The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience just released its first product that was distilled onsite, Square 6 Bourbon. The name pays homage to Evan Williams, who had a distillery in the late 1700s right across the street from the spot, making him the first commercial distiller in Kentucky. An historic marker marks the spot, which, according to city archives, was square 6 of Main Street.
The rollout began with an actual rolling of a barrel from two blocks away. Master Distiller Emeritus Charlie Downs took the first leg, then handed it off to Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau President Karen Williams and COO Cleo Battle, who handed it off to current Artisanal Distiller Jodie Filleatreau, who then handed it off for the final leg to current Heaven Hill President Max Shapira. It was a ceremony symbolic of how business would have been done in Williams’ day.
“Today marks another milestone in the educational, interactive experiences offered at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience as we can now experience the aroma and taste of this truly hand-crafted process from the grain to the glass,” said Max L. Shapira, Heaven Hill Distillery President. “From the first day Artisanal Distiller Emeritus Charlie Downs turned on the stills nearly eight years ago to Artisanal Distiller Jodie Filiatreau patiently waiting years for this product to come of age in the barrel, today we celebrate Heaven Hill’s commitment to quality and attention to detail.”
When the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience opened in 2013, it was the culmination of decades of a family business that excelled at honoring Bourbon history and heritage and forecasting trends like Bourbon tourism. The site had been the office of Harry Shapira, and his vision to make it a place to welcome visitors was the spark that led to the now more than a dozen distillery visitor centers in the city of Louisville. The Evan Williams Experience was the first to open on Whiskey Row, but sadly Shapira passed away before he was able to see his vision come to life.
The site on Main Street in Louisville, Kentucky is just 27 feet wide and includes a distillery, visitor experience, cocktail bar, and retail shop. The distillery produces just one barrel a day, and those barrels are trucked out to the warehouses in Bardstown, Kentucky.
There are challenges to operating a distillery in a small space and additional challenges to operating a distillery in a densely-packed urban area, but the site offers a lot for both visitors and whiskey enthusiasts. The tour covers a lot of local history, as well.
The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience also became the home of the Ideal Bartender School, which honors African-American Bartender Tom Bullock, who was the first Black man in America to publish a book on cocktails and bartending called The Ideal Bartender.
Square 6 Bourbon has a mash bill of 52% corn, 35% rye, and 13% malted barley. It is five years old and bottled at 95 proof. It will be available at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience Gift Shop as well as retailers throughout Kentucky.
Photos Courtesy of Maggie Kimberl