The Spirit of Kentucky®
August 30, 2018 – Present
A sprawling, 10,000-square-foot permanent exhibition on the third floor of the museum, The Spirit of Kentucky® is a visual guide to the history, craft, and culture of Bourbon whiskey — America’s only native spirit. Designed to supplement the Frazier’s Kentucky Bourbon Trail® experience, Spirit fills in the gaps between distillery tours, offering a wide-ranging and industry-spanning perspective.
Covered Bridge. 4K resolution footage of Cumberland Falls and Red River Gorge is projected along the interior of the bridge leading into the exhibition, simulating the sights and sounds of Kentucky’s breathtaking landscapes and wilderness.
“Enchanted.” A sunlit room at the end of the bridge pays tribute to the enchanted mix of natural elements in Kentucky that lend themselves to Bourbon-making: water, limestone, crops, grains, and wood.
“Water.” Maps in the “Water” section chart the forks and creeks of Kentucky’s river system. Model riverboats illustrate the different stages in the history of shipbuilding, from a flatboat and a steamboat to a diesel-powered barge.
“Limestone.” Figurines of Kentucky Derby-winning thoroughbreds showcase the benefits of having a limestone shelf: namely, it filters the groundwater, sapping iron and depositing calcium, thus producing a sweet-tasting, mineral-rich water that fortifies the bones of any vertebrate who drinks it — or eats grass that’s teeming with it.
“Farming.” A section dedicated to farming takes a look at the past and present of grain farming practices. An installation of antique tools and farm equipment is juxtaposed with the cutting-edge gadgets and weather-forecasting instruments of today.
“Grains & Crops.” Artifacts in “Grains & Crops” pertain to the corn, rye, malted barley, and wheat grains that are stored in silos beside Bourbon distilleries; that’s where the grains wait to be milled and boiled into a porridge-like mash that, once its paired with yeast and left to ferment, gets distilled to make clear whiskey.
“Wood.” Once the clear whiskey touches oak, it becomes Bourbon; however, since Bourbon gets most of its flavor during the aging process, the container that it’s aged in plays perhaps the most important role of all. A miniature cooperage table in this section allows you to simulate the practice of raising an oak barrel.
“Gracious.” A large family dinner table in this room contains a voluminous digital library of Bourbon-related research content. The content can be accessed using the table’s glass surface: as clickable icons float across the screen, you can tap them to unlock media: vintage postcards, portraits of distillers, lithographed fire insurance maps of distilleries from 1910, and clips of contemporary interviews with beer chemists, bottling technicians, and other seasoned veterans of the industry.
“Refined.” With an “Evolution of the Still” display that includes examples of a pot still, a column still, and a hybrid still, the “Refined” area celebrates the craftsmanship at the heart of the Kentucky Bourbon industry. Over a hundred rare and vintage whiskeys, including a bottle of Old Forester that dates back to the 1890s, are housed in glass cases throughout.