The famous Bourbon Trail around Louisville, Kentucky has always been popular with corporate groups. Nothing gets people networking like a well made Maker’s Mark or Jim Beam mint julep during a springtime afternoon in the Deep South. Groups visiting Louisville can now complement that with two new downtown attractions delving into the history of bourbon and bluegrass.
“There’s been a dearth of entertainment downtown to attract corporate groups, and by fall, there will be two,” says musician and whiskey expert Bernie Lubbers, the author of Bourbon Whiskey—Our Native Spirit. He is available for tours and tastings at both experiences, and you can read more about him at whiskeyprof.com.
When not actively working as the whiskey ambassador for Heaven Hill Distillery in Bardstown, Lubbers is half of “The History of Bourbon Whiskey as Told Through Bluegrass Music” live performance at Heaven Hill. The 75-minute historical and musical portrait tells a humorous tale of 200 years of America’s only native spirit.
“With my partner, acclaimed bluegrass musician Hickory Vaught, we give groups an all-sensory, historical live music performance piece,” says Lubbers.
During the course of the evening, planners frequently include a pre-dinner reception at a restaurant where the group will dine. Lubbers sets up five glasses of whiskey, relative to five different eras of whiskey making, on the tables. Lubbers and Vaught then engage the audience by matching the music and anecdotes to the relevant time periods while the guests sip, chat and ask questions.
If the group prefers, the duo have a home base venue downtown called the Haymarket Whiskey Bar.
“We’re totally self-contained and ideal for 50-and under groups wanting a more intimate experience,” says Lubbers. “But if a larger group wants the show, we’ll add more musicians and more music.”
Also this fall, the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience opens in a renovated building across the street from the original 1783 Evan Williams distillery, the namesake of Heaven Hill’s flagship bourbon brand. The immersive experience inside a $12 million artisanal distillery celebrates the legacy of Kentucky’s first distiller and owner of the largest operating distilled spirits company in the world.
Guided tours and a dioramic video wall will contrast how a state-of-the-art modern distillery still employs the same types of pot stills used in early Bourbon-making days.
The adventure begins at the front door, with a 5-story high Evan Williams Bourbon bottle that becomes 3-dimensional on the lower two floors. The neck of the bottle and a large glass in the lobby form a flowing Bourbon fountain. Two different themed tasting rooms will offer tutored samples of premium Heaven Hill Bourbons. Additionally, a speakeasy-style space in the lower level will be available for corporate functions.