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Ironroot Republic Distillery Tour

Ironroot Republic Distillery Tour

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After covering the brother’s unconventional beginnings into distilling, we next learned about their unique distilling and aging practices. Robert explained that in the course of their training, they had met veteran master blender Nancy Fraley and world renowned french brandy maker, Huber Germain-Robin. The brothers were well aware that their whiskey would be something different. After all, Kentucky whiskey isn’t going to be made in Texas. What they weren’t sure of was exactly what processes to employ. So with Fraley and Germain-Robin working as consultants the brothers began to forge their own path.

Ironroot Republic Distillery

The Founding of Ironroot Republic Distillery

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It was Christmas 2011 and soon to be law school graduate, Robert Likarish, had not just one, but two life-altering announcements to share with his family during Christmas dinner. First, Robert stated that he had no desire to be a lawyer. This was pretty big news considering he was  one semester away from graduation. Ripping the band-aid completely off, he then declared that once he finished his last semester of law school, he wanted to open a distillery.

Jodie Filiatreau chats with Bourbon Obsessed

Jodie Filiatreau Chats with Bourbon Obsessed

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Join us as we chat with Jodie Filiatreau, Artisanal Distiller at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in Louisville, Kentucky. In 1981 a young Jodie Filiatreau strode into the offices of the Heaven Hill Distillery in Bardstown, KY. Acting on the advice of his uncle, the 20 year old headed straight for the office of Max Shapira, then Vice-President of Heaven Hill. Max was not in charge of hiring and Jodie had no appointment, nonetheless, he introduced himself and inquired about work at the distillery. Max listened to his appeal and sent him off to Human Resources. The rest, as they say, is history.

Evan Williams Bourbon Experience Review

Evan Williams Bourbon Experience
528 West Main St
Louisville, KY 40202
Phone: (502) 272-2623

Welcoming Visitors Since November 2013

The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience has been welcoming visitors to Louisville’s Whiskey Row since November 2013. The Shapira family, owners of Heaven Hill Distillery in Bardstown, had wanted to bring a visitor experience to Louisville. The company’s first foray into bourbon tourism was the Bourbon Heritage Center which opened at their Bardstown facility in 2006. Surprisingly, to find a space in Louisville they had to look no further than their own backyard, so to speak. It turns out that 528 Main St. had been under their proprietorship since 1945.

The property even had its own whiskey history. Built in 1871, the tall townhome measures out a mere 27 feet in width, however the 5 stories, in addition to the basement, ensured adequate space. The Phil. Hollenbach Co moved its cooperate office to this location in 1911. Hollenbach juggled numerous occupations from whiskey blender, rectifier, and distributor to wine merchant and importer. He was even the first to distribute Anheuser-Busch in Louisville. A storefront on “whiskey row” helped to assure his company’s continued success.

The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience Review
The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience

Prohibition Brings Unwelcome Change To Louisville

Prohibition, along with the Great Depression, however brought unwelcome change. While the Hollenbach Company survived, “whiskey row” mostly disappeared after prohibition. According to bourbon historian Michael Veach, American lifestyles were changing. For example, with the increased availability of the automobile along with drivable roads, it no longer was important for a business to have an office in downtown Louisville. As a result, by 1945, the former home of the Phil. Hollenbach Co. had a new owner.

Long before their dabbling in whiskey making however, these new owners had been in the dry goods business. The Shapira family had purchased the Louisville building to serve as a warehouse, distribution hub, and office space for their chain of junior department stores. Fast forward 75 years or so and while the junior department stores have ceased to exist, Heaven Hill Distillery continues to thrive, remaining family owned and operated.

Who Is This Evan Williams Anyway?

So who exactly was Evan Williams? He was a colonial distiller, of course. The former native of Wales relocated to Louisville in the early 1780’s and according to the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, by the late 1780’s Williams had set up and began operating Kentucky’s first commercial distillery in downtown Louisville. Furthermore, It turns out that distilling was just one of his many occupations. Williams served as wharf master of the bustling Louisville docks, an elected trustee for the city of Louisville, and as a master stone mason he oversaw the construction of the first jail and courthouse in Jefferson County.

Evan Williams History Sign
History of Evan Williams

Evan Williams Bourbon Introduced

Heaven Hill introduced his namesake bourbon brand in 1957. The Evan Williams brand would go on to become Heaven Hill’s top selling flagship bourbon. So it should be no shock that the company would choose to name their Louisville experience after this well-known whiskey making Louisvillian who set up shop near the banks of the Ohio River over 200 years ago.

Evan Williams Bourbon
Evan Williams Bourbon

The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience Becomes Louisville’s First Bourbon Tourist Attraction

The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience ushered in bourbon tourism to downtown Louisville by becoming the city’s first major bourbon tourist attraction. Three unique experiences are offered: The Traditional Tour & Tasting, The Speakeasy Tasting Experience, and The Ideal Bartender Experience. While the Traditional Tour & Tasting is offered daily with the exception of Mondays (the Experience is closed), The Ideal Bartender and The Speakeasy Tasting Experiences are much more limited, each being offered only Thursdays & Fridays and Saturdays & Sundays, respectively. All 3 experiences include a tasting. The Tours and Experiences generally last 45 minutes to an hour. The cost runs from $18 to $35.

Online reservations are definitely recommended and really are a must during the busy summer months. The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience is open Tuesday-Thursday from 11-5, Friday and Saturday from 10-5, and Sunday from 1-5. If a tour is not in the cards, check out the ON3 Bar. Yes, it’s ON the 3rd floor. ON3 serves up cocktails, individual pours and tasting flights from Heaven Hill’s vast lineup of bourbons. Talented mixologists, ours was Micah, create a varying array of delicious daily specialty cocktails. Micah and company are ready for your pour Tuesday-Sunday. ON3 follows the same operating hours as the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, but closes 30 minutes prior to the Experience at 4:30.

It’s All About History

All of the experiences at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, but in particular The Traditional Tour and Tasting, focus on the past. In fact, history hogs much of the glory in this story. After all Evan Williams was a historical figure from the colonial days of Louisville. The tour tells the story of Williams and his namesake (the bourbon). Visitors also get a peek into the history of Louisville and how bourbon helped to shape the city through re-creations of the colonial riverfront and whiskey row spanning from the late 1800’s through prohibition.

But Wait! There’s An Artisanal Distillery Too!

And while history may be the star of the show, there is of course the discussion of bourbon. As the explanation of the bourbon making process takes place on the tour, a screen slowly rises unmasking its glass wall and revealing the Evan Williams’s artisianal distillery. Two Vendome copper hybrid pot stills stand proudly, gleaming as though they are only for show.

Rest assured, they are not just for show. We got a closer look at this amazing artisianal set up thanks to Assistant Artisanal Distillery Manager, James Cox. Our first stop was in the basement at the back of the building. The quarters were fairly tight, and housed the mash tun (cooker) and two closed fermenters. James explained that the lack of adequate space prohibits the use of an in-house mill, so as a result, the grains arrive in recyclable plastic tubs, milled and ready for duty. They are stored on the floor above and are transported down to the mash tun via a chute. The mash tun then cooks 750 gallon batches of grain and water once a day. When the cook is complete, it is then transferred to 1 of 4 fermenters, 2 in this room and 2 with the stills.

The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience Stills

Once fermentation is completed, in 3-5 days, the distillers beer moves on to those two lustrous looking hybrid pot stills. We made our way back to their location on the first floor. Here James shared that before his days as Assistant Artisanal Distillery Manager, it was his responsibility to keep those stills shining. Every week, he hand polished all that copper. Needless to say, James certainly does not seem to miss that chore.

Next we learned more about these 2 copper beauties. Both stills are hybrid stills, part pot and part column. The larger still is the stripping still. The process begins here. Once the mash moves through this first distillation , the liquid heads to the smaller finishing still and its final proof of 135-140. The new make is proofed down (water added) to 120-125 and barreled. All barrels are then transported to one of Heaven Hill’s many rickhouses in and around the Bardstown area.

As we wrapped up our time in the distillery, James left us with a few interesting facts. First, the stills operate 5 days a week and produce 1 barrel each day. Second, due to the small scale of each mash, the distillery has experimented with about 20 different mashbills. Lastly, in May of 2021, the Evan Williams distillery released its first bourbon produced onsite. Square 6 was a high rye bourbon and was sold almost exclusively at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience gift shop. It’s safe to say there will certainly more to follow.

The Tour Concludes

Although the Traditional Tour & Tasting does not actually go through the distillery, if the timing is right, it’s possible to see the stills in action. The tour finishes up on the second floor and ends with the tasting in the 1950’s style bar, Max and Harry’s. Once the tasting is finished, the exit conveniently leads tour guests into the gift shop. The shop is well stocked with a variety of Evan Williams products and memorabilia.

Check Out The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience For Yourself!

Clearly the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience is more than just a history lesson. It’s history with a sizable pour of bourbon. The Shapira family’s trailblazing effort successfully introduced bourbon tourism to the city of Louisville. The building at 528 Main St. reminds us that history and bourbon had already been long acquainted in this riverside town. This experience will delight history and bourbon fans alike.

We hope you have enjoyed our Evan Williams Bourbon Experience Review! If you would like to learn more about Evan Williams’ flagship bourbon, check out our Evan Williams Bourbon Review! To help plan your visit, check out all of our Evan Williams Bourbon Experience Facts below.

Would you like to learn more about distilleries and bourbon? Are you planning a trip to Kentucky Distilleries? Maybe you would like to live the bourbon life vicariously through us?🙂 If any of these are true, then check out BourbonObsessed.com today!

Buy Bourbon Obsessed Hats & Glencairns

Evan Williams Bourbon Experience Facts

Days of operationTuesday-Thursday 11am-5pm
Friday & Saturday 10am-5pm
Sunday 1pm-5pm
Closed Monday & Tuesday
Paved Drive / LotNo Lot. There is some street parking, but it’s expensive. City parking lots are much more reasonable.
Motorcycle ParkingN/A
Motorcycle unfriendly featuresN/A
Number of tours per dayTraditional Tour & Tasting
Tour runs at the top of the hour & every 1/2 hour Fri-Sun
Speakeasy Tasting Exp.
Saturday & Sunday only
The Ideal Bartender Exp.
Thursday & Friday only
Length of Tour(s)Traditional Tour is 1 hour.
Both experiences are 45 minutes.
Advanced topic tours?No
Advanced topic tour namesN/A
Tours by owners /distillers available?No
Number of different types of tours3
On-Line Tour Reservations AvailableYes
Advanced Reservations Recommended/RequiredRecommended on weekends and during summertime
Cost for tour(s) in $Traditional Tour is $18
Speakeasy Experience is $25
Ideal Bartender Exp is $35
Tasting Included?Yes, for all 3 tours / experiences
Number of samples included in tasting4-5 depending on experience
Tasting Only Option?Yes, at the ON3 Bar
Tasting Only Option Cost$12-$25
High-end tasting option?Yes
High-end tasting option cost?$65-$80
Designated Driver OptionNo
Handicapped Accessible?Yes
Souvenirs included with tour?Yes. Both the Bartender and Speakeasy Experiences come with a take home souvenir.
Gift shopYes
On-Site bottle sales?Yes
On-site food: Restaurant/Cafe/SnacksNo
On-site Cocktail barYes. The ON3 Bar is located on the third floor.
On-site event spaceYes
Should I visit? (Yes, Perhaps, No)Definitely
Unique FeaturesUnique urban artisanal distillery. Experiences focus on history as well as bourbon
Websitehttps://evanwilliams.com/
Boone County Distilling Co Bourbon

Boone County Distilling Co Review

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Boone County Distilling Co has a unique niche in the continuously expanding Kentucky bourbon market; its products are “Made By Ghosts.” This ominous sounding tag line in reality is the company’s homage to those now little known nineteenth century characters in Boone County, Kentucky, who forged an enormous distilling pathway.

Rabbit Hole Distillery Tour Review
Rabbit Hole Distillery
711 E Jefferson St
Louisville, KY 40202

Please enjoy our Rabbit Hole Distillery Tour Review!

There’s a new distillery in town (in 2012)

In the realm of bourbon distilleries in Louisville, KY, Rabbit Hole Distillery is one of the new kids on the block. There is no lengthy family history in distilling nor any revived family recipe lying dormant since prohibition. There is just a man who developed a life altering fancy for bourbon. Kaveh Zamanian, founder and CEO of Rabbit Hole Distillery, is that man; he wanted to create something unique in the ever growing and competitive world of bourbon. A visit to the home of this whiskey-making newbie offers ample proof of Rabbit Hole’s success. From the building’s architecture to the whiskey itself, Rabbit Hole Distillery has undeniably created its own one-of-a-kind footprint in the booming business of bourbon.

What’s in a name?

Zamanian created the brand in 2012. The name came from his wife’s comment that by pursuing this passion, he would be taking the family down the rabbit hole. Regardless, pursue his passion he did.

Rabbit Hole Mashbills

With the help of industry experts, Zamanian began by creating Rabbit Hole’s own unique recipes. Malted grains, generally used in bourbon and rye just to aid in fermentation, would take on more of a starring role. The majority of bourbon whiskey brands use less than 10% malted barley in their mashbills, again, to help in fermentation. Rabbit Hole however bucks this practice by using 30% malted grains. For example, Rabbit Hole’s Cavehill 4 grain bourbon mashbill is 70% corn, 10% malted wheat, 10% malted barley, and 10% malted honey barley, while its Heigold Bourbon is 70% corn, 25% malted rye, and 5% malted barley.

Whiskey First, Distillery Second

With recipes in hand, but no distillery, Zamanian then took the long road to producing Rabbit Hole’s first whiskeys. Instead of sourcing product from another distillery, he found a Kentucky distillery willing to cook his newly created mashbills. So while the company’s distillery was in the works, its bourbon and rye would already be aging. In October 2016 those Rabbit Hole whiskeys hit the shelves. Patience and perseverance would continue to pay off.  A little more than a year and a half later, the Rabbit Hole Distillery opened in May of 2018 and by August, Rabbit Hole began filling its own barrels.

Art Museum or Distillery?

In a city brimming with distilleries, Rabbit Hole’s building is truly unique. In addition, it found the perfect home, as it is situated in the artsy NULU district of Louisville. The distillery is built on the former location of the Disney Tire Company and from the outside, it looks more modern art museum than distillery. The Rabbit Hole sign on Jefferson Street attests to its artsy nature; It’s a picture or a sign, depending on where one is standing. Inside, the design of the building allows the visitor to follow the process of making bourbon from grain to glass. This intentional flow makes for an exceptional visitor experience, as we would soon discover.

Visit The Distillery

The distillery and gift shop are open daily Tuesday-Saturday from 10-5. The Rabbit Hole Distillery Tour is offered on the hour Tuesday and Wednesday from 10-3 and Thursday-Saturday from 10-4. The cost is $25 including tax and fees. Military/veterans, seniors, and minors receive discounted admission. Tickets, including those that are discounted, can be purchased online. Reservations are encouraged at rabbitholedistillery.com as each tour time is limited to 10 visitors. Tours do sell out regularly. The Rabbit Hole Distillery Tour lasts approximately 1 hour and includes a guided tasting of their bourbons, rye, and gin.

Our Tour Begins in the Hallway of Distillery Education

Our guide for the tour was Rabbit Hole’s Whiskey Specialist, Adam Edward. He also serves as the Single Barrel Experience Manager for the distillery. We knew we were in good hands, so with the social niceties quickly exchanged, we were off to learn everything about Rabbit Hole Distillery.

Rabbit Hole Distillery Tour Educational Hallway
Educational Hallway

The tour begins in the hallway right outside the gift shop. Adam began by first pointing out that the distillery’s design required not just maximum efficiency for distilling, but also for education. As a result, the tour route provides the visitor with a crystal-clear view of Rabbit Hole’s distilling processes and techniques. The hallway serves as the first teaching tool on the tour. On the right, Adam pointed out that actual building plans for the distillery’s various areas serve as decorative, but informative, posters. There’s Milling & Mashing, Fermentation, Distillation, and Barreling & Bottling. It’s a manual of Rabbit Hole’s design and processes.


On the opposite wall of the hallway, several large windows provide views into some of these areas such as the fill and dump room for barreling as well as the bottling room; yes, for bottling. There is also a window which features the hammer mill used to crush the grain. Here the glass extends to the floor, where it continues across the hallway floor and over into the distillery. The milled grain can be seen moving through the clear piping (located under the glass) when mashing is about to begin. Now that’s transparency! With each window there was an accompanying explanation of the process occurring behind the glass. With all windows accounted for, we were ready to move on.

Into The Distillery We Go

The second teaching tool was the inside of the distillery proper. We entered on the second floor where the view was dominated by nine 8,000 gallon fermenters. Three newer fermenters have been added (on the backside of the building) since the distillery opened. This allows the company to distill around the clock. Adam directed our attention to several of the fermenters by pointing out the various stages of fermentation in each tank. It’s fascinating to see. A newly filled tank has the appearance of a muddy river, while one that has almost completed its 72 hours of fermentation resembles countless heads of cauliflower. No matter the stage, distillers manage the workflow from the nifty digital wall monitor as well as from the distiller’s lab, both located on the same floor.

The Vendome Still

Next up was the workhorse of the distillery, the 46 ft 8 inch copper column still made by Vendome of Louisville, KY. The still is remarkably accessible with great views from all floors. This well-planned feature, while convenient for the distillers, is also great for the visitors. Stairs inside the distillery allow for easy movement between floors. Our first close-up view of the still in action took place on the 2nd floor. We parked ourselves directly in front as Adam highlighted Rabbit Hole’s distillation process. While we listened, it was hard not to be mesmerized by the washing machine-like action through the still’s glass portholes.

A Most Unusual Spirit Safe

One item however did stand out as unique. After heading up the next flight of stairs for a higher view of the still,  we noticed Rabbit Hole’s unusual spirit safe. Most spirit safes consists of 2 separate sections housed in one box (safe). One side for the low wine (the first run off the still) and the other for the high wine (the second run through a doubler). Rabbit Hole breaks the mold and has 2 completely separate safes. The low wine safe was positioned right where we were on the third floor. The view of the 125 proof low wine pouring with such rapid speed was impressive.

Rabbit Hole Distillery Low Wine Spirit Safe
Rabbit Hole Distillery Low Wine Spirit Safe

To get a view of the high wine safe, we made our way up another set of stairs. Here the action was more subtle. Enclosed in a large modish display-style case, crafted of stainless steel and glass, was a singular clear spout. A continuous flow of high wine, now 138 proof, gently poured over the edges of the spout, much like a soothing garden water feature, onto the mirrored surface below. The sum of all the labors: milling, mashing, fermenting, and distilling, was proudly displayed in the clear new make. Only for a moment, as it quickly exits, off to its next destination, the barreling room. Here the newly distilled white dog will be proofed down to a precise 110 for its entry proof into the barrel.

A Bird’s Eye View

A final flight of stairs took us from high wine back to the still; this time to the very top. It is a rarity to be able to view this monstrous piece of equipment from its apex. As we witnessed the “magic” taking place through its highest port hole-like windows, Adam finished with a few final points regarding the intricacies of distillation. With no more stairs to climb, our distillation education had come to a completion.

Rabbit Hole Distillery Tour Bird's Eye View
Rabbit Hole Distillery Bird’s Eye View
Rabbit Hole’s Aptly Named Overlook Lounge

It’s no coincidence that our tour ended at the top of the still. Doing so allows for quick entrance to Rabbit Hole’s Overlook lounge. Our tour route had taken us to the 4th floor where our last teaching tool was waiting. The apex of the still and the Overlook are separated by a short hallway. In fact our tasting was set so that in front of us was the terrific view of the north facing Louisville skyline, while behind us hovered the 46 ft coppered king. Before we began soaking up too much ambiance, Adam presented our tasting.

The Rabbit Hole Whiskey Tasting

The standard tasting for the Rabbit Hole Distillery Tour includes 5 samples: the Cavehill Four Grain Bourbon, the Heigold Bourbon, the Boxergrail Rye, the Rabbit Hole Bespoke Gin, and the Dareringer Bourbon Finished in Sherry Casks. Each of Rabbit Hole’s whiskeys takes a name with historical ties to the city.  For example, Cavehill refers to the Cavehill Cemetery in Louisville. It’s an homage to the many generations of whiskey makers who rest there. Their efforts have helped all those that have followed.

As we began to sample, Adam reminded us to pay particular attention to the Cavehill and the Heigold flavors. These 2 bourbon show off their unique mash bills. The higher percentage of malted grains translated very well in each whiskey. Adam briefly discussed the remaining samples and we did our part by finishing each. Our empty glasses signaled that our tour had officially come to an end. We thanked Adam for being such a gracious host and sharing his wealth of information.

Stay Awhile And Enjoy A Drink With A View

While our glasses may have been empty, we did not have to leave Rabbit Hole’s Overlook lounge. Tour guests are welcome to stay for a cocktail or a pour. The Overlook bar menu offers a list of neat pours and signature cocktails, as well as a list of classic cocktails. Whether from a bar chair or a couch cushion, the view is definitely cocktail worthy; on warmer days the outside deck would be a great setting to soak up some fresh air. As of this review, generally only tour visitors are allowed in the Overlook. Covid-19 continues to limit capacity however, on slow days, non-ticketed visitors may be allowed access.

Back To The Beginning

We headed back down to where it all began, the retail gift shop. The gift shop features a terrific selection of items for the home bar, fashionable clothing options, and of course, all of Rabbit Hole’s spirits. It’s a great place just to pop in and pick up a gift that any bourbon lover would enjoy.

Rabbit Hole Distillery Gift Shop and Tour Check In
Gift Shop and Rabbit Hole Distillery Tour Check In
Rabbit Hole Knowledge And Appreciation Gained

While the gift shop may have left our wallets a little lighter, we were richer with our new knowledge and appreciation for Rabbit Hole Distillery. As it turns out, this new kid on the Louisville distilling block knows exactly what they’re doing. Rabbit Hole melds perfectly its flair for the artistic with the tried and true methods of making bourbon. No family history required. 

We you enjoyed our Rabbit Hole Distillery Tour Review! Would you like to read more about Rabbit Hole Distillery’s whiskeys? Check out our article about Rabbit Hole Bourbons and Rye.

Would you like to learn more about distilleries and bourbon? Are you planning a trip to Kentucky Distilleries? Maybe you would like to live the bourbon life vicariously through us?🙂 If any of these are true, then check out BourbonObsessed.com today!

Buy Bourbon Obsessed Hats & Glencairns

Rabbit Hole Distillery Details

Distillery NameRabbit Hole Distillery
Days of operationTuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm
Paved Drive / LotLot is free, as is street parking
Motorcycle ParkingNo separate parking
Motorcycle unfriendly featuresNA
Number of tours per dayRabbit Hole Distillery Tour
This standard tour is offered on the hour
-10am-3pm Tuesday-Wednesday
-10am-4pm Thursday-Saturday
Length of Tour(s)1h
Advanced topic tours?Not currently
Advanced topic tour namesNA
Tours by owners /distillers available?Not currently
Number of different types of tours1
On-Line Tour Reservations AvailableYes, recommended.
Advanced Reservations Recommended/RequiredYes, particularly for weekend days and during summer
Cost for tour(s) in $$25.00
Tasting Included?Yes
Number of samples included in tasting5
Tasting Only Option?Not currently, but coming soon
Tasting Only Option CostTBA
High-end tasting option?No
High-end tasting option cost?NA
Designated Driver OptionNo
Handicapped Accessible?Yes, except for 1 floor
Souvenirs included with tour?No
Gift shopYes
On-Site bottle sales?Yes
On-site food: Restaurant/Cafe/SnacksNo
On-site Cocktail barYes, but due to Covid-19 priority access is given to tour guests
On-site event spaceYes
Should I visit? (Yes, Perhaps, No)Do not skip
Unique FeaturesModern building and building layout provides an excellent visitor experience
Websitehttps://www.rabbitholedistillery.com
Jim Beam Distillery Tour Review - James B Beam Distillery

Jim Beam Distillery Tour

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Have you visited the James B. Beam Distilling Co. (aka the Jim Beam Distillery) recently? They were closed for quite some time during 2020 and 2021, and during that time they were busy doing renovations. Late last year, they opened up again to visitors, and I really love what they have done with the place!

James B Beam Distilling Tour Review

Please enjoy our James B Beam Distilling Tour Review

568 Happy Hollow Rd
Clermont, KY 40110
beamdistilling.com

The Jim Beam Story

The clock never stops ticking with regards to history and its stories. The stories that comprise the life and livelihood of the Beam family and bourbon are many; the first began some two hundred and twenty-seven years ago when farmer, Jacob Beam, distilled his excess corn and sold his first barrel of sour mash whiskey. A seemingly simple decision gave rise to a family legacy and a business empire.

So how does one barrel sold in 1795 lead to today’s 17 million and counting? Answers to this and much more are waiting to be discovered at the James B. Beam Distilling Company’s recently renovated visitor center, the American Outpost. The Outpost reopened in October 2021 after closing to visitors back in March 2020; first because of Covid-19, then to implement and complete a long planned renovation of the entire campus. 

The New Visitor Experience

The time off was worth the wait. Beam has created all new visitor experiences / tours. Bourbon enthusiasts can choose from tours, cocktail classes, tastings, warehouse education or a full distillery dive. For the Bourbon Obsessedsm, try the Behind the Beam with Fred and Freddie Noe. Once a month, this experience offers a VIP tour of the distillery, a guided tasting with the 7th and 8th generation of Beam master distillers, Fred Noe and son Freddie, and wraps up with lunch at the Beam Kitchen Table restaurant.

The James B. Beam American Outpost is open Wednesday-Saturday, 9am-5:30pm and Sunday, from 12-4:30pm. Winter months are less busy during the week, however weekend tours sell out regularly all year long. Online reservations are encouraged and can be made at beamdistilling.com. Tickets vary in price depending on the experience. The 1 1/2 hour Beam Made Bourbon tour including a tasting is $22 plus tax and fees. Military visitors gain free admission with their military ID and while visitors under 21 are welcome on tours, tastings are for those who are 21+ only.

Take A Walk Through Beam History

Whether you’re booked for a tour or not, arrive at least 15 minutes before tour time. This allows time to check-in or to secure a spot and time to check out the wonderfully spacious James B. Beam American Outpost. An introduction to the history of the Beam family and bourbon begins on the walls of the Outpost. Through the magic of its digital display, the Beam family tree highlights the succession of Beam family master distillers. Also interesting is that the display includes the many other Beam family members who worked at various other distilleries over the years as well as those that currently do so.

Opposite the digital wall display, visitors get another reminder that while Jim Beam is a brand and a company, it is also a family. Photos of generations past and present line the wall along the staircase, as though it’s the family home. In a sense it is; the Beam family wants everyone to feel not just welcome, but part of the family. So much so, that at the bottom of the staircase, the Beam Foto booth offers folks the opportunity to commemorate their visit to the distillery with a photograph of their own. Visitors are even provided the opportunity to add their photograph to the Beam family’s wall.

Following our own advice, we arrived early, first checking in for our scheduled tour. Arriving early gave us the opportunity to check out the new space and discover the impressive family lineage, courtesy of the digital wall. Shortly thereafter we met Megan Breier, Experiential Programming & Education Manager (who made our visit possible), and our guide, Justin, and immediately set out for our introduction to everything Beam.

The James B Beam Distillery Tour

Our tour started at the beginning of the Beam Made Bourbon Tour. As we stepped inside the heavy industrial looking black doors marked “Beam Made Bourbon”, an enormous man-made waterfall overtook our senses. Over the roar of the rushing water, Justin explained that this room was designed to highlight the importance of the ingredients that make up the Beam brands of bourbons. Water, grain, and yeast are all crucial pieces of the puzzle and each of these had life-sized representation to view as Justin covered them one by one.

For example, a 1935 vintage Cadillac parked inside represents Beam’s same yeast strain since 1935. Hmm? How so? It’s interesting, but wasn’t uncommon back in the day. Come take the tour to solve this piece of the puzzle. For those new to bourbon, the standards of bourbon are also on life-sized display. These visuals along with the guided explanations really help to clarify each topic at hand.

Fermentation

With some background information covered, we headed up the stairs past the grain hopper display to learn all about fermentation. Unfortunately the area was off limits for the day, so we spent a few moments staring through the glass window soaking in the view. Justin noted earlier that Beam supplies nearly 50% of the world’s supply of bourbon. This would explain 22 massive fermenters, each 45,000 gallons. Incredible, especially since this is their “small” distillery. The lion’s share of production takes place at the Booker Noe Plant, a few miles down the road in Boston, KY where the majority of the production is Jim Beam “White Label” Bourbon, the number one selling bourbon in the world.

The Still

Our next stop was the Big House, its slogan, “Hardest Working Still in America”, proudly displayed on the side of the building. So it came as no surprise that this 50 year old six story behemoth works 24/7. Every minute it distills 200 gallons of mash resulting in 30 gallons of white dog. Even more impressive is the fact that Beam uses this same still to make smaller batches of white dog that come off the still at different proofs. Another life-size display notes that Jim Beam is off the still at a final proof of 135, Knob Creek at 130, and Basil Hayden at 120. Monstrous, yet versatile.

The Casehouse

Following Justin, we moved from the Big House to the Casehouse. This newly designed area covers barrels, barrels, and more barrels along with the nitty gritty of the distillation process. The introduction to barrels begins with a video from Independent Stave Company (ISC), the maker of Beam’s barrels. The video explains the life cycle of a barrel, from tree to char. The Knob Creek single barrel display is a hands on display showcasing the single barrel process along with a discussion of the small batch process.

James B Beam Distilling Barrels - Independent Stave

Also of note in the Casehouse is the art of the distillation display. Here miniatures of each apparatus involved in the entire distillation process line the wall, with the still represented by a live digital display. From the grain hopper to the cistern tank, Justin took us through each step, and together with the assistance of the visual aids, the production of Beam bourbon became remarkably clear. Finally the new make (aka. white dog) is barreled. This is demonstrated by the Barrel Fill display. Another hands on display, it mimics the actual process. In one last barrel exhibit, Beam shares more information on the aforementioned bourbons. This time comparisons are made for barrel entry proof, time aged, and bottling proof. For example, Basil Hayden Bourbon enters the barrel at 115 proof, ages a minimum of 6 years, and then is bottled at 80 proof.

The Knob Creek Bottling Line

Before we headed off to see how Beam stores their barrels, we made a quick stop at the Knob Creek bottling line. Visitors have the opportunity to bottle their own Knob Creek single barrel bourbon on the tour.  We took advantage of this option and enjoyed seeing the action of the workings of a high speed bottling line up close.

Barrel Warehouse F

While our Knob Creek Bourbon bottle would make its way to the the American Outpost Gift Shop for purchasing at the end of the tour, we were off to Warehouse F to learn about barrel storage. Even in the frigid temperatures, the sweet smell of the spiritous liquid wafted ever so slightly throughout the structure. The north/south facing warehouse F, built in 1948, houses just under twenty thousand barrels.

According to Justin, across its 550 acres, Beam’s current warehouse count stands at thirty-six. Their newest warehouse can be seen upon arrival or departure as it sits at the entrance to the campus. Warehouse F serves as the teaching warehouse. The barrel display here helps visitors learn about how barrels are aged at the James B. Beam Distillery. We also learned about the loss of whiskey volume due to evaporation, also known as, the “Angels’ share”. Justin wrapped up our warehouse time by pointing out a few other teaching tools and then it was time for a little tasting.

The Tasting Rooms

On the Beam Made Bourbon Tour visitors head back to the second floor of the James B. Beam Distilling Co. American Outpost for their tasting. Aptly named Kentucky Hug and Kentucky Chew are the 2 rooms which host the tastings for this tour, as well as the Meet The Family Tasting. The Beam Made Bourbon Tour finishes with a guided tasting of Jim Beam, Knob Creek and Basil Hayden. We however weren’t quite ready for our tasting as our final stop would be Jim Beam’s new experimental and educational space, the Fred B. Noe Distillery. 

The Fred B. Noe Distillery

The Fred B. Noe Distillery is named in honor of 7th generation and current Master Distiller, Fred B. Noe. Innovation, experimentation, and education take precedence here. The distillery is under the well groomed leadership of the 8th generation Beam family member, Freddie Noe, son of Fred B. The building features a state of the art yeast propagation area and classroom as well as a hands-on blending lab. While the Beam brands of Booker’s, Baker’s, and Little Book continue life under this roof, creativity and exploration also have prominence. The distillery has everything that the next whiskey rooted generation would want, including its own tasting bar. Located on the lower level, the area is geared toward sampling the distillery’s creations and new releases for those in the spirits industry.

The Tasting Bar at the Fred B. Noe Distillery

While our enlightenment of everything Beam came to a conclusion, we were ready to try the finished product. Justin had our tasting set up right here at the Fred Noe Distillery bar, so we happily took our seats as he walked us through each of the samples. Justin encouraged us to take note of the color and nose each sample. We discussed flavors in the nose and those in the taste and finish. Before we knew it, our samples were empty and our time had come to a close.

We felt fortunate to have had a peek inside the new Fred B. Noe Distillery. Neither the family nor the company is content to rest on their respective laurels. The Fred B. Noe Distillery provides the optimum setting for the Beam family of distillers to continue their invaluable contributions while providing the James B. Beam Distilling Co. the crucial edge any company would need to stay at the top of their game. 

The Gift Shop and The Kitchen Table Restaurant

We thanked Justin for a terrific tour as we headed back to the James B. Beam American Outpost. No visit is truly complete without a solid scouring of the gift shop, and the one at the Outpost has plenty to offer. One other new building on campus also had our interest; the new restaurant, The Kitchen Table. Since we were famished, that’s exactly where we headed next. The menu is compact and heavy on the smoked meats, which is something else the Beam family knows. There is a craft cocktail menus using Beam whiskeys, and beer and neat pours are also available. The food and cocktails were delicious. This is a restaurant deserving of many repeat visits.

Until Next Time

With our stomachs happily filled, we took our leave of The Kitchen Table and were ready to head home. Thanks to Justin and the walls of the Outpost, our insight into everything Beam had greatly improved. Jacob’s excess corn has led the Beam family down the whiskey path for over 200 years and the rest really is history. So whether history buff or bourbon nut, a stop at the Jame B. Beam Distilling Co. has plenty to offer both. The family gladly shares their stories while the company welcomes visitors to the many brands that are the James B. Beam Distilling Co.

We hope you have enjoyed our James B Beam Distilling Tour Review

Would you like to learn more about distilleries and bourbon? Are you planning a trip to Kentucky Distilleries? Maybe you would like to live the bourbon life vicariously through us?🙂 If any of these are true, then check out BourbonObsessed.com today!

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James B Beam Distilling Details

Days of operationWed-Sat 9:00-5:30pm
Sunday 12:00-4:00pm
Paved Drive / LotYes
Motorcycle ParkingNo separate parking
Motorcycle unfriendly featuresNo
Number of tours per dayVaries by tour
The standard tour is
Beam Made Bourbon
Tours run every 30 minutes.
Wed-Sat from 9:30 to 3:30
Sunday from 12:15 to 2:45
Length of Tour(s)1h 30m
Advanced topic tours?Yes
Advanced topic tour namesNoe Your Cocktails;
Behind the Beam w/Fred & Freddie Noe;
Thief Your Own
Tours by owners /distillers available?No
Number of different types of tours3-5 (Varies by day)
On-Line Tour Reservations AvailableYes
Advanced Reservations Recommended/RequiredYes, particularly for weekend days and during summer
Cost for tour(s) in $The standard tour is $22 + tax and fees; Others are $18-$1000
Tasting Included?Yes
Number of samples included in tasting4 (in Beam Made Bourbon Tour)
Tasting Only Option?Yes, book
Meet the Family Tasting
Tasting Only Option Cost$12 + tax & fees
High-end tasting option?No
High-end tasting option cost?N/A
Designated Driver OptionNo
Handicapped Accessible?Yes
Souvenirs included with tour?No
Gift ShopYes
On-Site bottle sales?Yes
On-site food: Restaurant/Cafe/SnacksThe Kitchen Table
Current Hours are:
Wed-Sat 11am-5pm
Sunday 12pm-4pm
On-site Cocktail barYes
On-site event spaceYes
Should I visit? (Yes, Perhaps, No)Most definitely
Unique FeaturesInteractive educational exhibits in the Casehouse
Websitehttps://www.beamdistilling.com
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