Greetings from Louisville, Kentucky! Well, sort of. Will and I took a mini-vacation to Louisville last week, prior to a work conference he had this week. We took a redeye flight out on a Wednesday night, arriving in Louisville mid-morning Thursday and we hit the ground running! Our plan was to eat and drink our way through this Southern town and reconnect with our tasty Southern roots. To say we succeeded is an understatement. We truly consumed so many beverages and so much food, that I’ll break this down by day, to share the photos and flavors of Louisville with y’all! I had fully intended to write this as we went, but we barely were in our AirBNB, since we were out enjoying the sights, sounds and flavors of LUHVUL.
Casual reminder we weren’t in Washington anymore…
We popped in an Uber after touching down in Louisville and had a few hours to spare before we could drop our bags off at our AirBNB, so we decided to get a big, proper Southern breakfast to begin our day. We headed to NuLu, a cool, revitalized area of downtown Louisville where most of the restaurants we loved were located, to start off our trip at Toast on Market. We had timed it so that we could enjoy either lunch or breakfast, depending on which we preferred. We were immediately seated amongst crowds of doctors for the U of L hospital, ladies luncheon-ing and standard folks, and no one seemed phased we wandered in with our duffle bags. Our waiter, Titus, was very welcoming and funny to talk to, guiding us to make the appropriate selections for our food! Having read a bit on Yelp before popping in, we had a pretty good idea of what to try. I was feeling savory while Will was feeling sweet, so we landed on Toast & Eggs (with harissa!) for me and Lemon Soufflé Pancakes for Will. Everything was delicious, as the internet had promised. Toast & Eggs was clearly listed as the staff favorite for a reason. We inhaled our brunch with our hazelnut Irish creme lattes (worth mentioning, because that was an AWESOME combo) and luxuriated a bit to kill the time. 10/10 would recommend to anyone visiting Louisville.
After gobbling up our brunch, we wandered around NuLu a bit before meandering to our AirBNB. We dropped off our bags, freshened up and then Ubered downtown. We popped by the visitors center to get our bearings and pick up our Urban Bourbon Trail packet, before deciding to pop into a couple museums. We first hopped into the Louisville Slugger Museum. We’re not big baseball folks, but I always enjoy a good factory tour and learning about how things are made. It was actually a really interesting tour that satiated Will’s woodworking curiosity and my “how does stuff get made” intrigue. We were both surprised how much we enjoyed it! It had started to pour down rain while we were in the tour, so we poked around the accompanying Ripley’s exhibit, before being proper Northwesterners and throwing our rain jackets on and trudging out into the weather. Bless our newfound ability to handle a little rain and not melt like a sad ice cream scoop just because of a little precipitation. #PNWlife
We didn’t have to wander far, since our next stop was the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience. Now, if you’re anything like us, you probably would be skeptical of visiting Evan Williams because the bottle is either usually on granddad’s bar cart or on the lower shelf at the liquor store for a too-low price. I own up to our skepticism going in, but am not ashamed to say that we were wrong to be so hesitant. First of all, this isn’t just a distillery tour where they talk at you about the distilling process for 30 minutes before giving you alcohol (having been a winery tour guide, I’m familiar with this model and fully support it if it’s your first or second time visiting a production site). It truly is an “experience,” which sounds weird at first. But you’re swept away into a room with your tour guide, who hits the ground running with the history of Louisville, bourbon and Evan Williams the person. I’ll spare you all the details (visit Louisville and learn yourself!), but the summary is that Evan Williams was one of the first bourbon makers in the area in the 1700s, did really well and was an important citizen in Louisville history/trade, Prohibition happened, everything got shut down, investors in the Depression saved Evan Williams, happy ending!
Once you get your brief little chat, that’s when the “experience” really starts – you are guided through the building on a tour that involves legitimate videos of actors pretending to be Evan Williams & co., that are projected on the walls and galleries you visit. This may sound a bit silly, but it’s really really well done and honestly doesn’t feel weird. The guide’s talking is timed so that it fits in with the video portions and it all feels pretty natural, all things considered. Yes, you are of course walked through the distilling process (through a really cool visual medium + actual distilling happening) and you do normal tour things like smell barrels and answer scientific questions. But after the distilling portion, you go upstairs where they have re-created a version of Whiskey Row, a main downtown street that thrived before Prohibition. You’ve got shops, saloons, bars, distillers, etc. You are then invited into one of those storefronts, which becomes your tasting room! Ours was a saloon where the tables had a push feature, to raise up our 3-bourbon tasting flight. It included the standard green Evan Williams bottle, a black mid-level label and finally a top-shelf red bottle. Obvs that was my favorite, but we only had carry on and did not have $130 to spare on bourbon. Alas. The tasting is topped off with a bourbon chocolate and then you finish viewing Whiskey Row, before being shuffled into the gift shop and on your way! Bourbon, chocolates, sauces and gear are all available and the “Bourbon Y’all” shirt was admittedly tempting. 10/10 great experience and would recommend to anyone!
By this point, we were finally starting to feel tired, so we hustled over to Sidebar, which was one of the stops on the Urban Bourbon Trail. We hit up their happy hour, snacking on some dips and enjoying a signature cocktail, the Kentucky Maid. The drink includes Buffalo Trace Bourbon, simple syrup, fresh lime juice, mint, and cucumber. It was quite good (not a mint julep though!) and was the perfect way to cap off our first day in Louisville! We then Ubered back to our AirBNB where we proceeded to crash and not get up until mid-morning Friday. More to come on the rest of our trip later!
A glimpse of a cloudy Whiskey Row