Must Visit Bourbon Distilleries in Louisville Kentucky

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?

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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.

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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?

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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

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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.

      1. The bourbon must be produced in the U.S.
      2. At least 51% of the grain mixture must be corn.
      3. The whisky must be aged in new, charred barrels
      4. The bourbon distillation process cannot exceed 160 proof (U.S.)  and 80% alcohol by volume.
      5. Entered into the container for aging at no more than 125 proof (62.5% alcohol by volume) 
      6. Final product must exceed 80 proof or more; 40% alcohol by volume.

Top Bourbon Distilleries in Louisville, Kentucky

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Angel’s Envy Distillery

500 E Main St., Louisville, KY 40202

Started in 2006 by a father and son, Angel’s Envy bourbon distillery was born. And in mid 2013, the Henderson family broke ground on what would be, Angel’s Envy distillery, right on Main Street in downtown Louisville.

Inside, this urban Main Street distillery produces small-batch bourbons that are finished in port wine barrels. Visitors can get a first hand tour of the beginning of distillation to the sealing of the bottle.

After tour, enjoy an exceptional tasting in their finishing room. Angel’s Envy does request booking your tour a week or two in advance.

Evan Williams Bourbon Experience

528 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202

Evan Williams Bourbon Experience is located on Louisville’s historic Whiskey Row right across the street from the original Evan Williams’ distillery once stood in the late 18th century.

Evan Williams produces a range of bourbons, including single barrel, small batch, and vintage.

This multi-million dollar artisanal bourbon distillery offers a totally immersive experience you’ll never forget.

Visitors will learn about Evan Williams, Kentucky’s first commercial bourbon distiller and namesake of Heaven Hill’s flagship bourbon brand.

And you’ll not only learn about the history and legacy of this distiller but also the bourbon making. They offer distillery tours, tastings and of course, they too have their own gift shop.

 KENTUCKY BOURBON FUN FACT  More than 7.5 million barrels of bourbon currently sit in Kentucky rickhouses. That comes out to nearly 1.75 barrels of bourbon for every person in Kentucky! So, if you love bourbon, don’t rule out living in this flyover state!

Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co.


120 N 10th St, Louisville, KY 40202

Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co. invites visitors and locals alike to experience every aspect of crafting Kentucky straight Bourbon and Rye from grain to bottle in downtown Louisville.

This legendary bourbon distillery offers behind-the-scenes distillery tours in downtown Louisville to see how they craft the finest spirits. 

With history dating back to 1889, Peerless’ product was one of the few whiskeys available by prescription for medicinal use during Prohibition.

Located in Louisville’s Bourbon District just one block away from The Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center at The Frazier Museum, Peerless is family-owned and operated by fourth and fifth-generation relatives of the original owner.

Kentucky Peerless’ fine Bourbon and Rye Whiskey are created all under one roof, from grain to bottle. Their urban bourbon distillery in Louisville and vast family history are sure to make this experience one you won’t forget.

Michter’s Fort Nelson Distillery

801 West Main St., Louisville, KY 40202

After 7 years of renovation, Michter’s Fort Nelson Distillery opened its doors again in 2017.

This whiskey distillery is an architectural gem in he crown of downtown Louisville. Just one block from the Frazier History Museum, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail official welcome center and right across from the Louisville Slugger Museum and factory.

Michter’s produces a range of bourbons, including Michter’s US1 Bourbon, Michter’s US1 Rye, and Michter’s 10 Year Single Barrel Bourbon.

Take a tour to witness how bourbon is distilled on the legendary pot still and cypress wood fermenter system that traces back to 1753 from Michter’s Pennsylvania Distillery.

Then, step upstairs to The Bar at Fort Nelson to experience a world class bourbon concoctions tasting. Don’t forget to pick up your Michter’s swag at their gift shop before leaving.

Old Forester Distilling Co.

119 W Main St, Louisville, Kentucky 40202

In mid 1800’s, Whiskey Row in downtown Louisville was the economic center was home to several distillers, wholesalers and Old Forester, America’s First Bottled Bourbon.

Today, the same four walls that Old Forester called home before Prohibition, you’ll see that the times have changed, but the promise of sealed-in quality from the First Bottled Bourbon endures.

Old Forester produces a range of bourbons, including Old Forester, Old Forester Rye, and Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style.

You can learn about the history during one of their tours at the Old Forester Distilling Company also known as the Hometown Bourbon of Bourbon’s Hometown!

They also offer cocktail classes and of course their gift shop to pick up something for later!

 KENTUCKY BOURBON FUN FACT  Old Forester used to be spelled with 2 R’s? According to Go Bourbon, In 1870, Louisville distiller George Garvin Brown figured out how to master bourbon consistency and tampering. His Old Forrester Bourbon, named for a Union Army hero, Dr. William Forrester, was the first bourbon to be sold exclusively in bottles. At some point in history, Old Forester lost one of its Rs, but it is still the flagship brand of the Brown-Forman distillery.

Rabbit Hole Distillery

711 East Jefferson St, Louisville, KY 40202

This eclectic bourbon distillery Louisville is located in the east NuLu neighborhood. Rabbit Hole Distillery is a modern cathedral that pays homage to the art and science of distillation.

Enjoy a fully immersive guest experience, every step of the process, from grain to bottle, is in proud display as they offer tours, tasting and a cool gift shop.

Since 2012, Kaveh Zamanian, founder and whiskey maker of Rabbit Hole Distillery, produces a range of bourbons, including Rabbit Hole Bourbon, Rabbit Hole Rye, and Rabbit Hole Dareringer.

He risked his long-time psychology practice to literally go down the rabbit hole; making and mastering the art of making bourbon! Hence, the name of the Rabbit Hole Distillery has become one of Louisville’s most treasured and favorite bourbon makers.

Stitzel-Weller Distillery

3860 Fitzgerald Road, Louisville, Kentucky 40216

Stitzel-Weller Bourbon Distillery was founded in 1935, sold in 1972, and closed in 1992. It’s actually a former distillery located in Shively, a suburb of Louisville, Kentucky.

This distillery is drenching in the rich history of Bourbon’s past that’s pushing the boundaries with innovations for the future.

Walk in the footsteps of bourbon legends, as you step into an active barrel house, cooper shop and micro still-house. Distillery visitors can learn about the past, present and future of bourbon at the historic Stitzel-Weller Distillery. 

Your tour journey ends with a tasting of Bulleit Rye, Bulleit Single Barrel, I.W. Harper Cask and Blade & Bow.

It produced a number of notable brands, and since 2014 it has served as a public tourism site for Bulliet Bourbon, as part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

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*

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BOURBON SERVING TIP ✰  Pair your Kentucky Bourbon with these 9 Tasty Foods for your Kentucky Derby Party

Louisville Bourbon Distilleries Wrap Up

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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!

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