Louisville, Kentucky

I recently had the pleasure of spending a month or so in Louisville, Kentucky – a quaint little town, accessible via an airport that has far more ‘bourbon bars’ than it does actual amenities (we joked it was like the Hunger Games trying to find an outlet, but there were at least 7 options for drinks between the two terminals!).

I didn’t know much about Louisville before arriving – generally, I’d heard of the Louisville Slugger and knew it was in Kentucky, and therefore probably had some good bourbon options.


Turns out, it’s a vibrant city that has a multitude of options for folks looking for Southern hospitality – from the Louisville slugger factory to neat art museums / restaurants to multiple stops on the Kentucky bourbon trail (not to mention the Kentucky Derby!), it’s a great visit for a weekend or more.


While most of my time in Louisville was spent downtown in the business district, we did find a couple fun things to do, starting with the bridge to Indiana. Like Nashville, Louisville has invested in it’s ‘outdoor’ spaces, and has revamped this bridge to be pedestrian-friendly, culminating in a series of bars in Jeffersonville, Indiana. Overall, a great way to spend a good summer afternoon.

Pedestrian bridge is the one in the distance!

However, the real attraction for us was the bourdon; growing up in Tennessee, I’ve gained a love of whiskey and especially bourbon. However, I’ve had a minimal budget to explore – Louisville would be a great city to drop $$ on if you’re a bourbon-lover, taking tours across a couple different distilleries.


The bartender at my hotel – Chris, who I got to know relatively well over the course of 6 weeks (they didn’t really do room service, so bar service was common even if you’re not drinking) – called Louisville a ‘Bourbon City with a river problem” (a play on the river and fact that there are so many distilleries). The main drag – literally Main Street – has multiple distilleries, including Angel’s Envy, Evan Williams and Old Forester; there is also a Jim Beam showroom and a couple other stops close to town, like the Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience at Stitzel-Weller.

We opted to visit Old Forester on a Tuesday afternoon, which was a great experience.

It was a really cool distillery, showcasing their mash fermentation, the distilling process, and barrel making at their onsite cooperage – apparently they’re one of the few bourbons (along with Jack Daniels!) to make their own barrels on site for their brand only!
Interestingly, bourbon can only be barreled once, so they also talked us through many of the uses for the barrels once the bourbon is processed (like tables, for wine aging, etc) – you can tell who created the barrel by the initials in the rivets (F for Old Forester, JD for Jack Daniels and KY or M for all the other guys who outsourced it to other factories in KY or Missouri… sadly this means my favorite Beam is using a mass produced barrel!).

They also have quite an interesting aging room for the product produced in this ‘show distillery’ which has apparently been aging since 2018 and is temperature controlled, which is a no-no ‘so far’ in bourbon and as of yet untasted by anyone – obviously, there will be a huge markup on that final product, but kind of cool that we got to see their first batch aging!

They’ve also got an interesting bottling set up, imported from Italy because ‘[They] figure if they can bottle olive oil, they can probably bottle bourbon ok!’.
We also got to taste several of the bourbons, including their rye product and a ‘prohibition’ style bourbon (apparently, Old Forester was one of six distilleries who were allowed a ‘medicinal’ license during prohibition, so they stayed afloat that way!).
Current Old Forester creations.
Display of bottles across the years – some cool old products as well!
Our sampler.

Overall, it was a great hour out of our afternoon – several people were on their third or fourth distillery, but we left relatively (!) clear-headed. They also served amazing ‘modjeskas’ which are some kind of cream caramel / sea salt creation that are absolutely addicting with bourbon.

Of course, a trip to Louisville wouldn’t be the same without a trip to a bbq. I stuck with the Main Street offerings, ending up several times a week as a place that offered an amazing novelty bourbon menu and some bbq staples, such as the overfilling bbq baked potato with pulled pork and a variety of hot sauce / vinegar sauce (tbh, this wasn’t the best version I’ve had, but I appreciated the nostalgia of how good it could have been!).


If I had to do it again, I’d rent a car, visit several more distilleries, and spend more time in Louisville’s art galleries and museums. We unfortunately had a tight work schedule, but loved having the chance to visit some of the sites and explore a little bit of this vibrant city!

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