Traveler: Louisville’s Bourbon Scene
Proof Positive: Louisville distilleries are growing by lock, stock, and barrels.
Louisville’s booming distilleries took a big hit after Prohibition killed the buzz in the 1920s, although a lucky few managed to survive for “medicinal” production. Nearly a century later, change is in the air. Evan Williams Bourbon Experience ushered in a whole new generation of tour-able bourbon attractions when it set up shop on Main Street’s Whiskey Row in 2013. By the end of this year, new openings will up Louisville’s ante of experiential urban bourbon destinations to 10 open-to-the-public distilleries within city limits.
Also rolling out the barrel on Whiskey Row, Old Forester Distilling Co. is the newest game in town as of June 15, marking a triumphant homecoming to the very same building that housed its original offices back in the 1800s. Now part of the Brown-Forman empire, tours of the showy $45 million operation reveal a behind-the-scenes look at how the magic happens, including views of a 44-foot-tall copper column still that anchors the atrium, a fiery barrel-charring demonstration in the on-site cooperage, a full rick house for storage and a tasting of the flagship product.
In the NuLu neighborhood across from Slugger Field, swanky Angel’s Envy opened in November 2016. The Henderson family–owned company is famous for aging its bourbon in ruby port wine casks for a distinctive flavor profile; post-tour tastings pair nicely with locally made orange-cream chocolate. Visitors also get an exclusive opportunity to order craft cocktails at a fancy bar only open to tour attendees.
Since its launch three years ago, Kentucky Peerless Distilling Company has been working hard to revive and reimagine another generations-old brand. The bourbon’s still aging, but the owners recently released their first new batch of rye, available to sample as part of grain-to-glass tours. Keep an eye out for the distillery cat in residence while you’re there.
Copper and Kings turns out modern American brandy and spirits matured in bourbon barrels using a “sonic aging” technique that blasts music into the storage room, where the acoustic vibrations are thought to encourage friendly mingling between spirit and barrel. Alexander, the distillery’s new-this-summer rooftop bar, boasts gorgeous panoramic views of the city.
An ideally located home base from which to splash out and explore, the statuesque new downtown Omni Louisville keeps the glow going with bourbon-centric decor, a library-style common space, site-specific art, more than 600 lavishly appointed guest rooms and suites, the Mokara Spa, Bob’s Steak and Chop House, a rooftop pool/bar scene and the expansive Falls City Market food hall.