Local Kentuckians call Louisville “Bourbon City” for good reason! Louisville is the world renowned Bourbon Capital of the World. And while there are over 95 bourbon distilleries in Kentucky, there’s several bourbon distilleries packed in the heart of Louisville that produce the iconic American whiskey. And they’re all waiting for you to sip and experience some of Kentucky’s finest spirits!
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The Kentucky Bourbon Trail features 18 distilleries while the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour features 4 regions; the Northern, Central, Western and Bluegrass that each has a plethora of commercial bourbon distilleries.
But, in this article, we’re going to talk about only those popular bourbon distilleries just within Louisville’s city limits.
Once you’ve taken your tours and tastings, then make our way down the Urban Bourbon Trail for more excitement that will tickle your tongue and warm your tummy.
So, if you’re a whiskey connoisseur or even just want to experience something unique, grab your designated driver and head to these popular urban bourbon distilleries in Louisville, Kentucky!
✰✰ READ MORE ✰✰ Best Things to Do in Louisville Kentucky *Complete Guide*
Isn’t Bourbon the same as whiskey?
Yes, but no. There’s a saying, “all bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon”. Which leads to the obvious question, “what is the difference between bourbon and whiskey?”.
Both, bourbon and whiskey are beverages concocted from grains that are fermented and the sugars in the content eventually converting to an alcohol state. But, there’s key differences between the two.
To make bourbon, the grain mixture or mash bill must contain at least 51% corn. Then smaller portions of barley, wheat and rye are added into the mashbill to complete the mixture.
To make whiskey, there’s no requirement of proportions of ingredients or types to make the different variety of mashbills.
When it comes to aging, both, bourbon and whiskey age in charred oak barrels but with different aging processes.
Bourbon is required to age in brand new barrels whereas whiskey can age in used barrels from previous productions. This gives the whiskey it’s unique flavor profile.
Now, the flavor profiles of both, bourbon and whiskey, comes from the differences in aging and mashbills.
Bourbon’s signature flavors are often described as having a sweet, carmel-like flavor with hints of oak and vanilla.
Whereas depending on origin and type, whiskey can take on a more vast range of flavor because of the multiple use barrels.
Now, geographic origins plays a big part in the difference between bourbon and whiskey.
While American whiskey can originate in different parts of the U.S., most bourbon is a type of American whiskey that’s primarily grown and distilled in Kentucky. Hence, why it’s famously called, Kentucky Bourbon.
Whiskey, on the other hand, can be made most anywhere around the globe; most notably from Scotland, Ireland, Japan and Canada.
For intents and purposes, the major difference between bourbon and whiskey is all in the mashbill contents and the barrels.
They each have their own distinct flavors and can be served in a wide variety of ways.
But personally, having lived in Kentucky for 7 years, we tend to swing towards good old fashioned Kentucky Bourbon.
We just think this American spirit tastes better with its’ more distinctive and memorable flavor.
✰✰ READ MORE ✰✰ Thunder Over Louisville 2023 Info Guide – Know Before You Go!
Is it spelled whiskey or whisky?
If you’ve meandered inside a packie (Boston talk for package store), you may find it peculiar to see the malt liquor spelled either whiskey or whisky.
So, to not bore you with back century history, the spelling just comes down to geographic area of the globe you’re reigning from.
First, a little hint I learned from Whiskey Raiders is whiskey spelled with the ‘e’ is concocted in both the United States and Ireland. Did you notice both countries have an ‘e‘ in their spelling?
Whereas, the spelling of whisky with no ‘e’ reigns from the countries, Canada, Scotland and Japan that have no ‘e’ in their spelling.
Now, that really has nothing to do with the reasoning behind the difference in spelling of whiskey versus whisky. It’s just something to remember if you’re going to be on Jeopardy.
Really though, the spelling whisky (with no ‘e’) originates from Scotland’s national drink that’s distilled from fermented mash.
And, the American version of whiskey that’s made from corn and ages for 2 years or more in charred oak barrels is spelled whiskey, as also Ireland. We’ll explain that process further down in this article.
✰ KENTUCKY BOURBON FUN FACT ✰ 95% of the bourbon made in the world is mastered in the state of Kentucky. That’s what makes Kentucky Proud!
Does good bourbon have something to do with the water in Kentucky?
According to Kentucky Tourism, 95% of the world’s bourbon is produced in Kentucky.
But strangely enough because Kentucky is ironically almost a land-locked state except for the Ohio River, Lakes Barkley and Kentucky Lake, it’s all in the water that comes from all parts of the Bluegrass State.
It’s said that the ‘Kentucky water’ contains limestone minerals. There’s some secret squirrel belief that it’s what makes the horses grow strong and run faster and Kentucky Wildcats angry.
Whether or not that’s true, we’ll just run with that theory because well, it sounds good.
But aside from the limestone mineral deposits, Kentucky’s climate and soil base is perfect growing ground for producing corn and other ingredients to make top shelf bourbon.
Another interesting fact, while there’s are different variety of corns being grown, Whiskey Muse says, “bourbon is typically made from Dent Corn, and more specifically Yellow #2 Dent Corn. There are exceptions to this and some distilleries have starting making bourbons with other types of corn.“
✰ KENTUCKY BOURBON FUN FACT ✰ Did you know 1964, the U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution declaring bourbon whiskey “a distinctive product of the United States; unlike any other type of alcoholic beverage.” Check out The original signed resolution at the Frazier History Museum in Louisville.
What is Angel’s Share?
Bourbon distillers will always store their spirits in their iconic wooden barrels. Each barrel is crafted with high quality oaks (and other woods).
Because of the bourbon barrel’s porous wood material, approximately 1.5% to 2% of the alcohol content will slowly evaporate as the bourbon matures.
This is why distillers call it ‘Angel’s Share’. The alcohol rises with free samples to the heavens above.
High Quality Standards for Bourbon-Making is Required
You now know the difference between bourbon and whiskey. However, bourbon has to go through a little more than just setting a whiskey still somewhere hidden in your backyard.
The U.S. federal government set 6 strict high quality standards that Kentucky, distillers must adhere to create consumable bourbon. Whereas, whiskey making isn’t as strict or or needs to be as compliant.
- The bourbon must be produced in the U.S.
- At least 51% of the grain mixture must be corn.
- The whisky must be aged in new, charred barrels
- The bourbon distillation process cannot exceed 160 proof (U.S.) and 80% alcohol by volume.
- Entered into the container for aging at no more than 125 proof (62.5% alcohol by volume)
- Final product must exceed 80 proof or more; 40% alcohol by volume.
Top Bourbon Distilleries in Louisville, Kentucky
Important Information of Kentucky Bourbon Distilleries in Louisville
Kentucky Bourbon Trail Map – Explore the Kentucky Bourbon Trail experiences and find what you’re looking for in their interactive map with toggle and drop down menus for official groupings.
Also, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour encompasses four regions in Kentucky with lots of bourbon distilleries to tour.
Louisville Bourbon District – Located in Downtown Louisville, the Bourbon District is a walkable urban experience for anyone looking for a taste of Kentucky.
In the Bourbon District, you’re never more than 5 minutes away from the next attraction, so planning that group tour or birthday celebration just got a lot easier.
Louisville’s Whiskey Row – Whiskey Row in Louisville, Kentucky refers an area along Main Street, close to the Ohio River, which was home to the bourbon industry.
In 1857, the buildings were built and used to store whiskey barrels that had been produced from the distilleries nearby.
✰✰ READ MORE ✰✰ Best Things to Do in Louisville Kentucky *Complete Guide*
✰ BOURBON SERVING TIP ✰ Pair your Kentucky Bourbon with these 9 Tasty Foods for your Kentucky Derby Party
Louisville Bourbon Distilleries Wrap Up
There’s countless bourbon distilleries in Kentucky. These bourbon distilleries in Louisville offer a fun and unique experience but also to enjoy the best of Derby City. Please sip responsibly!
✰✰ PRO TIP ✰✰Looking to camp near Louisville? Check out what we thought of Taylorsville Lake State Park.
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