I’m always in the hunt for a great 48-hour, quick-visit city. As a bourbon loving influencer, it’s odd that I had yet to journey to the home of my favorite brown libation. The week before Thanksgiving, I had a few days off and a full tank of gas. I hopped in the car and stepped into a different timezone to see what the Derby City has to offer.
The Saturday morning drive from Chicago was easy. It’s a fairly straight shot down 65. I had a 3pm tour reservation at Old Forester. This was late 2018, right in the middle of my timezone troubles. As I approached Indianapolis, I realized I was scheduled to arrive right on time according to my watch, but an hour late according to every clock in Louisville. Since I was solo, OF had no problem changing my reservation to a later tour.
My mistake allowed me to check in and get settled at the Hyatt Regency Louisville. It’s in a perfect location Downtown, only a quick walk to Whiskey Row and 4th Street Live. Better yet, it had award availability for both nights. The room was nice enough, despite a couple stains on the carpet. They weren’t unsightly enough to complain about at the time. The moderately comfortable couch was perfect for enjoying a newly acquired bottle while watching my beloved and heartbreaking Bears.
After dropping off my bags, I walked down to Old Forester’s Whiskey Row distillery. The refurbished building and Old Forester have a rich, interesting history. Brown-Forman’s origins can be traced right to this location.
My guide had no problem admitting that OF produces very little bourbon at this location. It’s clear that this tour is more a celebration of the brand and the process. I loved seeing the barrel preparation. The charred oak smell should be a cologne. As noted by Tony on the podcast, it’s difficult getting to multiple distilleries in one day. However, with OF’s location downtown, it’s a good one to pair with those out in the boonies. Schedule your tour before you leave or right when you get back into town.
Having been primed with the OF tasting, I was in need of something savory. I took a walk to 4th Street Live, where I found Whiskey Dry. It was just what I needed. Their expectedly expansive whiskey selection paired perfectly with a classic cheeseburger. After dinner, I took a quick walk around the 4th Street live experience. It’s like a miniature, more commercial version of Fremont St. with less gambling. Its glitter over-promises, spare Whiskey Dry. I returned back to my room to rest up for a late morning appointment at the Maker’s Mark distillery.
It’s a long drive out to Loretto. I took the scenic route on the way there, full of winding, single lane “roads”. The journey was well worth it. The internet was down in the welcome center, so they allowed us early arrivers in for free. Maker’s Mark has a stunning campus, sprawled out over many acres and antiquated, but charming buildings. As with most others, the tour lasts about an hour and is followed by a tasting.
Throughout my personal bourbon journey, I never gave Maker’s much of a chance. That changed at the tasting. Prior to, I had never had any other Maker’s varietal beyond the signature base bottle. During the tasting, I tried Maker’s 46, which I liked and Cask Strength, which I absolutely loved. I jumped at the opportunity to buy a bottle in the gift shop. With any purchase, attendees can try their hand at dipping their prize in the famous red wax. I couldn’t resist. I’ve been on the hunt for a replacement bottle of Cask Strength ever since my visit. If you’re ever looking for the perfect gift for your favorite travel celebrity, now you know.
Not many distilleries are open on Sunday, so Maker’s was my only tour of the day. When I got back to the hotel, my mind lingered on a couple of the Old Forester bottles I’d seen in their gift shop. Because I was so close, I walked back to OF to snag a couple more selections for my collection. I grabbed a bottle of 1910 Old Fine Whisky, which I hadn’t seen in any of my local shops. It’s a good thing, since the line has apparently sold out.
I transported my new treasure safely back to my room before heading out to dinner. I did what any good travel blogger would do and ate at a hotel restaurant. Porch Kitchen and Bar serves elevated comfort food just off the Marriott lobby. The restaurant is quite pretty. While not a sports bar any longer, there were still TVs to gaze at so I could get in my football fix. While I only ordered appetizers, they were quite good. Again my food was paired with great cocktails. That’s one of the great things about Louisville- every bartender knows their bourbon.
I shared a few drinks with Daniel, co-host of the Snob Free Reviews podcast. It’s a great show put on by great guys. Daniel is a fellow Vegas lover. We had a fun time talking about our favorite city and travel in general. Moments like this are truly what makes doing this whole song and dance worth it. Getting to share some fantastic libations and even better conversations with new friends, friends I would have never made without this site or
I rounded out the night and the trip by opening my bottle of Old Fine Whisky and watching the Bears do what they do best, snatch defeat from the arms of victory. This was a solo trip I desperately needed