Louisville likes to promote itself as the Bourbon Capital of the World. Bardstown disputes this claim, but Kentucky’s largest city is certainly the entry point and home base for many of the tourists who come to the state every year in search of distilleries and fine whiskey. The city and the bourbon industry have added to the big city conveniences of posh hotels and fine dining with an urban distillery scene, so visitors don’t even need to leave town to learn about how whiskey is made and try a sample or two (or three). Now two more attractions have joined Louisville’s bourbon-soaked landscape.
This company started out as an independent bottler several years ago, and their identity was built on finishing their already mature bourbon in old Port wine casks. When Angel’s Envy launched their brand in 2011, this practice was well-established in Scotland, but almost unknown in American whiskey. Company co-founder Lincoln Henderson, a longtime Brown-Forman man who spearheaded the restoration of the Woodford Reserve Distillery, is said to have stumbled over the practice in the Italian wine industry.
Angel’s Envy’s fleet of new oak barrels, ready to be filled
The company bought an old industrial building in downtown Louisville, directly across from Slugger Baseball Field, and started renovations in 2013. The work encountered some serious hiccups, but finally opened to the public in November 2016. Now visitors can tour a distillery that stands as a veritable cathedral of whiskey-making, with the cooker and fermenters found in an airy, three-story space with a vaulted ceiling, and the still found behind glass in an adjacent, shrine-like chamber. The tasting room-cum-event space blends the hardwood and copper approach that seems to go so well with whiskey with a modern sense of style, and has a view of the Ohio River that will make it one of the best spots to see the fireworks for Thunder Over Louisville come Kentucky Derby Week.
For a different distillery experience, just outside the city and directly off I-64 is Jeptha Creed. Also opened in November 2016, this distillery is the work of the Netherly family, who own over a thousand acres of farmland in the country east of Louisville. Their property is centered around the namesake Jeptha Knob, and Jeptha Creed draws on the family’s rural roots by operating as a farm-to-glass distillery. They grow a sweet red varietal of corn on their land for their bourbon and vodka, one called Bloody Butcher, a type more often seen in artisanal corn meal than liquor mash bills.
The distillery itself has a consciously rustic feel, with plenty of reclaimed barn wood in the trim, heavy wrought iron fittings, and a bar table fashioned from a fallen oak tree straight from the Netherly property. It’s a far cry from urban, loft-like experience of Angel’s Envy, but close enough to Louisville proper you should be able to Uber the trip out there without difficulty (the trip back, though, might be tougher).
Notice the red, Bloody Butcher corn that serves as the foundation of Jeptha Creed’s spirits.
This pair of brand new Louisville area experiences join the outposts of two of the biggest names in bourbon: the Evan Williams Experience and the Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse. This is in addition to Peerless Distillery, and the group will be joined later this year by the Old Forester urban distillery. All of it goes to bolster Louisville’s claim to being the Bourbon Capital of the World.