Louisville’s First Official Stop On The Kentucky Bourbon Trail
The Bourbon industry returned to Louisville’s historic Whiskey Row on Nov. 19, 2013 with the opening reception for Heaven Hill Distilleries’ Evan Williams Bourbon Experience. The debut of the $10.5 million dollar artisanal distillery and immersive tourism experience was presided over by Kentucky Governor Beshear, Lieutenant Governor Abramson and Louisville Mayor Fischer. They joined Heaven Hill President Max L. Shapira in cutting the ceremonial ribbon and hammering the bung in the first barrel of Bourbon produced on Whiskey Row, the historic district that was the center of whiskey commerce in the 19th century, since colonial times.
The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience (www.evanwilliamsbourbonexperience.com) celebrates the legacy of Evan Williams, Kentucky’s first commercial distiller and namesake of Heaven Hill’s flagship Bourbon brand. Heaven Hill Distilleries—the largest family owned and operated distilled spirits company in the country—have overseen the growth of Evan Williams to the second largest selling Bourbon in the United States and the world. The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience was also officially named the 8th stop on the world famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail® tour, and the first in Louisville, at a ceremony in May.
Evan Williams, who also served as an early Trustee of the City of Louisville, served as wharfmaster, and built the first county clerk’s office and city jail, set up his early distillery in 1783 near what is now 6th and Main Streets in downtown Louisville—only steps from 528 West Main Street, where the new attraction is located.
The highlight of The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience is a fully functioning, artisanal pot still distillery, viewable to visitors and capable of producing a range of American Whiskey types and styles. The gleaming copper pot stills are a modern version of the same type of equipment Evan Williams himself set up in his distillery along the Ohio River over 200 years ago.
The signature feature of The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience is the façade of the building, which features a five story high Evan Williams Bourbon bottle. The pouring bottle is reproduced as window graphics in the top three floors, but becomes three dimensional in the two lower floors as the neck of the bottle and a nearly 1500 gallon lowball glass in the lobby form a flowing “Bourbon fountain.”
The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience offers guests guided, immersive tours where they are brought back in time to see Evan Williams’ original distillery, high definition video recreations of the Louisville wharf and Main Street in the late 18th Century and recreations of Whiskey Row building facades along Main Street from the 1890’s through the present. A dioramic video wall display allows guests to see how Heaven Hill’s modern Bernheim Distillery operates and how it is different from those in Evan Williams’ era, and then visitors get to see a combination of the two—a state-of-the-art modern distillery using the same types of pot stills used in early Bourbon-making days.
Displays on warehouses and aging are also included, and guests of legal drinking age have the opportunity to enjoy a tutored tasting of premium Bourbons in two different themed tasting rooms. One of these tasting rooms is modeled after the interior of the Philip Hollenbach Co. Whiskey Distributor that occupied the building prior to Heaven Hill’s acquisition over 70 years ago. In addition, a large retail area will offer a range of Evan Williams branded merchandise, specialty food products, and a number of Heaven Hill’s premium Bourbons and American Whiskeys for sale to the public. Finally, a “speakeasy” themed space in the lower level, accessible through a faux safe door in the wall, will be available for special paid tours, as well as public rental for special functions.
“Heaven Hill Distilleries is proud to be bringing the Bourbon industry back to Louisville’s Whiskey Row, and to be bringing the Kentucky Bourbon Trail to Louisville, with the opening of the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience,” stated Heaven Hill President Max L. Shapira. “We are confident that our historically significant location, the quality of the visitor experience, and the ascendance of Evan Williams as the nation’s and world’s second-largest selling Bourbon brand will make this facility a significant new addition to downtown Louisville’s attractions.”