Bol­ster­ing tourism with bour­bon

Evan Wil­liams opens dis­tillery in down­town Louisville

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation - BY BRUCE SCHREINER

LOUISVILLE, KY. | The maker of Evan Wil­liams bour­bon has un­corked a new at­trac­tion, open­ing a craft dis­tillery just steps from where the whiskey pi­o­neer who in­spired the brand fired up his own com­mer­cial stills two cen­turies ago.

The dis­tillery and “bour­bon ex­pe­ri­ence” — com­plete with tours and tast­ing rooms — is the first of sev­eral ven­tures to bol­ster tourism and bring small-batch bour­bon pro­duc­tion to the heart of down­town Louisville, once the hub of com­merce for Ken­tucky whiskey mak­ers.

To­day’s pow­er­house bour­bon brands such as Jim Beam, Wild Tur­key and Maker’s Mark are crafted in ru­ral Ken­tucky set­tings, an hour or less away, but the trade is show­ing signs of a come­back in the city.

An ur­ban bour­bon trail fea­tures 27 bars and restau­rants, each stocked with at least 50 la­bels, and a planned bour­bon dis­trict would tie to­gether the city’s bour­bon her­itage with his­tor­i­cal mark­ers and land­marks in the Whiskey Row area, where clus­ters of whiskey mer­chants, whole­salers and blenders set up shop decades ago.

“It’s the place to be,” said Joe Magliocco, pres­i­dent of Michter’s Dis­tillery LLC, which is con­vert­ing a down­town build­ing into a craft dis­tillery. “If you want to be one of the best, you’ve got to play among the best.”

Heaven Hill, which makes Evan Wil­liams, is at the fore­front with its new $10.5 mil­lion at­trac­tion — The Evan Wil­liams Bour­bon Ex­pe­ri­ence.

It’s lo­cated in a ren­o­vated build­ing and of­fers tours that trace bour­bon pro­duc­tion from fron­tier days when whiskey was cur­rency to its con­tem­po­rary re­vival in bars and restau­rants across the globe. It fea­tures a five-story Evan Wil­liams bot­tle replica and of course, it has a gift shop, too. It opened to the pub­lic Fri­day.

Ken­tucky pro­duces 95 per­cent of the world’s bour­bon, and the 4.9 mil­lion bar­rels of ag­ing bour­bon in this state out­num­ber the pop­u­la­tion here, ac­cord­ing to the Ken­tucky Distillers’ As­so­ci­a­tion.

As de­mand world­wide has spiked, the state’s bour­bon pro­duc­tion has risen more than 120 per­cent since 1999 to more than 1 mil­lion bar­rels in 2012, the in­dus­try group said.

More than 2.5 mil­lion visi­tors have toured the ma­jor dis­til­leries along the Ken­tucky Bour­bon Trail in the past five years, the group said. Heaven Hill’s at­trac­tion, lo­cated on Whiskey Row, will be the north­ern gate­way to the trail.

De­spite its bour­bon prow­ess, the Blue­grass State hasn’t kept pace with other parts of the coun­try in at­tract­ing up­start craft distillers. Ken­tucky ranks eighth na­tion­ally in dis­tilled spir­its per­mits, said Ken­tucky Distillers’ As­so­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent Eric Gre­gory, cit­ing fed­eral sta­tis­tics that have Cal­i­for­nia rank­ing first, fol­lowed by Wash­ing­ton state, New York and Oregon.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ar­ti­sanal craft dis­tiller Char­lie Downs checks gauges on a still that will pro­duce small batches of whiskey at The Evan Wil­liams Bour­bon Ex­pe­ri­ence. The new $10.5 mil­lion at­trac­tion opened Fri­day and fea­tures a five-story Evan Wil­liams bot­tle replica.

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