Maysville and Paducah are two river towns on the Ohio River that are rich in Bourbon History. Both are beginning to use that heritage to attract more tourism and both have some exciting plans on the table. I thought I would look at each town’s heritage and what they can do to attract more Bourbon tourism. Both towns have decent Bourbon bars and nice restaurants but there can never be too many of either. A growing tourism business would encourage the growth in the food and beverage selection. It would help the local economy as well as promote Bourbon.
I will start with Maysville. They have a rich heritage that includes the legend that it was whiskey shipped out of Limestone, the early name for Maysville, which gave Bourbon its name. I have my doubts about the legend, but they were definitely a major port of trade out of frontier Kentucky. The town is filled with beautiful old store fronts and it would be nice to see them create a museum based upon that early trade and river life. Look at life on a flatboat and the dangers of river pirates and other threats to the traders. Bourbon would play a major role in this presentation. There could be exhibits of the early distillers from the area that includes all of old Bourbon County.
Maysville does have a rich heritage in the Pogue family as well. The Old Pogue distillery is in Maysville but it is not a very easy distillery to visit. It is high on the bluff overlooking the river with limited parking space and visitor space. It would be difficult to get a bus load of tourists into the distillery. Tours are by appointment only so as to keep John Pogue from being overwhelmed. With that said that is part of the charm of the distillery. It is a small operation making about a barrel a week but John is a very talented distiller making great whiskey. The Pogue family have a long history of making Bourbon in Maysville and even have letters dealing with George Remus during prohibition. It would be nice if Maysville had an exhibit in town for tourists to visit as they are waiting on their appointment to visit the distillery.
At the other end of the Ohio River is Paducah. Founded by William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame in the early 19th century it too was an important port of call along the Ohio. A charming river town with some great old storefronts along the river, Paducah has a rich heritage in Bourbon. It was an important river port that saw a lot of steamboats carrying Bourbon from all over the state to markets in the west and south. The town had an influx of Jewish settlers in the last half of the 19th century and many of them entered the Bourbon trade. This includes I.W. and Bernard Bernheim amongst many others. It would be nice to see a small museum that would focus on the Jewish tradesmen that included the whiskey men and the brands they created.
Paducah is also the logical place to stay when visiting the growing craft distilleries in Western Kentucky. It would be good to have plenty of maps to these distilleries and maybe even a tour company focusing on taking people to these rural location. The city has a thriving Paducah Bourbon Society so there is local interest in Bourbon and Bourbon tourism. The craft distilling side of tourism will continue to grow and the town should take advantage of that growth in their part of the state.
Maysville and Paducah are two great river towns in Kentucky. They are working to promote themselves in the growing tourism business in Kentucky and have made great strides over the past decade to do so. Bourbon can help them do so. I have offered some suggestions here but I am sure that there are many other ideas that can be brought to fruition with some effort and investment. They are already wonderful places to visit and will be even better in the future.
Photos Courtesy of Maggie Kimberl