Doc’s Bourbon Room is the latest addition to Louisville’s Bourbon Bar scene. Actually, it is more than just a Bourbon Bar, it is a whiskey bar. They have about a thousand Bourbons on the menu, but there are over a thousand other whiskeys. Rye, Tennessee, Corn, Moonshine, Irish, Scotch and Canadian whiskeys are also offered at Doc’s Bourbon Room. They have set a goal to top Jack Rose Dining Saloon as the best whiskey bar in the United States. It is a lofty goal, and they have gotten off to a good start. As a Louisvillian, I do hope they succeed. I think that Louisville needs to have the best whiskey bar in the United States.
To start, they have a huge choice of whiskeys to offer. The walls are lined with bottles and they have put into place a kind of “Dewey Decimal System” to make it easier to find bottles when a customer orders a particular pour. As an Archivist, I will say that this system is only as good as the staff putting bottles back on the shelves after the customer has a pour. A misfiled bottle could take hours to find amongst the thousands of bottles on the shelf. The customer orders and is served either a 1 ounce or two-ounce pour and has the bottle brought out with the pour. That means there are a lot of bottles to reshelve.
The prices are very reasonable. The two-ounce pour is double the price of the one-ounce pour. The prices range from $3 for many one-ounce pours to well over $100. The neat pours come in Glencairn whiskey glasses. They offer flights and cocktails. On our visit, I had a pour each of the M B Roland Bourbons – traditional Bourbon and a Bourbon made with wheat. Rosemary had a Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye Manhattan and declared it excellent. Our server, John Shumake, was very helpful and knowledgeable. He has worked at Churchill Downs and the Haymarket before coming to Doc’s Bourbon Room. He has very good knowledge of Bourbon, but more importantly, he enjoys talking about the whiskeys and is very willing to help customers make their selections. I watched and listened as he helped customers at a nearby table. He found out what they normally drink and then offered other brands with a similar taste profile. His suggestions were good ones and not based upon the price of the whiskey.
Doc’s does offer food, but does not yet offer full meals. The food menu consists of shareable plates. We ordered the whipped goat cheese spread and the charcuterie board. Both were very good and with enough food that you could make a meal by ordering two or more of the dishes. There were many other items that were tempting. I pondered over the pretzel and beer cheese and Rosemary considered the beetroot smoked salmon. Something to look forward to trying on future visits.
The staff is very friendly and fairly well trained for a newly opened bar. I am sure they will get even better as they continue and learn the system and the whiskeys. Their Bar Manager, Forrest Price, is a good hire if Doc’s wants to top Jack Rose. Price worked at Jack Rose for a couple of years and is familiar with the workings of a great whiskey bar. The General Manager, Brad Lawton, came by the table and we talked. He was visiting the tables and talking with all of the customers and getting feedback about their experience at Doc’s. He told me that they have many of the distillers lined up to come in and train their staff. Education is important for a top-notch whiskey bar.
Doc’s does offer pours from some vintage bottles. They are not listed on the menu and they are not inexpensive, but priced fairly. Vintage bottles are getting very expensive to purchase. The change in the Kentucky law that allows bars to purchase vintage bottles and sell by the drink has driven up the price of such bottles. I ordered a pour from a circa 1964 Old Taylor 86 proof and it was $115 for a pour. To order a pour from a vintage bottle at Doc’s Bourbon Room at this time, you have to go to the bar and look to see what they have to offer. The plans are to add a section of such bottles to the menu, but they are still working out the pricing system and their inventory. They hope to have it ready in time for the Derby.
I would give Doc’s Bourbon Room 3 points for the whiskey selection. I give them another point for offering flights and another point for making an excellent Manhattan. The staff is well trained and friendly so they are worth another 3 points. Finally, I would give 3 points for the general atmosphere of the bar, the cleanliness and over décor. That gives them 11 points total.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller and Rebecca Hammer