All photos by Maggie Kimberl
Historically, Louisville has always been the business center of bourbon. Long before Prohibition became the law of the land folks like Julian Van Winkle, William LaRue Weller, and Arthur Philips Stitzel conducted their business and went about their daily lives in the River City. After Prohibition much of the business of bourbon was still conducted here, but the major operations were moved out of the city center.
Today there are distilleries setting up shop in Louisville once again. Some are new, some are small satellite operations designed especially for visitors, and some are old distilleries that have been reopened. Add this to the Urban Bourbon Trail and all the various bourbon-supporting businesses and you can spend an entire weekend in Louisville and still not see all the bourbon sights there are to see.
If you’ve never been to Kentucky or if you’ve never spent an entire weekend touring Louisville, September is Bourbon Heritage Month and there will be more than ever going on to celebrate. Even if you can’t make it in September, there’s always plenty to do in Louisville year round. Here’s a weekend itinerary to get you started.
- Arrive in Louisville and check in to your hotel. If you stay downtown, 21C, The Brown, The Galt House, The Hilton Garden Inn, and The Seelbach are centrally located and feature fabulous bourbon bars.
- Take a tour of Kentucky Peerless Distilling Company – This distillery was once located in Henderson, Kentucky, and after decades out of business Henry Kraver’s descendants have brought it back.
- Have lunch at The Brown Hotel and enjoy a Hot Brown, a Louisville Original!
- Walk down the street half a block to Art Eatables to pick up some handmade bourbon truffles – artisans match each bourbon with the perfect cocoa, so there are dozens of unique varieties to choose from.
- Walk a little farther down to the Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse and take an afternoon cocktail class.
- Have dinner at Proof on Main and enjoy the 21C Museum afterward
- Head out to The Bulleit Experience at Stitzel-Weller to get a taste of local history
- Stop by The Kentucky Derby Museum for a visit and have lunch at The Derby Cafe
- Take a walk through Cave Hill Cemetery after lunch to pay respects to Julian Van Winkle, William LaRue Weller, Four Roses founder Paul Jones, and a multitude of other bourbon barons
- Enjoy dinner at Lily’s Bistro, Seviche, or Ramsi’s Cafe
- Wake up to brunch at The Silver Dollar
- Shop for Bourbon Barrel Foods’ famous soy sauce and barrel-aged spices
- Take a tour of Angel’s Envy’s new distillery on Main Street, The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, or Copper & Kings American Brandy Distillery
You could spend a three day weekend in Louisville and still not even scratch the surface of bourbon culture. Soon Michter’s Fort Nelson visitor’s center will be opening, followed by Old Forester on Main Street and Rabbit Hole in NuLu. There will be no shortage of bourbon tourism options in Louisville for the foreseeable future.