As Governor Steve Beshear treks across Asia, bearing the gifts of “bourbon-whiskey” from his Old Kentucky Home, it is becoming evident that the spirits industry is thriving, and our home state is at the epicenter. Investors in places as far away as Japan are taking an interest in the beverage that was born and raised in the Bluegrass, meaning our hometown stills are experiencing unprecedented growth. With a rise in profits comes an expansion of the beloved distilleries where these liquors have been fostered for years. The so-called “Evan Williams Bourbon Experience” will be one such byproduct of the bourbon boom.
Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc., the largest family-owned distilled spirits company in the nation and producer of Evan Williams, along with Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, are working to promote this multi-million dollar “immersive tourism” and retail location, opening in September 2013. It will be housed in the historic Heaven Hill building at 528 West Main Street, which serves as the heart of the recently revitalized “Whiskey Row” in downtown Louisville.
Much of the planning and design has already been completed, and the vision is impressive. Thanks to a spectacular display of design and ingenuity, visitors will be able to recognize the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience from the street: the façade of this five-story building will feature an enormous bourbon bottle, reproduced using window graphics in the top three floors and becoming three-dimensional in the lower two where the neck forms a stunning “bourbon fountain.”
Once inside, guests will be treated to immersive guided tours, high-definition videos of nineteenth-century Whiskey Row, a dioramic video wall displaying the inner workings of the Bernheim Heaven Hill distillery, and – for those of legal drinking age – a directed tasting of premium bourbons in themed tasting rooms. Educational material will abound, deconstructing the complicated process of distillation and highlighting the ways in which Heaven Hill still utilizes original elements of their very first distillery in their modern workspaces. The focal point of the tour will be a fully functioning artisanal pot still which visitors will be able to see at work. These modern incarnations of the very same equipment that Evan Williams himself used in his distillery on the Ohio River will be capable of producing any number of American whiskey varieties. And at the end of the day, if you want to take a piece of Evan Williams history home with you, a fully-stocked retail area will offer merchandise, souvenirs, specialty food products, and of course a range of Heaven Hill premium bourbons and whiskeys.
“122 years ago, when this building was first constructed, this area of Main Street was an important center of commerce for the Bourbon industry, and now Evan Williams, Kentucky’s first commercial distiller, is coming back home to his original locale,” says Heaven Hill Vice President Harry J. Shapira. “We are looking forward to the same kind of success and accolades with the new Evan Williams Bourbon Experience that we have been fortunate enough to receive for our Bourbon Heritage Center in Bardstown.”
Governor Beshear echoes that sentiment: “This is an exciting time for the Commonwealth... Heaven Hill’s growing presence only adds to the appeal of downtown Louisville and means new jobs for Kentucky families and a boost to our economy. The Bourbon industry is one of Kentucky’s signature industries and plays a vital role in Kentucky’s economic success, representing thousands of jobs and producing millions of dollars in income.”
These two men and many more involved in the project have every right to be excited about its potential: it is expected to attract more than 100,000 annual visitors and will create more than a dozen full- and part-time jobs at the actual facility. Needless to say, it will also produce an enormous amount of state and local tax revenue. Like the finest rye, the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, it seems, will go down smooth.
Founded in 1934, Bardstown, KY-based Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc., is the nation's largest independent, family-owned and operated spirits producer and marketer and the world's second-largest holder of Kentucky bourbon. Heaven Hill's diversified portfolio of brands includes Evan Williams Bourbon; Burnett's Vodkas and Gin; HPNOTIQ and HPNOTIQ Harmonie Liqueurs; Admiral Nelson’s and Blackheart Rums; The Christian Brothers Brandies; PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur; Lunazul Tequila and Rittenhouse Rye Whisky.
If you would like more information about the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience or Heaven Hills Distilleries, please visit their website.
Image courtesy of Solid Light, Inc.