Barreling through history

For almost 30 years, the Kentucky Bourbon Festival (KBF) has drawn bourbon lovers from far and wide to Bardstown to celebrate all-things bourbon. The five-day festival is packed with events showcasing bourbon history, mixology and other aspects of bourbon culture. Attendees get opportunities to learn the finer points of fine bourbon whiskey as well as meet with master distillers of their favorite bourbons. All in all, it’s a celebration unique to the rolling hills of Bourbon Country.


Pouring a new creative foundation

Sometimes, one simple tactic can help define a brand. Every year, the KBF commissions a limited-edition poster that sets theme for the festivities. In past years, most posters featured a headline or “theme line” that captured the spirit of the year’s events. Previous posters – which can be found with some Googling – almost always used a photographic approach. But when our creative team got the opportunity to tackle the challenge with fresh thinking, we decided on a new direction to take the KBF commemorative poster to a whole new level.


Getting down to the art of the matter

When we began the concepting process, we asked ourselves some fundamental questions including, what is a festival poster supposed to be? What information should it convey – what feelings should it conjure? And what can we do to capture the essence of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival?

Our thinking led us to one conclusion: The KBF is a celebration of the art, culture and craftsmanship of bourbon, and the poster design should encompass those same elements. With that, we created a piece of art that reflected the essence of the KBF.

Just like the fine Kentucky bourbon, we decided the KBF poster should be a handcrafted piece of art. We broke from the previous photography/headline-driven model and created an illustrated, wood-cut poster to be duplicated on a 19th century printing press – from the same era Kentucky’s bourbon industry was born.

A print artist painstakingly hand carved the poster design into a wooden printing block, meticulously recording every detail, then inking the block by hand and manually printing each copy. The design itself couldn’t have been more of a departure from past years: It is a rich, two-color design featuring playful references to bourbon culture, like white dogs, whiskey thieves and rack houses. As for the headline, there is none – only the festival name and dates; the art does the work.

Have a look at the fascinating process behind the making the poster.

proof of success

The poster design was met with rave reviews. Bourbon enthusiasts and KBF poster collectors immediately snatched up the initial run of 125 hand-numbered, hand-pressed prints signed by the artist, BCH’s eminently talented art director Tom Anderson and creative director, Brian Garr. Though the initial run of hand prints have been spoken for, fear not, duplicate prints are available for sale at