Before Prohibition, Paducah, Kentucky was an important Bourbon town. Isaac Wolfe Bernheim and his brother Bernard started their business in Paducah. Dreyfuss and Weil had a distillery in Paducah. Early Times was being distributed by Friedman, Keller & Co. in Paducah. Bourbon whiskey was an important part of Paducah’s economy. As a river town with regular steamboat service, whiskey was sent to market via riverboat. The railroad also brought in corn and grain to make whiskey and shipped barrels of aged whiskey to markets. That pretty much ended with Prohibition.
Today, this heritage is coming back to the city. I recently had a chance to visit Paducah while on the American Duchess Steamboat. Getting off the boat, it is a short walk up the boat ramp to Broadway and the first place you see is Barrel & Bond Bourbon bar. This bar was opened in 2019 and has a selection of Bourbon, Rye and other American whiskeys that would rival any bar in Louisville. This includes many bottles of whiskey from the 1960s and 70s and they do sell pours from some of these bottles. They also host the Paducah Bourbon Society meetings. The Paducah Bourbon Society has about 100 members and are very active in getting speakers to come to Paducah. They have picked a number of private selection barrels.
A short walk up the street is the Old Fashioned Cigar Bar. This business, owned and run by Jeannie Rudd and her husband Joaquin Hilton. It has a well-stocked humidor with a great selection of cigars, but they also have a huge selection of Bourbons and other whiskeys. They serve excellent cocktails and generous pours and will happily discuss Paducah’s Bourbon heritage with you.
A little further up Broadway and you come to the Silent Brigade Distillery. It is a small operation with most of their production being flavored “moonshines”, but they have sourced some excellent Bourbons from the Green River Distillery and are working to build a larger distillery on property outside of town. They have a warehouse ready to store their barrels, but that too, is located outside of Paducah.
Paducah has kept its 19th century charm with many old store fronts being occupied by new businesses and has several hotels that could also serve as a base to visit other distilleries in western Kentucky. The Casey Jones Distillery and the M.B. Roland Distillery are a day trip from Paducah. The drive from Paducah to these distilleries is a little over an hour. There are several good restaurants in Paducah including, The Freight House with Chef Sara Bradley. She is a member of the Paducah Bourbon Society and keeps a large selection of Bourbons on the bar.
There are plenty of antique stores in the city for those looking for Bourbon artifacts. However, like antique stores across Kentucky, these artifacts are harder and harder to find. The market for them is very strong and they sell quickly when they are put on the shelf. Paducah also has a first class Quilt Museum and beautiful murals painted on the floodwall. Both of these attractions are worth seeing and bring many tourists into the town.
Paducah. Kentucky has a rich heritage in the Kentucky Bourbon Distilling industry but lost it during Prohibition. The city is bringing this heritage back. It will take time build, but the local businesses are getting the support they need from the city and they are making headway. Paducah is well worth the visit for the Bourbon tourist. It will only get better in the future.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller