3 Days on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail: Day 1 (Louisville Distilleries)
First day! 4 distilleries on the list. Too much for one day? Read on to find out. Distillery tour experiences are provided by Piers, rest of the post is by Meryl.
And if you want to read about how we planned the trip and our first evening in Kentucky, read on here.
Bulleit is the brand. Stitzel-Weller is the location of the tour. It is a distillery that was born shortly after prohibition but which ran into trouble during the Bourbon Depression in the 70’s. The facility was sold to Norton-Simon which, through a series of take-overs and mergers is now part of Diageo, a massive worldwide operation. Diageo reopened the location in 2014 and it is now the home of the Bulleit tour.
The tour begins with the fascinating history of the area and bourbon in particular. It moves onto outlining the distilling process, using a useful model still. The tour covers areas that the other distilleries didn’t (at least on day one of our 3 day Bourbon Trail adventure). You go into a rickhouse (or rackhouse as it is sometimes known), where the bourbon is stored in the white oak barrels. You also get to see how leaking barrels are repaired by coopers. Production bourbon is not distilled at this location. Instead, they show you the test distillery where they experiment with new recipes and techniques.
The tasting experience was good. They offer you 4 different bourbons to taste. Bulleit has a higher rye content than the typical bourbon which gives it a unique flavor that I liked.
Cost: $10 for over 21. Under 21 are free
Hours: 10am until 4pm. Closed on Tuesdays. Tours leave on the hour or half hour depending on the day.
Length of tour: about 1 1/2 hours
Parking: on site
Against the Grain Brewery – Lunch
This is straight across the road from Angel’s Envy and had good reviews so it was the obvious place to stop. Piers had chili and I had a mushroom melt. Both were good.
On day 1 of the Bourbon Trail, this was the only ‘production’ facility with a tour. Angel’s Envy is a fairly new operation and it was ‘state-of-the-art’.
The tour guide let us smell, taste and experience the product at the various stages of production. This was really helpful in understanding the process.
The tasting was very different to the other distilleries, born mainly out of necessity. Angel’s Envy produces one product, so there is only one bourbon to taste. However, they take the opportunity to teach how to really taste bourbon, including the use of chocolate to complement the bourbon experience. The last stage of the tasting includes the use of ice to open up the flavor of the bourbon. (Evan Williams adds a few drops of water to one stage of their tasting).
The experience at Angel’s Envy was quite different and complementary to the Bulleit Tour.
Hours: 10 am to 5 pm. No tours on Tuesday. MUST RESERVE TOURS IN ADVANCE!
Length of tour: About 1 1/2 hours
Parking: We parked in the street but there is also a lot opposite that costs $7
The addition of the word “experience” is a clue to the nature of this tour. Located in downtown Louisville, the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience is predominantly a “museum” type experience.
Through the use of video, actors, and sets, they take you back to the days of Evan Williams, one of the first whiskey producers in Kentucky, and to the early days of Louisville. As such it is a valuable history lesson. They have a great visual model of how bourbon is produced and there is a “model” still that produces one barrel of bourbon a day.
The tasting at the end of the tour was well done. We tasted 5 different bourbons including a 12-year-old bourbon which is available mainly in Japan.
As a side note, our tour guide was a stand-up comedian (literally) who obviously brought a good sense of humor to the tour.
Cost: Adults (21+) $12.00, Kids (11 – 20) $9.00, Kids (10 and under) FREE
Hours: Different hours, depending on the day. Check the website
Length of tour: About 1 hour
Parking: We parked in the lot right around the corner but there are also parking garages nearby
The only exercise we had the entire 3 days was walking to Art Eatables and then back to Jim Bean Urban Stillhouse and finally back to the car. The whole walk was about 30 minutes. Better than nothing, I guess!
At Angel’s Envy they strongly suggested everyone visit Art Eatables. So of course, we felt we needed to follow their advice. The shop owner greeted us with samples of chocolates with bourbon centers – very yummy! Everything in the shop is very tempting and we left with a box of store sampler of assorted chocolates.
The last stop on day 1 was to the Jim Bean Urban Stillhouse, also downtown Louisville. This really was a retail and tasting experience, without the tour. Having done 3 tours already on day one, I was happy to go straight to the tasting. Jim Bean is obviously a well-known brand, but under the stable of Jim Bean there are many other brands such as Knob Creek. You can taste nearly all of these at this location.
If you want to visit their distillery, you can find it in Clermont. You can get the stamp in your passport by visiting either.
Cost: $6 (includes a Jim Bean shot glass)
Hours: 1 to 9 pm Monday to Saturday (closed on Sundays)
Length of tour: The tasting takes about 15 minutes
Parking: There must be garages nearby but you can walk from Angel’s Envy or Evan Williams Bourbon Experience
Kathmandu Kitchen and Bar – Dinner
I discovered this place on Tripadvisor and someone described it as a “hole-in-the-wall”, and that it was! But it was also a great find. The husband and wife team who run the restaurant are from Nepal and they were very concerned that we would have a good experience with them. We had a delightful conversation with them and learned what their lives were like in Kathmandu before they moved to the USA.
We enjoyed samosas, onion pakora, mo mos and biryani – all were delicious and the prices are excellent.
Continue read about our adventures on Day 2 of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
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