down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans aged the whiskey and formed its distinct mellow flavor and amber color. These days, millions of visitors from all over the U.S. and from 25 countries tour the trail. With departures on Aug. 29 and Sept. 5, the Bourbon & Bluegrass cruises will feature the distilleries of Jim Beam, Buffalo Trace and Heaven Hill.
Lecturers and tasting opportunities will center on Four Roses Bourbon, Buffalo Trace Distillery, Heaven Hill Distilleries and other Kentucky bourbons. American Queen chefs will offer cooking with bourbon demonstrations, and guests will be treated to a barbecue luncheon at Stephen Foster’s My Old Kentucky Home in Bardstown, Ky.
Premium touring opportunities include International Bluegrass Music Museum and Hall of Fame in Owensboro, Ky. For curious cruisers, there’s even a lecture on moonshine-making.
Famous bourbon makers will be joined by some of the best bluegrass bands around. Musicians will take advantage of American Queen’s beautiful theater, which is modeled after the famous Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. Headliners include Rhonda Vincent & The Rage as well as Chris Jones & the Night Drivers. They also showcase several remarkable regional bands, well-known to insiders, including Storefront Congregation; Kentucky Blue; Dave and Cathy; and Juggernaut Jug Band.
I lived in Kentucky for years, and it doesn’t get more authentic than this. For fans who also play bluegrass, the cruise includes daily open-jam sessions as well as guitar and banjo workshops for musicians at all levels.