Frazier History Museum

Bourbon Tales & Tastings

Every day the Frazier hosts a unique lineup of talks, tours, and programs, including live theatrical performances and screenings of the documentary KentuckyShow! (2008).

Bourbon-Related Programs

Tastings. A standard tasting consists of three Bourbons or whiskeys — organized under a specific theme, like “Sweet to Spicy” or “The Three Most Recent Whiskey of the Year Award Winners” — that have been carefully selected from the vast catalog of spirits produced in the state of Kentucky. Features include:

  • A Multi-Brand Lineup. The collection of spirits at the Frazier is not limited to any particular brands or distilleries, so the lineup of samples chosen for tastings is free to reflect the diversity of products made in the Kentucky Bourbon industry.

  • A Knowledgeable Guide. Each tasting is led by one of the museum’s own Bourbon Ambassadors or Bourbon Stewards — titles awarded to individuals that have completed the Stave & Thief Society’s Bourbon Certification Program at Moonshine University.

  • A Tasting Tutorial. After summarizing the history of Bourbon and the science of distilling, your guide will escort you through each step of the tasting, advising you on how to properly nose whiskey, detect aromas and flavor notes, and compare different samples.

Interpretations. An interpretation is a short, monologue-style performance based on a historical figure or event. Each interpretation is written and staged in costume by one of the Frazier’s teaching artists, a team of talented actors/educators who bring history to life. Several stories in the rotation are culled from the rich and colorful history of Bourbon.

  • ”Kentucky in Conflict (1794).” On the early American Frontier, whiskey was an easily traded commodity often used in place of currency. For the new American government, whiskey seemed the perfect product to tax. Take a look at a turbulent time through the eyes of a tax collector in post-colonial Kentucky.

  • “Phoebe Pember (1865).” This story drawn from the memoir of Phoebe Pember, administrator of the largest military hospital during the American Civil War, illustrates the extreme care and vigilance with which whiskey, a staple medicine on the battlefield, had to be procured, rationed, and protected — from marauders and surgeons alike!

  • “Jack Daniel’s Stillhand (1909).” As told by a stillhand working at Jack Daniel’s distillery in 1909, this interpretation delves into the pressures the distiller was facing in Tennessee on the cusp of nationwide prohibition.

  • “Maggie Bailey (1930s).” Known as the “Queen of the Mountain Bootleggers,” Maggie Bailey from Harlan County, Kentucky tells the story of how she became one of the South’s most prolific bootleggers during the Prohibition era.

  • “Kathryn Kelly (1933).” A Prohibition-era bootlegger tells the story of how she and her husband, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, nearly pulled off the kidnapping and ransoming of an Oklahoma oil tycoon in 1933.

  • “The Bootleg King (1934).” A Seelbach Hotel bartender chronicles the rise and fall of George Remus, the man who built a multi-million dollar bootlegging operation during Prohibition. Remus is reputed to have supplied liquor to the Seelbach, as well.

Tastings & Interpretations.

  • “The Game of Faro (1800s).” Join the historic interpreter for a Bourbon tasting in the Speakeasy while you learn the most popular gambling game in 19th century America. Faro is a card game identified with figures like Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday, but in its heyday, it was commonplace on the many riverboats traveling the Ohio River.

  • “Kathryn Kelly (1933).” Join the historic interpreter for a Bourbon tasting in the Speakeasy while getting a “medicinal dose” of the history of distilling in Kentucky during Prohibition. Stay for the performance of Kathryn Kelly, a bootlegger who tells the story of how she and her husband, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, nearly pulled off the kidnapping and ransoming of an Oklahoma oil tycoon in 1933.

Gallery Talks.

  • “Burgoo to Bourbon: Kentucky Foods of the Frazier.” How do you feed an army? What on earth is in burgoo? Journey through food traditions dating from the Kentucky frontier and the Civil War to Industrial Age Louisville, learning along the way how food — and whiskey — is inextricably linked to the past.

  • “History Highlight: Women in Bourbon: Pairing Art and Science.” When it comes to women in the Bourbon industry, there’s more than meets the eye. Follow the story of women distillers through time — from witchcraft to rum-running to modern-day crafting genius. Stay for an optional Bourbon tasting in the Speakeasy featuring a special lineup of women-influenced brands.

Guided Tours.

  • Exhibition Tour: The Spirit of Kentucky®. Learn all about the history, craft, and culture of Bourbon whiskey on a guided tour of The Spirit of Kentucky®, a permanent exhibition the Frazier opened in 2018.