In Louisville the Bars at the Seelbach and the Brown Hotels always had great Bourbon selections. This is mainly because these fine old hotels are where distillers usually put up their out of town guests. In competition with each other for this business, the hotels made sure that they kept brands from every distillery at the bar. The non-distillery guest was a very grateful benefactor of this competition. Things began to change when Bourbon Tourism began to grow. These patrons were looking not only for a place to stay while visiting distilleries, but also places to drink a few bourbons. Louisville hotels began to realize that if their hotel bar had a great Bourbon selection, many people would stay there and have a drink or two before going to bed. If the restaurant had a good food, even better. Dinner would also include a Bourbon or two. The happy patron would be more likely to return on the next trip and even tell their friends back home about their hotel experience and this would lead to more business.
For a standard the Bar at the Brown Hotel is a good choice. Rich in tradition it has always had an excellent Bourbon choice and great food in restaurant. It is the birthplace of the Hot Brown after all. They have about 100 American whiskeys on their menu. This includes ryes, Tennessee and finished products. The price range is from $9 for a Four Roses Yellow label or Jim Beam White to $16 to $20 for some of the single barrel and craft products. They then have a special menu simply called “Highly Sought-After” with about 30 of the usual suspects of the Pappy line, the Elijah Craig line and the other hard to come by bottles. These prices range from $15 for Sazerac rye to $150 for Michter’s 20yo. Pappy 20 and 23 are not listed on the menu but are available around Derby. The menu also has four standard flights and create your own flight. The four listed flights are priced from $15 to $25. The create your own is simply half the price of each Bourbon. The Brown always attracted great bartenders and serving staff and work to make them knowledgeable about the distillers and their products.
Two of the newer hotel Bourbon Bars in Louisville are Sway Bar and Restaurant at the Hyatt Regency, 311 S.4th Street. They have a great selection of Bourbons and a restaurant that is much better than most hotel restaurants. The food is southern cuisine. Their menu has a great selection on Bourbons but is disappointing in that there are no prices listed for the Bourbons. You have to ask the server or bartender if you want to know price before ordering. Still they have over 60 Bourbons listed and the few price I asked about as a sampling were Blanton’s at $14, Bookers at $13 Maker’s Mark at $10, Old Forester at $8 and Wild Turkey at $9. Not unreasonable prices and the pours are generous. They have three flights listed on the menu and they are a four product flight ranging in price from $16 to $20. Very reasonable prices for four drinks. The servers and bar tenders are well trained. Many of them are alumni of the Filson Bourbon Academy.
The Marriott East at 1903 Embassy Square Boulevard, off Hurstbourne Lane is a hotel that decided to become a Bourbon themed hotel to attract the Bourbon tourist. They have meeting rooms with Bourbon theme names, a gift shop with Bourbon books and paraphernalia and Charr’d Bourbon Kitchen & Lounge. The food is southern cuisine and uses Bourbon in many of the recipes. The bar is excellent with a menu organized by proof range in alphabetical order by brand. There are over 150 Bourbons, about 30 ryes and 25 or so “rest of the barrel” that includes corn, wheat and flavored products. They also have three single barrel selections chosen for the restaurant. The prices range from $7 for Jim Beam white to $25 for Forged Oak to many products such as Old Forester Birthday Bourbon and Pappy 15yo listed as ”market” price. They offer flights but do not have any set flights on the menu or even make this option available on the menu. The pours are generous. The hotel has made some efforts to train their staff as they are fairly knowledgeable about who makes what brand and have a basic knowledge of the process. All in all a very good experience for the customer.
The growth of Bourbon Tourism has caused a growth in the hospitality industry and Louisville hotels are stepping up their game in competition for these tourist. Hyatt and Marriott are not the only hotels doing so in the city but are two examples of the best. In the end it will be the visitor that wins whether they are staying at The Brown, The Seelbach, 21c, the Hyatt or the Marriott.
Photo Courtesy of Maggie Kimberl