Last month, I headed to Louisville, KY for a conference. This was my first time to the great state of Kentucky and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was thinking lots of fried chicken, southern deliciousness and bourbon. Well after my trip there, I wasn’t too far off, LOL. I arrived late Sunday night and it was a quick 10 minute ride to historic downtown.
I stayed at the Brown Hotel which is neighbored by the Brown Theater, and of course built by the Brown family in the early 1920s. When you get into downtown, you immediately sense the air of history in the area, and my hotel was no exception.
When you enter the Brown Hotel, you definitely feel the southern charm and history of the building, and you will be quick to learn that the infamous “Hot Brown” originated here. What is a “Hot Brown” you might ask? Well, according to Louisville, it is Louisville’s most famous dish, an open faced sandwich topped with sliced turkey, bacon, Mornay (bechamel) sauce, cheese, and baked until bubbly.
When it arrives to your table, it honestly looks like melted goo on a plate, and you quickly start wondering why you gave in to the hype. After you finally decide to pick up your knife and fork to dig in, well watch out, because that hot Mornay sauce and cheese might burn you! I thought the sandwich was pretty good, but way too decadent for me, there was just sauce oozing everywhere. I tried to push some of the sauce aside so I could get the turkey and bread with a hint of sauce, but I was unsuccessful. I am not sure that I will have a hankering for this dish next time I’m in Louisville, but you won’t know what you think about it until you try it.
So enough about the Hot Brown let’s talk about what else Louisville has to offer. As I mentioned before, there is the Brown Theater right next to the Brown Hotel, and there are quite a few other theaters nearby with a huge variety of performances (from hip hop to country).
A quick walk down 4th Street led me to an amazing bourbon truffle shop; Art Eatables (631 S. 4th Street, Louisville, KY 40202 – (502) 589-0210), please make sure you stop in. They are the world’s first bourbon certified chocolatier. I don’t like bourbon but I am definitely a bourbon truffle fan now, they were just so good! A little box containing 4 pcs was $10 and they had large boxes and mixed boxes too. Also available are some scrumptious little orange filled chocolates too (12 pcs for $9).
As you continue down 4th street you will run into the Fourth Street Live! area that is known for restaurants (local and well known establishments like the Hard Rock) and entertainment (there are bars, clubs, and also live concerts held there).
Since I was mostly here for work, I didn’t get to see everything Louisville has to offer, but I did get to squeeze in 2 days of sight seeing and here are some of the great activities located right in downtown Louisville and easily accessible via foot or taxi.
Angel’s Envy Distillery (500 E. Main Street Lousiville, Kentucky 40202, (502) 890-6300)
So some of you may think that bourbon for breakfast sounds great, but I’m not a huge fan of bourbon, regardless of that fact, I was off to visit a distillery at 10 a.m.! I was more interested in learning about the distillation process and finding out about how Ketucky bourbon came to be. Although tours of the Bourbon Trail are very popular, since i’m not a huge fan, I decided that visiting one distillery would be good enough for me, so after some research, we decided on Angel’s Envy Distillery.
When we arrived to our distillery we were so traumatized to see a sign that said the tours for the day were FULL!! So I definitely would recommend that if you have a distillery on your list of things to do, that you go online to their website and make a booking in advance ($15 per person). We still went inside and peeeked around and the staff was nice enough to explain the process to us anyways. We also were able to join in on a tasting of their bourbon. I found the tasting process very interesting, and a lot more similar to a wine tasting than one would think.
Different types of bourbon need to be barreled at varying lengths, but to be labelled as Kentucky bourbon it is required to be barrelled at least 1 year and 1 day in Kentucky. It can then be labelled as Kentucky straight bourbon if it’s barreled over 2 years in Kentucky. Angel’s Envy barrels for 6-8 years and then rests the bourbon another 6 months in a port wine barrel for added flavor. Once again, the barreling has some similarities to wine making (not to mention actually using wine barrels!)
So on to the tasting, first, they had us swirl the bourbon around the glass so we could see the legs. Then she had us do the Kentucky chew, which is where you rinse your mouth with the bourbon like its mouthwash. This is to help numb your tongue from the bite. Next sip, we were told to let it run over your tongue to continue to numb the mouth. On the next sip we were told we could taste some flavor notes, and I could taste a little hint of vanilla, but mostly my tongue was burning. Next she added some ice, to even out of the bourbon and reduce the burn. Finally we were given an orange filled chocolate and then to follow it up with some bourbon, that was delicious! Even I thought so.
Peerless Distillery (120 N. 10th St. Louisville, KY 40202, (502) 566-4999)
After missing out on a tour earlier, I got the chance to visit the Kentucky Peerless Distilling Company. They are an new, but old distillery. The reason I say this, is that the company was originally started in the early 1880s by Henry Kraver, but stopped production in 1917. You can easily also make reservation online, and I recommend doing so ($12 per person).
Now restoring the Peerless traditions is Kraver’s great-grandson Corky Taylor who decided to buy an old tobacco warehouse and and get back into whisky business in 2014. We actually got to meet Corky during our tour. The original distillery number for Peerless was #50, and they were actually able to get that number back!
The distillery is only 2 years old, so they don’t have actual Kentucky straight bourbon as of yet, as they must sit in a barrel for 4 years to obtain that designation.
Peerless makes bourbon and rye whiskey. They do all aspects here at the distillery and everything is totally computerized, no hands are needed during the process.
The bourbon goes in barrel at 107 degrees. Each barrel must be new and is made of white oak and are built and charred locally. Peerless rents the barrels essentially, when they are done with the barrels, they send it back to the manufacturer and then the barrels are disassembled and shipped to others who want the flavor (such as whiskey and wine manufacturers). The barrels are kept in non-climate controlled rooms as the theory behind Kentucky bourbon is that the more the climate changes, the more flavor develops.
For the past few years, Peerless has been making moonshine (Lucky brand) as they were waiting for their bourbon, but as of this month (May 2017), they will be discontinuing their moonshine production and focusing solely on bourbon, which they will have available to sell in Spring 2017.
While you’re at the distillery, don’t forget to say hi to Rye, the resident kitty, she is so friendly, and a mouser!
Against the Grain Brewery (401 E Main St, Louisville, KY 40202, (502) 515-0174)
The Brewery is connected to Louisville Slugger Field and right across from the Angel’s Envy Distillery.
They have a ton of brews, something for everyone and they sell them by the glass, can, bottle, half growler, or growler. They also have tasty barbecue, so I definitely recommend a visit here.
Louisville has a lot to offer the baseball lover.
Louisville Slugger Field (401 E Main St, Louisville, KY 40202)
We walked around to take a look at the field, which is currently the home of the minor league team, the “Louisville Bats.”
Lousville Slugger Factory & Museum (800 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202, (877) 775-8443)
You’ll be able to figure you’re at the Louisville Slugger Museum when you see the GIANT bat outside. Definitely don’t miss this photo op.
The factory and museum is a huge hot spot for your baseball loving kids, or the big kid who loves baseball. They have tours every 10 minutes, so you should be able to get in pretty quickly (Adults – $14, Seniors (60+) – $13, Kids (6-12) – $8, Kids 5 & Under – Free).
While you are waiting for your tour of the factory, you can take a look at the museum and even pick up a bat and hit a few balls.
When your tour time is called, you will enter a waiting room and then watch a video on the history of the Louisville slugger. You will be unable to take photos inside the factory.
The wood for the bats is northern white ash or maple and comes from forests located in Pennsylvania and New York State. The wood is shaped into cylinders called billets and you can get up to 60 billets per tree. The wood is dried for 4-6 days then separated into different types.
Hand turning of the bats was done from 1884 until 1980s. It was basically a billet spinning on a clamp and metal tools are run on the exterior. Each bat takes about 30 minutes and the only measurement tool they had was metal calipers. The bats that are made for the professional players, must be ordered 12 at a time and took about 6-7 hours by hand to get right size. The first bats that were made 133 years ago were very heavy. They were made this way on purpose and the idea was just make contact with ball, and the bat will do the rest. Times have changed however and modern bats are now made to be lightweight for speed.
Nowadays, the factory is automated, and it only takes 30 seconds to make each bat (6-8 minutes for a dozen). Over 2 million bats are made per year in this factory. They are very eco-concious and they actually give their sawdust to a turkey farmer from southern Indiana who uses it as bedding. Once the used sawdust is ready to be thrown away, the dirty bedding is used for fertilizer.
At the end of your tour, you will be able to pick out our very own minibat, it is included in the price of your tour.
When I was there, they also had a cool Lego exhibit.
Big Four Trailhead (River Rd, Louisville, KY 40202)
This bridge is open 24/7, but is a walking only bridge that takes you from Louisville, KY to Jeffersonville, IN. It’s a quick 1/2 mile walk each way that takes you to another state!
On the other side, we took a nice stroll around Jeffersonville and also got some lunch. It’s a very small town.
After you get back to the Louisville, KY side, follow the riverfront where you can see the statue of Honest Abraham Lincoln.
Frazier Museum (829 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202, (502) 753-5663)
The Frazier museum is a quirky museum with some interesting exhibits. While we were there they were featuring the Hunger Games exhibit and the Spirits of the Bluegrass (Prohibition in Kentucky). Definitely worth a visit if you have the time (Adults – $12, Military – $10, Seniors (65+) – $10, Students (College w/I.D.) – $8, Children (5 -17) – $8, Children (4 & under) – Free).
Muhammad Ali Center (144 N 6th St, Louisville, KY 40202, (502) 584-9254)
I had really wanted to visit the Ali Center, but unfortunately ran out of time. I will definitely be making a visit next time (Adults – $12, Seniors (65+) – $11, Military – $8, Students (w/ID) – $8, Children (6-12) – $7, Children (5 and under) – Free).
I found Louisville to be an interesting city with a lot of history and character. All of these places were walkable from my hotel. I definitely would come back, with Scott of course, as I think he would really enjoy all the bourbon offerings and to see some of the sites I didn’t get a chance to see. You don’t see Louisville on many travel lists, but I would definitely add it!