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Urban Bourbon Trail – Louisville


 More than Mint Juleps

©  Becky  Linhardt  2013

Kentucky Bourbon has so much more history and many more traditions than sipping a Mint Julep on Derby Day at Churchill Downs in May. Louisville developed an Urban Bourbon Passport Trail to help visitors explore the Bourbon experience year round in their city – and, offers information in your Urban Bourbon Trail Passport book for day trips out to distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

The concept is quite simple. As your passport document states; “Collect a stamp from six different stops along the Urban Bourbon Trail and you’ll earn the rank of official Bourbon Country Citizen. You’ll also be awarded a special Urban Bourbon Trailblazer t-shirt and official Citizen of Bourbon Country certificate so you can proudly display your passion for Bourbon to the world.”

Of course there is nothing wrong with sipping a traditional Mint Julep at the Lobby Bar at the Brown Hotel any time of the year. Another local favorite is stopping by The Old Seelbach Bar for their famous Bourbon Cocktail where you can enjoy the elegant décor that attracted film makers shooting the most recent version of The Great Gatsby. (see lead image above)

However, you don’t have to order a drink at each stop. A purchase of food also qualifies and the bartender will gladly stamp your passport. If you visit Churchill Downs, you can collect a stamp at the Derby Café at the Kentucky Derby Museum. Then in the evening you can enjoy a relaxing meal at one of the many participating fine dining restaurants and move on to one of the establishments offering live music into the night. Your passport lists locations, hours of operation, food and entertainment offerings at each of the 20 participating establishments and suggests a unique Bourbon drink. Traditionalist may sigh but modern bartenders have been garnering attention with competition winning drinks such as the Chocolate Julep Martini offered at The Bar at BLU.

Sometime there are little surprises along the way. Hidden in the lower levels of the Seelbach Hotel is their famous Rathskeller Bar where F. Scott Fitzgerald is said to have written portions of The Great Gatsby. Oh if those Rookwood tile walls could talk. The Rathskeller is now used for private parties but you may be able to sneak a peek before or after your visit to the elegant Old Seelbach Bar upstairs.

Responsible imbibing is always encouraged. You can collect the stamps over a weekend visit or during multiple visits throughout the year so pace yourself. There are also guided tours and downtown trolleys that can shuttle you safely from one location to another and back to your hotel.

With Louisville as your base, you can head out to explore some of the winding roads of central Kentucky, and maybe even get pleasantly lost while seeking the Bourbon distilleries along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Most are not far away from Louisville, maybe an hour, hour and a half. However, since good limestone filtered water is important for quality Bourbon many are located out in the country on winding rural roads. Finding Maker’s Mark Distillery can be quite an adventure. Almost all Bourbon distilleries offer tours. Buffalo Trace in Frankfort even schedules evening Ghost Tours once a month – best in the fall and winter when daylight fades to darkness early in the evening.

Colonel Michael Masters at the Chapeze Mansion in charming downtown Bardstown has been the focus of numerous Food Network and Travel Channel programs highlighting Bourbon and Kentucky cooking. The Colonel has a well-stocked bar and offers Bourbon tastings that can include some of the really fine, and expensive, aged Bourbons so you may want to include a stop there on your day trip from Louisville.


 For accommodations, events, and other tourism information: Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau: www.gotolouisville.com or 800-626-5646

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        As a travel writer it is my responsibility to select the best places, events, and experiences to present to you. Most travel has been on my own though some has occurred on sponsored press trips. Travel listings here will be more informal than my published articles.


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