EXCLUSIVE: Look inside the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience


by Doug Proffitt


Posted on November 5, 2013 at 7:27 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 5 at 8:42 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – The city was introduced to a $10.5 million shrine to one of the true characters in Kentucky’s bourbon history.

He was Evan Williams, the state’s first licensed distiller and popular Louisville politician and also the city’s first wharf master and jailer.

Popular? Larry Kass, the director of corporate communications for Heaven Hill Distilleries seems to think so.

“He would always bring a jug of his whiskey to the meetings, the council meetings,” he said.

Heaven Hill is owned by the Shapira family and it remains the country’s largest family-owned distillery.

The company’s historic building at 6th and Main Street has been transformed thanks to the still soaring popularity of bourbon.

“We and so are all our competitors, spending millions of dollars and increasing our capacity to produce bourbon,” Kass said.

The visual experience for tourists that Heaven Hill created is all Louisville. In one room, actors from the Walden and Actors Theatre recreate a town meeting with Evan Williams.

In another room, a full-screen panorama of Main Street is displayed as it looked in 1783 with all wooden buildings with homes and gardens.

“We had historians from U of L fully vet this. We’re not going to do this and have this scoffed at,” Kass said.

Heaven Hill has another first with this project. The experience is also a working distillery which marks another return to Main Street’s Whiskey Row past.

The windows will drop down for the tourists to watch the copper still in action. The copper and brass stills were made by Louisville’s 113-year-old Vendome Company.

The payoff is the second floor where you enter a time warp.

Louisville’s Main Street is recreated including Heaven Hill’s building when it was the Phil Hollenbach Bourbon Company. This is where you will also be given bourbon at one of two tasting rooms.

Evan Williams, who died 70 years before the building was built would raise a toast to what he would see now.