For bourbon bars, Louisville hits the mark. A whole book of them – the Urban Bourbon Trail passport – shows the ones that have more than 50 bourbons. If you get just six stamps in the passport, they give you a free t-shirt. Show a little bit of bourbon knowledge and the bartenders will steer you past the front row and recommend some of the ones that are harder to find, at least in Brooklyn – Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, Colonel E.H. Taylor barrel proof, and Kentucky Owl were a few I got to try. I also took pleasure in ordering some more common ones that I rarely see in my neighborhood, including Elmer T. Lee and W.L. Weller 12 year. In Louisville, you can usually find what you want unless the name starts with Pappy and ends in Van Winkle.
The main whiskey event on Whiskey Row is the Evan Williams Experience, which is a multimedia exhibit tour. It’s a little gimmicky – actors play out a scene of a town council meeting where Evan Williams is elected harbormaster, for instance - but it’s a good introduction if you need one. The information on the bourbon process will definitely be covered if you are visiting other distilleries. As far as making whiskey there, they have an artisanal distillery where they produce one barrel a day on display, as compared to the main distillery, which produces 2,000 barrels a day.
So we’ve covered bourbon and pride. The last ingredient is horses, and the best place to see those is Churchill Downs. I can’t speak to the Kentucky Derby – which seems full of big hats and big money – but a lazy Sunday there made for a really pleasant afternoon. We could go all the way down to the fence to watch the races. As the horses came around the bend, everyone started cheering louder and louder, and in seconds, we had lost money. After, they brought the horses back near the gate to take off the jerseys and pour water over them. You could see the sweat and the muscles. The mint juleps are not much to speak of – poured out of a bottle over ice with a sprig of fading mint stuck in for show – but take it down to the track, lean against the fence, smell the horses, and it feels right.
Everywhere! But I can recommend Down One Bourbon Bar off Main Street. Friendly and relaxing with good bourbon knowledge and selection. I got Elmer T. Lee here to toast my grandpa, my favorite Elmer.
Where to Eat in Louisville:
Everywhere! But I can recommend:
Bistro 301 – Good lunch fair with wraps and salads. I got an Old Forester Birthday Bourbon. For my birthday.
Proof on Main – Modern Southern Fare. We had a special menu because it was with an event, but it was delicious duck and very well paired with the bourbon cocktails.
Doc Crows – Delicious oysters and Southern food. Catfish platter and mac and cheese were the perfect meal, but I snuck some pulled pork off the plate across from me and that would have been a great meal, too. Wasn’t so impressed with the cocktail. Should have paired with straight bourbon.
Harvest Restaurant – So local one of the farmers came over to introduce himself. Fried chicken and biscuits delicious. Paired with Colonel E.H. Taylor barrel proof – perfect
Silver Dollar – Brunch. Yes. Shrimp and grits. Paired well with mimosa, so I guess I didn’t do bourbon at every meal. But I could have! They had a mighty fine bourbon menu.