Newest stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail is now open in Downtown Louisville
By Hope S. Philbrick
Downtown Louisville has long been home to the state’s official Urban Bourbon Trail, but with the opening of the new Evan Williams Bourbon Experience it’s joined the Kentucky Bourbon Trail as well.
In fact, it’s seized the title of “official first stop” of the state-wide trail (though of course, depending on the starting point of your drive, you’re welcome to start at any of the member distilleries; remember to collect stamps in the official passport to get the free T-shirt when you’ve completed the trail).
As someone who’s toured the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in its entirety (some distilleries more than once), and has the T-shirt to prove it, I agree that, especially for novices, the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience is a great starting point. If you’ve never toured a distillery, the chance to see a small one operating while standing safely behind glass may calm nerves and still satisfy curiosity. What’s more, the facility is compact and accessible, so if you can’t or prefer not to walk distances or climb stairs, it offers a glimpse into behind-the-scenes productions that you might not be able to access elsewhere. And the tour is rather brief in terms of its time commitment, so if you’re curious about bourbon but not ready to devote much time to learning about it, you can get a quick overview here.
Every guided tour begins and ends in the gift shop, which offers a selection of bourbons and branded merchandise. Films (that are rather cheesy, yet thankfully brief) depict bourbon’s historical production beginning in 1783. Displays of Louisville’s historic whiskey row bring that history to life. The highlight of the tour is the opportunity to taste a couple of different bourbons in one of the facility’s two reproduction historic bars: both the “pre-Prohibition era” and the “Mad Men” era bars are super cool. In addition to the chance to relax with a sip of bourbon sitting in a space that makes you feel like a successful time-traveler, the guided tastings offer insights into how to taste bourbon.
The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience will produce one barrel of bourbon each day. (Barrels will be aged in Bardstown and bottled by year but not month/day since several barrels will be blended to achieve the target taste profile.) One criteria of bourbon production is that the spirit has to age at least two years in new, charred American oak barrels before bottling, so it will be a couple of years before bottles of bourbon that were produced at this facility will be available for purchase. But when the bourbon is ready, it will be sold exclusively on site.
Odds of Encountering Children: Should be zero, but it’s not. All ages are welcome to participate in the tour (in fact, children under age 10 are free). However, only visitors age 21 and older are allowed to enter the tasting rooms at the end of the tour. 21 Plus Salute! The website warns, “If you are accompanying someone under the age of 21, an adult will need to supervise them while the tasting is underway and would, therefore, not be able to participate in the tasting.” The tasting is a highlight of the Experience, thus this policy should effectively discourage a majority of parents from bringing their children.
Adult admission, $12
Evan Williams Bourbon Experience
528 W. Main St.
Louisville KY 40202
-Top two photos courtesy Evan Williams Bourbon Experience; others © HSP Media LLC
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