Mayor Greg Fischer coined the phrase “Bourbonism” when talking about Louisville’s boom in Bourbon Tourism. He has been a huge supporter of the Bourbon industry and tourism has grown under his leadership of the city. As much as Mayor Fischer has done, he has simply built upon the hard work done by Stacey Yates and the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau (LCVB).
I first met Stacey Yates at a Bourbon Dinner at Bourbon’s Bistro. She was there with two of her co-workers, Nancy Stephen and Angela Weisser Moore. These three ladies were the three musketeers of Bourbon tourism in the city. Nancy and Angela have both changed jobs since then but they too did a lot of work to make Bourbon tourism a reality in Louisville. Stacey was the team leader and was at the dinner as a sponsor as they launched a new idea they called the “Urban Bourbon Trail”. This was in 2006. These ladies had seen the growing success of the Bourbon Trail under the leadership of the KDA and were disappointed that Louisville had no role in the Trail other than a place to stay while people visited distilleries. Louisville’s two distilleries at that time, Brown Forman and Bernheim, did not offer tours to the public. Their solution was the Urban Bourbon Trail concept of visiting Louisville bars with over 50 Bourbons on the menu. There were eight places on the trail and the person could get a passport at any one of them. After visiting all eight of the establishments and getting the passport stamped they could turn it in at the LCVB for a t-shirt. The idea was to give the tourist staying in Louisville a Bourbon related challenge in the evening after visiting the distilleries and the Bourbon Trail.
Stacey started inviting people who were food and drink writers to the city and take them to places like Bourbon’s Bistro to showcase Bourbon not only behind the bar, but in the recipes for the dinner menu. She and her other musketeers would then educate these writer about Bourbon’s heritage and its role in the city. Whiskey Row became a term that was reborn in the city’s lexicon. Stacey and her crew would travel to other cities with Urban Bourbon Trail Passports and other Bourbon related items, encouraging people to make Louisville their Gateway to Bourbon Country. This benefited Louisville, but also the industry as a whole, bringing in tourist to the state for Bourbon tourism. They not only did the big cities with the big shows like Whiskey Live, but also many smaller venues. There were many weekends when Nancy and Angela were working a booth with Stacey at a small local festival, handing out UBT passports and t-shirts.
Stacey and her team believed firmly that the Bourbon was also supported by a great restaurant scene in Louisville and looked for ways to bring the two together. This come together in 2013 with the Bourbon Classic held in Louisville. Stacey worked hard to make this event possible and LCVB is a major sponsor of the event. The Classic brings distillers and chefs together to highlight Bourbon not only as a cocktail ingredient and drink, but also in food. No doubt this event helped inspire Mayor Fischer to put together his committee on Food and Bourbon the next year.
Stacey has been working hard for over a decade to promote the city of Louisville and its Bourbon heritage. She has never tried to take the spotlight and is very humble about her role in “Bourbonism” of today. She will quickly give credit to others such as Nancy and Angela and the current members of her team, Jessica Dillree and Christa Ritchie for the hard work done to build Bourbon tourism in the city, but the fact is she is the team leader and deserves credit for her hard work.
Photos Courtesy of the Louisville CVB