Several months ago Rosemary and I were asked by the Louisville Convention and Visitor’s Bureau to join them for dinner and drinks with a well-known whiskey writer. I won’t mention his name since I have not asked his permission to do so but I have met him before and highly respect his opinions. During the dinner he stated that Louisville is the world’s greatest whiskey town. He believed Dublin was a close second but Louisville, in his opinion, was the best. I have been thinking about this conversation for some time since and thought it would be interesting to put his thoughts into writing and to see if I agreed with him. Now as a native Louisvillian I have always thought so, but I am a bit prejudiced in my opinion. Louisville really is a great whiskey town. Here are the arguments he presented for Louisville with a few of my own additions.
First of all there are many distilleries found in the city. Peerless, Evan Williams, Angel’s Envy, Michter’s and Brown-Forman are already open and many more are very soon on the horizon. Recently the city has added Old Forester and Rabbit Hole, while Michter’s downtown with the original stills is slated for Fall and there are rumors of others in the planning stage. Add to this Copper & Kings brandy distillery, the Jim Beam Urban Still House and the visitor’s experience at Stitzel-Weller then there is ample opportunity to learn about the production of whiskey in Louisville. The city is also within easy driving distance of all of the major distilleries and about a dozen artisan distilleries in the state.
Louisville has many other great whiskey-related businesses in the border of the city. Vendome Copper and Brass is one of the world’s best manufacturers of copper stills. Brown-Forman and Kelvin Cooperage are located in the city. Bourbon Barrel Foods, Shuckman’s Fish Company and Art Eatables Chocolates use Bourbon is their products. There are several artists using barrel staves to make furniture and other decorative items located in the city. Moonshine University has become a center for the training of new distillers and those in the service industry that want to learn more about making spirits and what they might be serving.
Louisville has more than its fair share of great restaurants and more and more of them have great bars with a huge selection of Bourbon and other whiskeys. The Urban Bourbon Trail helps to promote the places with 50 or more Bourbons and use Bourbon in their cooking. Hotels and bed and breakfast establishments are adopting Bourbon as a theme, decorating their rooms and public spaces with Bourbon artifacts and photographs. To support this tourism experience Louisville has companies such as Mint Julep Tours that will help arrange transportation to all of these attractions both inside the city and throughout the State. Louisville is also the home to The Bourbon Society with hundreds of members who meet once a month to discuss Bourbon and to sample many different products.
Last, but not least, is the heritage found in the city. Louisville has been the center of transportation and commerce for the State of Kentucky for over 200 years. Distilleries had offices along the waterfront on Main and Market Streets as well as the connecting streets in order to take advantage of these geographic and economic factors. In fact many pre-Prohibition journalists wrote that Louisville was the “Bourbon Capital of the World”. Many of their office buildings have survived the test of time and are there to be seen even if they now house some other business. Many distillers had homes in the Old Louisville neighborhood and many of those houses are still standing. Many of the distillers themselves are buried at Cave Hill Cemetery and Cave Hill has an app to help people find the grave sites.
I find these arguments pretty persuasive. There are other towns and cities that have some of these same things but not all of them. I have not visited all of the other cities and towns that could make this claim and I would be interested to hear from people who live in other places and hear what they have to say. In the meantime, I will say that for me, Louisville is the world’s greatest whiskey city.
Photos Courtesy of Maggie Kimberl