The Kentucky Bourbon Trail® Welcome Center
August 25, 2018
The Frazier History Museum in partnership with the Kentucky Distillers’ Association is proud to announce the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® Welcome Center. Located on the first floor of the Frazier and set to open in August 2018, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® Welcome Center will serve as the Official Starting Point of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® tour. Included in the KBT® Welcome Center will be a professional and friendly concierge service that will help thousands of visitors plan their trips to Bourbon distilleries throughout the state and show them how to navigate the hot spots of Louisville’s burgeoning Bourbon, culinary and nightlife scenes.
Spirit of Kentucky
August 25, 2018
Coming to the Frazier in the fall of 2018 is Spirit of Kentucky, a visual guide to the history, craft and culture of the Kentucky Bourbon industry. This permanent exhibition will showcase Bourbon in a new light, sharing stories of the people, places and events that have made this the signature product of Kentucky — the state that produces 95% of the world’s Bourbon.
Located across from The Lewis and Clark Experience on the third floor of the museum, the Spirit of Kentucky exhibition opens with a covered bridge-style threshold, simulating the sights and sounds of Kentucky’s breathtaking landscapes and wilderness.
From here forward visitors are presented with a thorough and immersive history of the Kentucky Bourbon industry. Visual aids and wall panels reveal how field corn and other grains gets milled, crushed and boiled in water to produce a porridge-like mash; how that mash gets transferred into a vat with yeast to ferment; how the resulting “distiller’s beer” gets distilled into "low wine" in a beer still, re-distilled into "high wine" and then diluted with water; how this clear whiskey gets poured into charred white oak barrels and stored in rickhouses to age; how seasonal changes in barometric pressure over the years push the alcohol molecules in and out of the wood, leaching colors and flavors from the sap and rosins as they go; and how the final product — mature, delicious Kentucky Bourbon whiskey — gets bottled, labeled, marketed and sold to millions of people all around the world.
Original artifacts and visual aids set up throughout the exhibition illustrate the story of Bourbon production. On display are soil and terrain samples; charts of wind and weather data from the World Seed Bank; slabs of authentic Kentucky shale, bedrock and limestone; maps of Kentucky’s waterways, docks and piers; model replicas of historic river paddle boats, paddle wheels and grain silos; stacks of white oak lumber and finished whiskey barrels; and farm equipment throughout the ages, ranging in history from vintage plows and tools to cutting-edge technology and drones. Brass figures of some of the lean, muscular horses that have won the Kentucky Derby help to illustrate how the calcium-richness of Kentucky’s limestone-filtered water and grass promotes strong bones among its thoroughbred population.
In addition to learning the steps of the Bourbon-making process visitors get to learn about the history of the Bourbon industry itself. When and where was Bourbon first invented? Who popularized it? What is the origin of its name? What makes Bourbon whiskey different from other whiskeys? Why did the industry take root in Kentucky of all places? Artifacts and wall panels posted throughout Spirit of Kentucky provide answers to these and many other questions. Photo albums of family farms spanning several generations are shown to celebrate and educate the public about the many folks responsible for making, selling and marketing Kentucky’s signature product.
Portraits of early Bourbon barons line the walls of the “Gracious” room, a space dedicated to the friendly, collaborative nature of the Bourbon industry. A large family dinner table sitting on a rug made from Kentucky textiles beside a wood-burning stove is the focal point of this room. The horizontal table surface is an interactive screen: as clickable icons flow gently across it, changing in scale as they pass in and out of view, visitors are prompted to tap them to unlock text and media content.
Content includes people, places, things and events that have played a significant role in the history of Bourbon: the major Bourbon brands, distilleries and distributors; Bourbon barons and founding families; master distillers, bottlers, coopers, still makers, scientists and craftsmen; distillery owners, key executives and other industry leaders; farmers and foresters; those who make and those who drink. Also shown are stories about the Temperance Movement, Prohibition and corporate responsibility programs; Bourbon’s role in pop culture, hospitality and entertaining; facts and statistics; myths and legends from different distilleries; and much more.
From the “Gracious” room visitors pass through a copper portal into the “Refined” area. This final space aims to appreciate the craftsmanship at the heart of the Kentucky Bourbon industry. An “Evolution of the Still” display occupies the center of the room, and small and large glass vitrines containing vintage ads, brand propaganda and other Bourbon paraphernalia surround it. Here visitors can learn about the pioneering marketers who developed the brands for national and global audiences, as well as the artistry of mixology, a practice that combines equal parts hard work and elegance.
If you want to know the history of Kentucky’s world-famous product, Spirit of Kentucky is the place to begin.