Kentucky To Bourbon Tourists: You're Welcome
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center is open and ready to help start your bourbon journey.
All photos by Maggie Kimberl.
For years people have reached out to me on social media to ask where to start on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. I have spent countless hours messaging people to find out what they want to see and do in order to suggest customized itineraries for them, and I have written many articles on bourbon tourism. Needless to say The Kentucky Bourbon Trail has needed a welcome center for quite some time. Now, thanks to the bourbon boom, it finally has one.
Louisville, at the intersection of three major highways, has always been the unofficial starting point for bourbon tourism. There’s also the Urban Bourbon Trail - a collection of restaurants and bars with a serious emphasis on bourbon. Now, inside the Frazier History Museum at 829 West Main Street you will find the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center. There, visitors can use interactive screens to learn more about potential stops along the trail and ask a concierge questions about destinations and planning. There’s even a replica of George Washington’s still as well as mini displays about distillation and other aspects of the bourbon industry in Kentucky. It’s also a one-stop shop for bourbon trail souvenirs and mementos, and guests can pick up their Bourbon Trail Passports to begin collecting stamps.
For those wanting to learn more about Kentucky’s bourbon industry, a $12 museum admission ticket grants access to the new, permanent Spirit of Kentucky exhibit on the third floor. The exhibit begins with a walk through a picturesque covered bridge type structure filled with screens that display scenes from all around Kentucky - from Shaker Village to Locust Grove to beautiful Thoroughbred Horse farms to fields of Kentucky corn. The exhibit continues on to river and steamboat exhibits, discussing how each was integral to bourbon’s history for many reasons. Steamboats once carried barrels of bourbon down the river to New Orleans for sale, and it is believed by many historians including Michael Veach that Kentucky corn whiskey was initially put into those signature charred oak barrels so they would appeal to New Orleans’ French brandy drinkers. There’s also information about Kentucky’s limestone filtered water, which lacks whiskey-ruining iron and is full of the minerals that yeast needs to thrive.
Additionally. there are exhibits all about farmers and farming - because, after all, bourbon is an agricultural product - with a photo album full of farmers, past and present, putting a human face on their impact on the bourbon industry. Visitors have the opportunity to build a miniature limestone fence like the ones that dot the Kentucky countryside or to raise a miniature barrel with numbered pieces and directions - the experienced coopers make it look at lot easier than it actually is!
The exhibit culminates in the bourbon room, a glistening corridor filled with bourbon bottles from every KDA distillery in Kentucky. This corridor will eventually house every bourbon currently in production in Kentucky, from Heaven Hill to Jim Beam to Wild Turkey and everything in between.
The Kentucky Distillers’ Association Welcome Center is free and open to the public Monday thru Saturday from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon - 5 p.m.