From start to finish, my one full day in Louisville was filled with information packed tours, amazing tastings, decadent chocolates, some fun bars, and an enjoyable walk around Whiskey Row.

Day 6 started with quite a bit of rain. I was happy to have a car at my disposal as I drove out to Stitzel-Weller Distillery. This distillery is just a couple miles south of Old Louisville and the first distillery where I had to get through a security gate.

Stitzel-Weller Distillery and Video 6.1

Home of Bulleit Bourbon and Former Home of Pappy and Wellers

  • Location: Louisville, KY
  • Website: Tour Information (Requires Age Verification)
  • Cost: I paid $10 via online reservation, not $12 for the tour. 
  • Samples: 4 Selections including  Bulleit 10 year, Blade and Bow, I.W. Harper and Bulleit Rye
  • Perks: There were no keepsakes.
  • My Stitzel-Weller Instagram Photos

Takeaways

  • MGP is the place in Indiana where Stitzel-Weller had been sourcing their whiskey. I was a little unsure of the name at the time of filming...oh those acronyms!
  • Those who know me know I'm a big James Bond fan. I had forgotten (maybe because I didn't recognize the name at the time) that Draco and Bond meet and I.W. Harper Bourbon was offered up. The book was On Her Majesty's Secret Service. It's the one Bond book that is very carefully followed by the film. However, I don't think I.W. Harper is anywhere to be seen in that scene in the film.
  • Again, being a Bond fan, he actually took it on the chin via tour guides at a couple of distilleries. It was suggested that the cool factor of the shaken not stirred martini in the 70's, 80's was a factor in the depression that bourbon experienced during that time period. 
  • It was raining pretty heavily at times during the tour. They have plenty of umbrellas if you forget to bring one. I found that to be the case at some other distilleries also, where rain tried to interrupt the proceedings. 

Debunking Experts: No Two Palates Are the Same

Ever have someone push you toward a particular whisky because it was good. And then when you suggest it isn't for you, they roll their eyes?  Well, let it roll off your back. Just watch two different YouTube tasters discussions of the flavors they get out of the same product. Amazingly, many of them get unrelated flavors.

I'll use beer as a reference. I absolutely love Guinness. It agrees with my palate. I don't taste the bitter that others say it has...at least not in an offensive way, unless it's a bad batch. But yet, I know people who love IPA's which are bitter and I don't like them at all. The same with sour beers, I have no interest. Does that mean any of them are bad? No. It just means your palate handles them differently. There are taste profiles that sooth you.  And our tongues all taste differently.

This is the biggest reason I tell you to find your own favorites. Don't worry about what others say. They don't have your tongue. They don't have your flavor experiences. The smell of Jack Daniels brings back bad memories for me. I'm not going to say it's a bad product. I just had a bad experience and it no longer suits my taste. Frank Sinatra thought it was the greatest thing on Earth (of course he drank the 90 proof version and in 1987 they started reducing the proof and changed the product). So, don't be intimidated by others that poo poo your choices. You'll either evolve out of them with experience or they might just be the perfect fit for your particular taste buds or style.

Old Forester Distillery and Video 6.3

Very Visual Tour and Triumphant Return of the Distillery to Whiskey Row

Takeaways

  • During the renovations at Whiskey Row, many distilleries are moving downtown, so this will be a great centralized area for experiencing whiskey.
  • If you plan your trip between Tuesday and Saturday, you'll get to see more of the process. It's my understanding that on Mondays and Tuesdays the distillery doesn't run, but they still give tours.
  • The product was originally spelled Old Forrester, but the extra "r' was dropped due to a legal issue which they cover during the tour. I like when scars are not glossed over or ignored. 
  • Look for the old marketing ads. They have them on the wall. One makes a statement about "discriminating doctors" and a claim to longer life by drinking this whiskey. Okay then. Maybe marketing isn't quite THAT bad these days!
  • You can see the beautiful and tall copper still as it sits in the gift shop. Another fantastic and unique still from Vendrome of Louisville.
  • You can see them roll out the barrels at 12 noon Tuesday through Saturday and bang the drum. The barrels drop from an elevator that is visible from the front of the distillery and the team rolls them out to a flatbed truck which apparently drives the whiskey around town.
  • This is the only major distillery with an on-site cooperage. No guarantee, but you might get to see a barrel getting fired or shaped.

Video 6.2 Extra: See a Barrel Being Fired at a Cooperage

Side Tracked: Whiskey and Prohibition

The time between 1920 and 1933 was a dark time for bourbon producers. The 18th Amendment basically took away the rights of American's to enjoy alcohol and stopped producers dead in their tracks. Many fought it, including George G. Brown of Old Forester, who wrote a book called "The Holy Bible Repudiates 'Prohibition.'" The book obviously had no effect, but is an interesting relic of the times. Whiskey was available in rations of pints for medicinal purposes, although you'd have to be pretty rich to keep up the habit. It is said the pint would probably set you back the equivalent of $400 in today's money. 

Where did this medicinal alcohol come from? There were six distilleries that were licensed to continue operations for that purpose. One was Brown-Forman (so that book may have had some effect in keeping the business afloat), others included Frankfort Distillery (now Four Roses), American Medicinal Spirits (which was later absorbed by Jim Beam), Stitzel Distillery, and three others that have been absorbed by other companies. Until 1929, none of these distilleries were allowed to create new product.

In the midst of the Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt pushed for the repeal of the 18th Amendment. All it had done was create a more dangerous product, which was being made with all sorts of additives including poisons, and it brought about a rise in organized crime. Most of Kentucky's distilleries never reopened. As for that medicinal alcohol? Some bottles still remain out there and there are some whiskey bars that have tasting nights with some of these rare whiskies. It's suggested that some are of an amazing quality. 

Evan Williams Sweet and Neat Bourbon Experience

A Special Treat on Whiskey Row

  • Location: Louisville, KY
  • Website: Tour Information (Requires Age Verification)
  • Cost: I paid $15 through an online reservation
  • Samples: Sweet and Neat: 4 Selections including Evan Williams Small Batch, Bernheim Wheat, Rittenhouse Rye 100 Proof, Evan Williams 12 Year and a variety of chocolates.
  • Perks: I got a notepad and pen but the experience was quite enough.
  • Note: This is a special program that may or may not be available. Check the website for more details. It's a tough site to navigate, so you may need to have some patience sorting it all out.

If I had to pick the absolute best tasting experience of the tour, this was it. The team at Evan Williams worked along side Erika Chavez-Graziano of Cellar Door Chocolates to come up with some amazingly interesting pairings. More details in the video below.

Proof On Main

Upscale Dining and Great Whiskey Selection at the Bar

  • Location: Whiskey Row, Louisville, KY
  • Recommended Tastes: Johnny Drum (of Willits Distillery), 
  • I enjoyed my time sitting at the bar and enjoyed the conversation with Oliver the bartender. Use these opportunities to get a feel for what the bartenders and service staff like. It will open up all sorts of new possibilities. 

Where Did Your Whisky Come From?

Sometimes figuring out where your bourbon came from can be a challenge. You at least know your bourbon was produced in Kentucky from start to finish, if it uses "Kentucky Straight" in the title. However, it gets a little more difficult from there. Look for these keywords: distilled, aged and bottled. Notice that sometimes they aren't always listed. Also note that sometimes the distillery isn't listed or it's a distillery you haven't heard of before. Also, you may find that a product may come from a distillery you know to be in one town, but it lists a different town half way across the state, on the bottle. 

This is where the call for better transparancy comes in. A bottle of Jefferson's Reserve is completely confusing as it says "bottled for McLain and Kyne." What does that mean? And it comes from Kentucky Artisan Distillery, right? But it says that nowhere on the bottle. Or Johnny Drum says it's made by Johnny Drum Distillery Co. yet it's made at Willet's. Tracking down where your favorite bourbon came from can be quite a chore. And it can take quite a journey within the state of Kentucky before it reaches your store shelves. Maybe it doesn't matter in the long run. But it does open up the question as to why the secrecy. And it can keep you from finding similar mash bill's that could potentially be a better value.

Haymarket Whiskey Bar

Incredible Bourbon and Rye Collection To Enjoy

  • Location: Louisville, KY
  • Taste Recommendations: Old Charter 8 and Woodford Reserve Malt Whiskey

Takeaways

  • Gotta admit, I was a little buzzed when making this video...but hey, I was enjoying my trip and that is the ultimate goal, right?! Plus I had Lyft driving me around...although I will stay, a couple of those drivers scared the crap out of me with their driving skills or lack there of! ;)
  • I like that they leave the whiskey bottle there for you to inspect while you're enjoying the beverage.
  • Old Charter has knocked Evan Williams 1783 off as the bourbon that sits in my decanter. 
  • Awesome selection at the Haymarket Whiskey Bar. They even had some of what I believe was orphan barrel stock that I had seen earlier in the day at Stitzel-Weller that was being sold at $2000 for a 4 pack. I didn't give those a shot however. Orphan barrel product is pot luck. You might find something absolutely exceptional, but it's very possible it could be swill as well (hopefully the tasters are kinder than to do that though). Orphan barrels are just what they sound like, barrels that were abandoned or discovered, but that will not be recreated again after being sold off. There is actually a company in Tennessee that specializes in orphan whiskey if you're interested.
  • A couple of times I heard tour guides suggest that females palates were not usually geared toward ryes or higher proof whiskies. I found the exact opposite to be true. I found the more spice or complexity, usually the more the females liked it. Ladies, don't shy away from ryes, malts or higher proof whiskey. I think you might be surprised at how you take to them.
  • On the marketing side of things and who is the oldest, check through my entire blog as I cover this throughout. 

Do It Yourself

Each day, I will provide a map showing my drive and will give you an idea of the mileage. 

Kentucky Bourbon Tour Map - Day Six

Distance Between:

Note: You could try to do this all by public transportion, but it'd probably be a little tough to get to Stitzel-Weller, which is a ways out of the city limits. Everything else though is easily accessible downtown. Note also that Michter's Distillery is near Stitzel-Weller's Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience, but is not open to the public. They have a Whiskey Row location slated for late Summer 2018 near Louisville Slugger's museum.

  • Stitzel-Weller Distillery (Louisville, KY) to Whiskey Row (Louisville, KY) - 6 miles/15 minutes

On to Day 7 

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