Kentucky urban bourbon trail adds distillery tour


Kentucky Bourbon

 • The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience: 528 W. Main St., Louisville, Ky.; www.evanwilliams.com. Adults 21 and older, $12; ages 15-20, $9; ages 14 and under, free.

• Kentucky Bourbon Trail: http://kybourbontrail.com/

Associated Press

The maker of Evan Williams bourbon has uncorked a new attraction, opening a craft distillery just steps from where the whiskey pioneer who inspired the brand fired up his own commercial stills two centuries ago.

The distillery and “bourbon experience” — complete with tours and tasting rooms — is the first of several ventures to bolster tourism and bring small-batch bourbon production to the heart of downtown Louisville, once the hub of commerce for Kentucky whiskey makers.

Today’s powerhouse bourbon brands such as Jim Beam, Wild Turkey and Maker’s Mark are crafted in rural Kentucky settings, an hour or less away, but the trade is showing signs of a comeback in the city. An urban bourbon trail features 27 bars and restaurants, each stocked with at least 50 labels, and a planned bourbon district would tie together the city’s bourbon heritage with historical markers and landmarks in the Whiskey Row area, where clusters of whiskey merchants, wholesalers and blenders set up shop decades ago.

“It’s the place to be,” said Joe Magliocco, president of Michter’s Distillery, which is converting a downtown building into a craft distillery. “If you want to be one of the best, you’ve got to play among the best.”

Heaven Hill, which makes Evan Williams, is at the forefront with its new $10.5 million attraction — The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, which opened last month.

It’s located in a renovated building and offers tours that trace bourbon production from frontier days when whiskey was currency to its contemporary revival in bars and restaurants across the globe. It features a five-story Evan Williams bottle replica and of course, it has a gift shop, too.

Kentucky produces 95 percent of the world’s bourbon, and the 4.9 million barrels of aging bourbon in this state outnumber the population here, according to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association.

As demand worldwide has spiked, the state’s bourbon production has more than doubled since 1999 to more than 1 million barrels in 2012, the industry group said.

More than 2.5 million visitors have toured the major distilleries along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in the past five years. Heaven Hill’s attraction, located on Whiskey Row, will be the northern gateway to the trail.

Despite its bourbon prowess, the Bluegrass state hasn’t kept pace with other parts of the country in attracting upstart craft distillers. Kentucky’s tax on aging whiskey barrels has been an obstacle, said Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. Still, he’s working with 10 craft distillers setting up shop in Kentucky


At The Evan Williams Experience, the star is Williams himself, a Welsh immigrant and early commercial distiller in Kentucky who started in 1783. During a tour of the distillery, projections on the walls and TVs delve into bourbon making and detail Williams’ life as a city trustee, wharf master and distiller as the aroma of fermenting whiskey and aging barrels waft by.

“This is where the industry really started,” said Max L. Shapira, president of Heaven Hill. Its flagship Evan Williams brand is the second-largest selling bourbon in the U.S. and the world, behind Jim Beam.

At the downtown distillery, whiskey makers will craft special recipes and produce one barrel per day, a drop in the barrel compared to the company’s distillery a few miles away that churns out some 650 barrels daily.

Several other whiskey makers are planning craft distilleries nearby. Bourbon entrepreneur Corky Taylor is reviving his great-grandfather’s company, Kentucky Peerless Distilling, and hopes to start producing bourbon and moonshine in July.

The makers of Angel’s Envy whiskeys are hoping to start production in a little more than a year at a new downtown distillery, adding a twist to its bourbon and rye whiskey production, said Wes Henderson, chief operating officer for Louisville Distilling Co.

After aging its bourbon in white oak barrels for several years, the product will be finished in port casks for several more months. Its rye whiskey ages for years in oak barrels before finishing in rum casks.

“Louisville will be at the forefront of this experimentation,” Henderson said. “Any downtown area is not an ideal place to do production. But what makes Louisville so attractive is there’s such a passion for bourbon in the city.”

Read more Travel stories from the Miami Herald

A flight over Holuhraun in Iceland shows lava flowing from a volcanic eruption.


    A flyover tour of an Icelandic volcano in action

    There is something so majestic yet simultaneously frightful in a volcanic eruption that someone viewing it just cannot look away. In Iceland now, people are paying hundreds or thousands of dollars to experience this bucket-list thrill.

Tom Owens of Marion, Mass., left, buys Heady Topper from Victor Osinaga, one of the owners of Craft Beer Cellar in Waterbury, Vt. Owens traveled to Vermont in order to buy the beer.


    A hard-to-find brew and the ultimate beer run

    Let’s not call this a “beer run.” That has such a… Friday night frat boy connotation. Let’s instead call this a “beer journey.”

European cab drivers, like this happy one in Turkey, only expect you to round up your fare when you give them a tip.


    Tips on tipping in Europe

    Here’s a tip: Don’t stress over tipping.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category