Louisville – Gateway Itinerary
Start your Kentucky Bourbon Trail® adventure in Louisville – the city whose official drink is the Old Fashioned! Plan ahead by booking your tours and transportation in advance with Mint Julep Experiences or Pegasus Distilled Experiences. Begin your journey at the official starting point, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® Welcome Center at the Frazier Museum. Make time to peruse their Spirit of Kentucky® Bourbon exhibition, shop for Bourbon-y gifts, take a selfie in the bottle hall, and look for the secret speakeasy entrance. The Frazier staff is also an excellent resource for mapping out your trip, so use them as your ‘concierge’ for all things Bourbon.
Bust out the tennies, Whiskey Row is calling! When you walk out of the Frazier Museum and turn left, there are four KBTTM distilleries within a one mile stretch of Main Street – Michter’s Fort Nelson Distillery, Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, Old Forester Distilling Co., and Angel’s Envy Distillery. These experiences are super walkable, but if you choose to drive, make sure to reverse course as Main Street is one-way.
Start your distillery tours at the home of the Michter’s Fort Nelson Distillery. See the pot stills from the original Michter’s Pennsylvania Distillery, which traces its history back to 1753. Test your senses in the lab, and finish your tour off in the second floor bar. The Bar at Fort Nelson features classic cocktails curated by cocktail historian and author David Wondrich as well as modern creations by Bar Manager Carrie Casler and Bartenders David Tuney and Aron Queen (ask about the self-fill bottle station!).
Head two blocks down to the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, located just a stones-throw from the port where Evan himself used to send barrels down the river. ON3 is an urban-chic loft space that is open and airy, with exposed brick and floor-to-ceiling windows. You’ll find barrel staves and bottle chandeliers at the bar, and plenty of space to sit and mingle. Enjoy flights of Bourbon, or a specially prepared cocktail from their Mixologist, Karla Plott.
Get your shades ready for you next stop! The Old Forester Distilling Co. is four floors of Bourbon education like you’ve never seen before. You will see barrels being assembled and charred (hence the shades) in their on-site cooperage and end your tour in their state of the art cocktail lounge, George’s Bar. If visiting on Fridays and Saturdays, have your camera ready as the Old Forester Whisky Drummer drums up business on Whiskey Row! Watch as the barrels built and filled in the cooperage are rolled out onto Main Street and into their vintage-style barrel truck.
Prepare your palate for this distillery’s different take on Bourbon. At Angel’s Envy, they age their Bourbon in ruby port wine casks giving it a subtle depth of flavor. After your tour, grab a hand-crafted cocktail in their gorgeous, second story bar overlooking the Ohio River. (Angel’s Envy is a reservation-only distillery and is closed on Tuesdays.)
Next, head to the beloved NuLu district to visit Rabbit Hole Distillery. Step into this ultra-modern facility to learn how the owner fell in love with Bourbon as he fell in love with a girl, and what drives him to make what he considers to be the best Bourbons and ryes. Finish your tour with a cocktail in their Overlook bar curated by Death + Co.
Make your way back to West Louisville to tour the old Stitzel-Weller Distillery. This site originally opened in 1935 has been closed to the public for years. Walk around for a few minutes and you’ll see just how much whiskey history has occurred on these hallowed grounds. (Stitzel-Weller is closed on Tuesdays.)
Leave the city limits momentarily to peruse the new home of Bulleit Distilling Co. Tour their state-of-the-art distillery, grab a cocktail from their bar, and take home a bottle of Bulleit Bourbon with your own customized label. (Bulleit is closed on Mondays.)
Take a short 40 minutes drive south on I-65 to the home of one of the world’s most noted whiskeys – the Jim Beam American Stillhouse. After seeing every step of the process, you’ll have the chance to dip your own bottle of Knob Creek right off the bottling line. After the interactive, multi-sensory tour, make sure to grab some BBQ at Fred’s Smokehouse, and sip a cocktail on the patio. Stay tuned to their events calendar for any special happenings throughout the year.
(You may choose to visit the Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse in downtown Louisville to receive your stamp in your passport. Drop into the JBUS for a quick tasting or sign up for their table-side cocktail experience–and don’t forget to fill and label your own bottle of Urban Stillhouse Select)
(Just south of Jim Beam lies the Four Roses Warehouse & Bottling Facility in Cox’s Creek. You may choose to get your passport stamped here or at the distillery. This Four Roses tour focuses on its warehouse and bottling operations. Save on admission fees if you tour both within 60 days.)
Located in the Portland neighborhood, just west of Whiskey Row in downtown Louisville brings you to the Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co. Learn how the Taylor’s are preserving their family’s 130-year distilling tradition as you tour their beautiful facility. Try the first brown spirit produced by the family in 100 years – the award-winning Peerless Rye Whiskey or their newly released Bourbon.
Your next destination is nestled in the quiet countryside just outside the city. Kentucky Artisan Distillery produces its own label, Whiskey Row Bourbon, a blend of small batch barrels mirroring the recipes that came about during the westward expansion of our nation.
When you visit Jeptha Creed Distillery in nearby Shelbyville, you feel like family. The mother/daughter team uses an heirloom variety of “bloody butcher” corn to make their Bourbon, and raise their own produce they use to infuse their spirits with. After your tour, grab a cocktail and gaze over the rolling hills and rickhouses.
Head down to Butchertown for a tour of the Copper & Kings American Brandy Co. to experience what the locals call “brandy for Bourbon lovers.” See the innovative spirits in production and visit the rooftop bar, ALEX&NDER for a refreshing beverage (try a Butchertown Soda for a change of pace).
Want to become an Executive Bourbon Steward? Moonshine University has developed the world’s first certification program for Bourbon professionals. Get Stave & Thief certified to earn your Bourbon bragging rights.
Urban Bourbon Trail®
The headlines say that Louisville is on the rise as a nationally recognized foodie city! So grab an Urban Bourbon Trail® passport and start dining your way around town and discover what “Bourbonism” means to us. There are 46 participating establishments but you only need to visit 6 to get your free t-shirt. There’s no better way to start the UBT than with a well-crafted Bourbon flight at Bourbons Bistro, Louisville’s foremost Bourbon bar. With a selection of more than 130 Bourbons, including an exclusive barrel selection program, Bourbons Bistro has a seasonal menu that is Bourbon inspired and locally sourced. Enjoy a “Bourbon of the day” and other nightly drink specials at Charr’d Bourbon Kitchen & Lounge. For a downtown option check into Gatsy’s on Fourth at the storied Seelbach Hotel, order a famed “Seelbach” cocktail, and ask about Al Capone’s getaway tunnels!
Butchertown Grocery will treat you right with housemade gnocchi, beignets, and Bourbon cocktails. The Proof bar in the original 21c Museum Hotel is sure to please. 8UP Elevated Drinkery is one of the city’s only rooftop bars. Lilly’s Bistro is a Louisville mainstay for dining and cocktails. If you leave Louisville without having a hot brown at the Brown Hotel, you’re doing it wrong.
Other local favorites not on the UBT – Make reservations at McGarity’s at ALEX&NDER and let chef Dallas McGarity take care of the rest while overlooking the city from this rooftop locale. The Limbo puts a Bourbon spin on classic tiki drinks. Bourbon slushies are always on the menu at Feast BBQ and Royals Hot Chicken in the NuLu district.
Need a place to stay? We have options! When booking at the Marriott Louisville East, ask about the Bourbon suite complete with Bourbon-barrel decor. Enjoy a “Bourbon of the day” and other nightly drink specials at Charr’d Bourbon Kitchen & Lounge. For some great downtown options, check in to the Omni Hotel. With an on-site bowling alley (in the speakeasy), rooftop pool, full service spa, market, and two signature restaurants, you’ll never want to leave. The newly renovated Marriott Downtown also offers Bourbon-inspired decor with a special tasting room and a stop on the Urban Bourbon Trail®. Enjoy Bluegrass with your Bourbon on Saturdays in their adjoining Porch Restaurant. If you’re looking for luxurious, southern accommodations a little off the beaten path, check into the Chateau Bourbon B&B for a great night’s sleep and a Bourbon-inspired breakfast.
If you’re looking for lodging with a little more history, look no further! Check into the Brown Hotel to enjoy the exceptional Bourbons on their bar, and make sure to order the Hot Brown sandwich – invented here. The Seelbach Hotel opened in 1905 and has been frequented by many notable Americans – 9 US Presidents for instance; Al Capone was a regular and once escaped the police through secret tunnels; and F. Scott Fitzgerald who took inspiration from the Seelbach when writing The Great Gatsby. Make sure to visit the Rathskeller speakeasy bar that Fitzgerald used to frequent and order the famous Seelbach cocktail – Bourbon, triple sec, bitters and champagne. If none of that floats your boat, Louisville has many other places to stay.
Speaking of easies…Louisville has lots of secret, underground watering holes – Hell or High Water, Jimmy Can’t Dance, Lola’s, and Pin + Proof (speakeasy and bowling alley) just to name a few.
This is where it happens, folks – the most exciting two minutes in sports – the Kentucky Derby. If you can’t be here for the first Saturday in May, you can still visit the Kentucky Derby Museum and go to Churchill Downs for some night racing. Eat like a local and hit Wagner’s Diner across the street. Want to interact with some thoroughbreds up close? Book a tour with Horse Country Tours to visit The Hermitage to witness broodmares, foals, and yearlings grazing the land on this working farm that has been active for nearly two centuries.
Psst – when you visit the Bulleit Distilling Co. and Jeptha Creed Distillery, you will be in Shelbyville – the Walking Horse Capital of the World! Make sure to check out Claudia Sanders Dinner House opened by the wife of the KFC Founder, Colonel Sanders.
There’s no shortage of “things to do” in Louisville! One of the city’s top attractions is the Slugger Museum & Factory where they’ve been making baseball bats since 1884 – don’t forget your free mini bat on the way out (or muddlers as we like to call them). Head to the 4th Street Live! entertainment district in the heart of downtown for dining, bowling, games, live music, sports bars and more all in one walkable block (get the adult milkshake at Whiskey Dry). Sign up for a class in advance and learn how to cook with Bourbon at Cooking at Millie’s. If you’re in the mood for an amusement and water park, Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay has roller coasters, water slides and something for every thrillseeker. If you’re into the more natural of wonders, head underground to the Louisville Mega Caverns for e-bike tours and the world’s only underground zip-line. Take in a show at the Kentucky Center for the Arts or the Actors Theatre, enjoy live musical performances at the Palace or the Brown Theatre, or peruse the vast galleries at the Speed Art Museum. Click here for museums and art galleries, here for performing arts, and here for music venues. For sports fans, Louisville is a great place to see a college basketball game, a minor league baseball game, or a soccer game. If you’re one of those who likes to celebrate Halloween year round, tour the Waverly Hills Sanitorium, once credited as the most haunted site on earth. Or visit renowned Cave Hill Cemetery to see the burial sites of notable Louisvillains – Muhammad Ali, boxing champion; Colonel Harland Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken; Patty Hill and Mildred J. Hill (sisters), composers of the Happy Birthday song. Explore the city by Neighborhood, and check here for discounts to these and other attractions.
Louisville is just about the most eventful city in the state. Here are a few highlights to get your juices flowing. The Kentucky Bourbon Affair is known as the ultimate Bourbon fantasy camp. This week-long series of events is hosted in Louisville with daily events occurring at the distilleries all over the state. Guests enjoy unprecedented access to Master Distillers, single barrel selections and skillfully prepared cuisine and cocktails. Ky Bourbon Affair fits perfectly into the Old Fashioned Fortnight two week series of events in the city.
Each September, thousands of folks flock to Louisville for Bourbon & Beyond – the music festival that has quickly become one of the most anticipated events for world renowned musicians, delicious local food and over 40 Bourbons. Also stick around for Hometown Rising (country) and Louder Than Life (rock). If music is your jam, Louisville’s independent radio station hosts free concerts on the waterfront the last Wednesday of each month, April through September. Jeptha Creed Distillery has live music most Friday nights and trivia most Saturday night throughout the year.
The Kentucky Derby Festival kicks of a full month before the Derby and includes a fashion show, a Derby Ball, a culinary festival, and the world famous airshow and fireworks display – Thunder over Louisville. Featuring over 100 beers and a silent disco in a gorgeous airplane hangar, the Tailspin Ale Fest is a fun change of pace for February. Click here for these and many more Events in and around Louisville.
Time to stock up! Grab some old favorites and maybe some hard to find gems at Westport Whiskey & Wine. Show your Kentucky Bourbon Trail® or Craft Tour passport and ask about their discounts and special offers. While you’re in the Westport Village, peruse the other boutiques, shops and dining spots, and don’t leave before enjoying a scoop of Bourbon ball ice cream at Louisville’s original Comfy Cow Creamery.
There are plenty of opportunities for shopping in Louisville whether in the NuLu district, Mall St. Matthew’s, Oxmoor Mall, or the Outlet Shoppes of the Bluegrass. For antiques, vintage finds, and the just downright strange, check out Crazy Daisy, Mellwood Antiques, and Derby City Antique Mall & Cafe. If you’re into the spooky, visit Caufield’s Novelty shop – novel since 1920. When you’re visiting Copper & Kings American Brandy Co., you’re just a stone’s throw away from the Butchertown Market – home to many local purveyors including one of our favorites, Bourbon Barrel Foods. Need to take a walk on the sweet side? Indulge in delectable Bourbon truffles and other divine confections at Art Eatables (just steps away from the Frazier).
Click here for all shopping opportunities in and around Louisville.
Ditch the car and opt for hiking shoes or a bike when you visit Cherokee Park. Located in the heart of the city, Cherokee is a 409-acre park designed by the same Olmstead who designed Central Park in New York City. Want more? The Parklands of Floyds Fork is one of the largest and most ambitious metropolitan park projects in the nation. This nearly 4,000 acre, donor-supported park system is made up of four major parks linked by a park drive, a first-rate urban trail system, and a remarkable water trail, all tracing Floyds Fork, a classic Kentucky stream. Every fall, Iroquois Park is transformed for their Jack ’o Lantern Spectacular – a 1/3-mile walking trail lined with 5,000 professional and amateur carved pumpkins arranged in amazing configurations. You have to see it to believe it! Art meets education meets the outdoors at the Bernheim Research Forest & Arboretum – right across the highway from the Jim Beam American Stillhouse in Clermont!
Take a walk on the wildside when you visit the Louisville Zoo & Botanical Gardens. Cast away for a riverboat cruise on the Belle of Louisville – a steamboat which is said to hold the all-time record in her class for miles traveled, years in operation, and places visited.
Rent bikes, scooters and surreys to explore the waterfront and make the mile-long trek across the Big Four Walking Bridge that extends over the river. Book an Old Louisville Historic Walking Tour, or eat your way across Louisville with a Culinary Tour.
Book your downtown Bourbon tours in style with the Bourbon City Cruisers – electric-powered, eco-friendly vehicles that seat up to 6 people.
You’re just getting started on your Kentucky Bourbon Trail® and Craft Tour® passport! Check out our Kentucky Bourbon Trail® Trip Planner to explore the other fine communities that house our other distilleries and attractions. When you’ve completed your head to our Visitor Center on 4th street to collect your Official Bourbon Tasting Glass! Click here for more info on the passport completion process.