Exploring the Bourbon Trail: Louisville’s Best Distilleries

bourbon distillery in Louisville

Louisville, Kentucky, is a bourbon lover’s paradise, offering a rich tapestry of distilleries, bars, and unique bourbon experiences. Whether you’re a seasoned bourbon enthusiast or a curious newcomer, the Bourbon Trail in Louisville promises an unforgettable journey through the history, craftsmanship, and innovation of America’s native spirit. This guide will take you through some of the best distilleries and bourbon experiences Louisville has to offer.

Key Takeaways

  • Louisville is home to a diverse range of distilleries, each offering unique tours and tasting experiences.
  • The Urban Bourbon Trail features a curated collection of bars and restaurants with extensive bourbon selections and bourbon-infused menus.
  • Annual festivals and special events in Louisville provide perfect opportunities to celebrate bourbon culture.
  • Hidden speakeasies around Louisville offer a unique and intimate bourbon tasting experience.
  • Custom bourbon tours can be tailored to your preferences, providing a personalized and immersive experience.

Evan Williams Bourbon Experience: A Journey Through History

historic bourbon distillery in Louisville

The Legacy of Evan Williams

Named after Kentucky’s first commercial distiller, Evan Williams, this artisanal distillery experience is the home of Heaven Hill’s flagship brand. It even sits across the street from the riverfront venue of Evan Williams’ late 18th century distillery. Celebrating the legacy of Evan Williams, Kentucky’s first distiller, this immersive experience brings to life the history and tradition of Kentucky’s native spirit.

Tour Highlights

Evan Williams offers the most technically advanced tour, complete with videos, immersive exhibits, and a walk through “old Louisville.” Travel back in time to 1783, to the very early days of Louisville, where you will learn about the early history of bourbon and this area of Kentucky. A visit to Evan Williams is educational and entertaining. At the end, sample three different bourbon whiskeys in one of their cozy tasting rooms.

  • Where: Whiskey Row, Louisville
  • Website: evanwilliamsbourbonexperience.com

Tasting Notes

At the end of the tour, visitors are treated to a tasting session in one of the cozy tasting rooms. Here, you can sample three different bourbon whiskeys, each with its own unique flavor profile. The tasting experience is designed to be both educational and enjoyable, offering insights into the craftsmanship that goes into each bottle.

Angel’s Envy: Crafting Unique Bourbon Experiences

Behind the Scenes

Angel’s Envy is what happens when 200 years of bourbon tradition meets an independent master craftsman’s instinct to improve. Located across from Slugger Field in downtown Louisville, this urban distillery gives an insider’s look at a fully operational distilling facility. Space on guided tours is limited and by reservation only, but you can swing by for a photo op or gift shop visit.

Exclusive Tastings

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. Angel’s Envy offers two tours: their signature tour is a one-hour tour of the distillery, while the Inside the Barrel Tour focuses on the finishes of their bourbon and whiskey. This tour not only includes an in-depth tasting of their products but you also get to taste unfinished Rye whiskey directly out of the barrel.

Visitor Tips

After your tour, grab a hand-crafted cocktail in their gorgeous, second story bar overlooking the Ohio River. Remember, Angel’s Envy is a reservation-only distillery and is closed on Tuesdays. Make sure to book your tour in advance to secure your spot and enjoy this unique bourbon experience.

Rabbit Hole: Modern Distilling Techniques

Innovative Processes

Rabbit Hole Distillery is a modern distillery that pays homage to the art and science of distillation. Located in the NuLu district, this ultra-modern facility opened its doors in August 2018. The distillery was founded by two clinical psychologists who developed a love for bourbon, quit their jobs, mortgaged their house, and “went down the Rabbit Hole.” Their innovative approach to distilling combines traditional methods with cutting-edge technology, resulting in unique and high-quality bourbons.

Signature Bourbons

Rabbit Hole offers a variety of signature bourbons that reflect their commitment to quality and innovation. Some of their standout offerings include:

  • Cavehill: A four-grain, triple-malted bourbon.
  • Boxergrail: A Kentucky straight rye whiskey.
  • Dareringer: A sherry-finished bourbon.
  • Heigold: A high-rye double malt bourbon.

Each of these bourbons showcases the distillery’s dedication to crafting exceptional spirits.

Tour Information

Tours at Rabbit Hole are one hour long and end with a tasting. Visitors can see a modern take on bourbon distilling and learn about the distillery’s unique processes. The tour also includes a visit to their house cocktail bar, Alex&nder, which has one of the best views in the city. Whether you’re a bourbon enthusiast or a curious newcomer, a visit to Rabbit Hole offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of modern distilling.

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.

Michter’s Fort Nelson Distillery: A Heritage Reborn

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. The distillery’s “cost be damned” approach to whiskey making put Michter’s on the map as a high-quality spirits maker.

Enjoy a guided tour and tasting to learn about Michter’s “Cost Be Damned” approach to producing the highest quality American whiskeys. Test your senses in the lab, ask about the self-fill bottle station, and head upstairs for something delicious. 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.

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 for a unique souvenir.

Old Forester: The Pioneer of Bottled Bourbon

Old Forester Distilling Co. is renowned as the home of the first bottled bourbon. Located on historic Whiskey Row in downtown Louisville, the distillery offers a unique glimpse into the local history of the Old Forester brand and its creator, George Garvin Brown. Visitors can explore the entire bourbon-making process, from fermentation to distillation, and even witness the fascinating barrel-raising process.

Old Forester offers several different tours to cater to various interests. The basic tour, known as the Old Forester Tour, is a one-hour experience that concludes with a tasting. For those seeking a more in-depth experience, specialty tours are available, including VIP options. Be sure to check their website for the latest offerings and schedules.

After your tour, stop by George’s Bar for bourbon cocktails or a flight. The tasting room provides an excellent opportunity to sample various Old Forester expressions, including the Whiskey Row series (1870, 1897, 1910, 1920), President’s Choice, rye, single barrel, and Statesman. Don’t forget to visit the gift shop for bourbon cocktail provisions and more.

Located in the Whiskey Row district of downtown Louisville, Old Forester Distilling Co. encapsulates the essence of Louisville’s whiskey heritage and modern distilling artistry in a single, compelling narrative of passion and precision.

Stitzel-Weller Distillery: A Legacy of Excellence

The historic Stitzel-Weller Distillery is now home to Blade and Bow after being opened in 1935 by none other than Pappy Van Winkle on Kentucky Derby Day. This site, located in West Louisville, has been closed to the public for years but reopened in 2014. Walking around the distillery, you’ll see just how much whiskey history has occurred on these hallowed grounds.

Visitors can explore the distillery and learn about its rich history. The tour includes a visit to the new Garden & Gun Club, where southern fare is on full display. Make sure to bring your appetite as the culinary experience is as impressive as the distillery itself. Note that the distillery is closed on Tuesdays.

Stitzel-Weller specializes in high-rye bourbon whiskey, offering a unique tasting experience. The distillery is also known for its connection to Blade and Bow, providing visitors with a chance to sample some of the finest bourbons in the region.

Bulleit Distilling Company: Frontier Whiskey

The Bulleit Story

Leave the city limits momentarily to peruse the new home of Bulleit Distilling Co. located in beautiful Shelbyville. Built in 2017 and open to visitors in 2019, this brand new distillery features modern, state-of-the-art technology. Bulleit has been in operation since 1935 but opened to the public in 2014. They specialize in high-rye bourbon whiskey, offering a unique taste that sets them apart.

Distillery Tours

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. The facility has a historic look and feel to it, making it a perfect blend of the old and the new. Bulleit is closed on Mondays, so plan your visit accordingly.

Tasting Sessions

Experience the sights, sounds, and smells of the distillery while enjoying exclusive tasting sessions. These sessions offer a chance to sample some of Bulleit’s finest high-rye bourbon whiskey. Don’t miss the opportunity to savor their unique flavors and perhaps discover a new favorite.

The Bulleit Distilling Co. offers a modern frontier of whiskey, combining tradition with innovation for an unforgettable visitor experience.

Urban Bourbon Trail: Louisville’s Best Bourbon Bars

The Urban Bourbon Trail® is a must-experience for any bourbon enthusiast visiting Louisville. This pub crawl features 40 stops, each offering a selection of at least 60 bourbons. From jazz-aged grand hotel bars to hidden speakeasies and neighborhood dives, the Urban Bourbon Trail caters to all tastes.

Top Bars to Visit

Grab an Urban Bourbon Trail® passport and start dining your way around town to discover some of the best bars and restaurants in Bourbon City. There are dozens of participating establishments to choose from, 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.

Bourbon-Infused Menus

Explore this curated collection of local bars and restaurants that have a wide knowledge of whiskies, Bourbon-infused food menus, and some of the city’s largest collections of Bourbon. After a day of visiting distilleries on the Urban Bourbon Trail, duck into a local speakeasy and grab a craft cocktail for a smooth finish to your day in Bourbon City.

Trail Highlights

To get a glimpse of them all in one outing, book a custom bourbon tour with Mint Julep Experiences and craft an itinerary along the Urban Bourbon Trail. Learn about Louisville’s bourbon history including the Bourbon District, Whiskey Row, and famous distillers of the past. Stop in gift shops for bourbon souvenirs and limited edition bottles of bourbon to take home.

Hidden Speakeasies: Discover Louisville’s Secret Bourbon Spots

After a day of visiting distilleries on the Urban Bourbon Trail, duck into a local speakeasy and grab a craft cocktail for a smooth finish to your day in Bourbon City.

Bourbon Events & Festivals: Celebrate in Louisville

Louisville is just about the most eventful city in the state. 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.

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. The Kentucky Derby Festival kicks off 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.

If you are planning a trip to Bourbon City, check out these high-proof events to center your visit around. 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. Grab an Urban Bourbon Trail® passport and start dining your way around town to discover some of the best bars and restaurants in Bourbon City. There are dozens of participating establishments to choose from, 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.

Custom Bourbon Tours: Tailor Your Experience

bourbon distillery tour in Louisville

Explore the world of bourbon in Louisville to enhance your tasting experience and learn about the intricacies of each sip. Experience Kentucky’s bourbon scene with local experts who will customize an itinerary based on your preferences, taking you to distilleries and bourbon experiences that match your taste and interests. Transportation and guides will be provided to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience.

Booking a Tour

To kickstart your customized bourbon tour itinerary, consider exploring some of the premier distilleries conveniently located downtown in Louisville. Delve behind the scenes with a distillery tour, where you’ll gain insights into the lifecycle of a barrel, the intricacies of bourbon char, and what sets each bourbon brand apart. Immerse yourself in a guided bourbon tasting session, where you’ll learn the art of properly nosing, smelling, and tasting bourbon. For those seeking a hands-on experience, try your hand at blending your own bourbon.

What to Expect

When you book a custom bourbon tour, expect a seamless experience from start to finish. Expert guides will lead you through each distillery, providing fascinating insights and stories. Enjoy the convenience of transportation, ensuring you can fully savor each tasting without worry. Many tours also include a local lunch, allowing you to sample regional cuisine.

Tips for a Great Tour

  • Plan Ahead: Book your tour in advance to secure your preferred dates and times.
  • Dress Comfortably: Wear comfortable shoes and clothing, as tours often involve walking and standing.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay refreshed.
  • Ask Questions: Don’t hesitate to ask your guide about the history, production process, or tasting notes of the bourbons you sample.

Have an awesome time with your friends at truly memorable distilleries and learn about Kentucky’s rich history in bourbon with a full-day bourbon tour.


Exploring the Bourbon Trail in Louisville is an adventure that offers a unique blend of history, craftsmanship, and, of course, exceptional bourbon. From the renowned distilleries like Evan Williams, Angel’s Envy, and Rabbit Hole, to the hidden gems along the Urban Bourbon Trail, there’s something for every bourbon enthusiast. Whether you’re delving into the rich history of bourbon making, enjoying a guided tasting session, or discovering the city’s vibrant bourbon bars and speakeasies, Louisville provides an unforgettable experience. So, gather your friends, plan your itinerary, and immerse yourself in the world of bourbon. Cheers to your next bourbon adventure in Louisville!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Kentucky Bourbon Trail?

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is a collection of distilleries in Kentucky that offer tours and tastings, allowing visitors to experience the rich history and craftsmanship of bourbon making.

Which distilleries are part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in Louisville?

Some of the distilleries in Louisville that are part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail include Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, Angel’s Envy, Rabbit Hole, Michter’s Fort Nelson Distillery, Old Forester, Stitzel-Weller Distillery, and Bulleit Distilling Company.

What is the Urban Bourbon Trail?

The Urban Bourbon Trail is a curated collection of bars and restaurants in Louisville that offer extensive bourbon menus and bourbon-infused food. It’s a great way to explore the city’s bourbon culture.

Are there any annual bourbon events or festivals in Louisville?

Yes, Louisville hosts several annual bourbon events and festivals, such as the Kentucky Bourbon Festival and Bourbon & Beyond. These events celebrate bourbon culture with tastings, music, and educational sessions.

How can I book a custom bourbon tour in Louisville?

You can book a custom bourbon tour through various tour companies that offer personalized itineraries based on your preferences. These tours typically include transportation, guided distillery visits, and tastings.

What should I expect on a distillery tour?

On a distillery tour, you can expect to learn about the bourbon-making process, the history of the distillery, and the unique characteristics of their bourbons. Most tours also include a tasting session where you can sample different bourbons.

Are there any hidden speakeasies in Louisville?

Yes, Louisville has several hidden speakeasies that offer a unique and intimate bourbon experience. These secret spots often feature craft cocktails and a distinctive ambiance.

What are some tips for a great bourbon tour experience?

Some tips for a great bourbon tour experience include booking your tours in advance, allowing enough time between tours, staying hydrated, and taking notes on your favorite bourbons. It’s also a good idea to have a designated driver or use a tour service that provides transportation.

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