Us, Them and a Little Bit of Bourbon: A Weekend in Louisville, Kentucky
Christmas in May arrived over Memorial Day weekend this year! You see, concert tickets and vacations replaced bottom-of-the-closet holiday offerings in our family years ago; so, “the hubs” and I are off to redeem his yuletide YOLO (I’m so sorry and realize it’s not 2012 but sometimes alliteration is hard…but, I digress) in the form of two tickets to see Roger Waters: Us + Them Tour at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky. The show is not until Sunday night so, we’re off to find a little trouble to get into on this long and needed break of a weekend.
First, a little how we decided to organize this trip. As someone who spends my entire life in planning mode, I’ve decided to start taking a more laissez-faire approach to my downtime. In recent years, I have developed a vacation planning mantra: “top three and then, let’s see.” We decide our top three, absolute “I will be sad if I miss this” stops and then let the wind take us where it may.
Conveniently, I am traveling with a bit of a bourbon connoisseur so, a trip to Louisville has him up and at ‘em on this Saturday morning like a six-year-old girl headed to a Disney princess breakfast. Our first stop on the list of top three: Bulleit Bourbon and the Stitzel-Weller Distillery. A few bottles of Bulleit have passed through our home over the years and we’re curious to see where they start their journey. We arrived on this steamy Saturday and quickly found ourselves among the throngs of other weekend wanderlusters out to explore this most urban of the locations we would visit; like, literally in the backyard of a few nearby homes and businesses. We hurriedly signed up for the next available tour and tasting. This tour followed the formula of many such distillery tours with a visit to their innovation space, the barrelhouse and back to Tom Bulleit, Master Distiller’s, office and then on to a tasting room. It’s a quick 30-minute tour of a historic and interesting space. The $10.00 per person admission (for those 21 and over, 21 and under are free) included the tour and a sample tasting of Bulleit’s flagship Bulliet Bourbon, the Bulleit Small Batch, Bulleit 10 Year and Bulleit Barrel Strength. We walked away with a pint bottle of the Bulleit Strength which we’re told is currently only available at the distillery. Overall, this was a small time commitment, limited walking tour with some fun anecdotes about things like the famous crooked Bulleit label. For true hands-on/show me experience enthusiasts, it’s important to note that the bourbon is not actually made at this location, making this outing more a casual tourist stop.
Must-stop number two? Four Roses Distillery. This is a sentimental favorite, to be sure, as Four Roses Bourbon harkens back to many a libation-laced memory for my husband and his buddies both new and old. Four Roses was about an hour drive from our hotel, but it was most certainly a beautiful hour. Rolling green pastures just as a Kentucky postcard would have you believe. The greatest danger on this commute? The distraction and desire to stop at all the distillery locations you see along the way. But, it’s Sunday now and our open distilleries are somewhat limited plus, once again, this is on our top three list. We arrive to a beautiful location that seems to spring up out of nowhere and is more reminiscent of a Spanish mission than a Kentucky plantation. We’ve done a distillery tour or two in our time, plus the day is getting away from us and we’d like to visit another stop today so, we opt to do the tasting tour only.
Here’s where I should probably stop and go on record as letting you know that, between you and me, I’m not a bourbon drinker. As I mentioned before, this particular trip was a gift and I’m being a “sport” about this whole thing.
BUT, as far as my totally unqualified palate, this is my favorite stop. The “A Taste of History” tasting included samplings of Four Roses Bourbon, Four Roses Small Batch and Four Roses Single Barrel. I find the bourbon surprisingly smooth, the guide leading the tasting (shout out to Tobey) seemed very knowledgeable and gave us some great history about the brand and we got to keep our beautiful tasting glasses which they wrapped up for travel, all for only $5.00 per person. This felt like a win, win, win to me. Totally recommend.
As I mentioned, it’s now Sunday and we’re frantically trying to fill our day and probably more-truthfully grab another stamp on our Kentucky Bourbon Trail Passport. The internet business hours cross-checked against distance from current location dance begins (be aware, we found hours of operation info to be wildly inaccurate. If you’re more of an hour-by-hour planner, I suggest making phone calls to each location.) We arrive at Woodford Reserve Distillery with what we estimate is about 15-minutes until closing. Turns out, not so, those incorrect internet business hours worked in our favor on this day. In short review, Woodford Reserve was slammed with people on this day, all tours were sold out, the gift shop was almost too full to move in, but I also found it, as a non-bourbon drinker, to be the most-picturesque of our stops so far and was glad we didn’t miss it. Closing time approaching or not we don’t have long to spend because we’re off to the main event of this visit, the “tour date” to our “travel.”
Arriving back to our hotel in just enough time to catch a quick nap (yes, we are old) and get ready for tonight’s show, we do a quick search for restaurants near the venue and call an Uber with an hour and a half of dining time figured in. Yeah, so we and 1000-ish other folks have made this same excellent plan. We arrive at the unbelievably packed restaurant and quickly adjust; walking a mere half a block and stumbling onto this tucked away little place, MilkWood restaurant.
Best laid plans did not go our way this night, but boy am I glad they didn’t. We were able to walk right into MilkWood, nestled in the basement of Actors Theatre of Louisville. Once again, it’s Sunday night and so they’re offering an abbreviated menu. In my opinion, all I have to find on any tiny menu is one delicious item and that’s A-Okay with me. Tonight, that item is the Organic Beef burger on a pretzel bun with umami ketchup, pimento cheese, MilkWood bacon and Bibb lettuce. My husband gets the Organic Pork on a pretzel bun with Napa kimchi, pork cracklings, remoulade and cilantro. Here’s where I would like to say I did you a solid and took gorgeous food pictures, but I was so darn hungry and it smelled so delicious, it was gone before it even occurred to me to take a photo which, in my opinion, says more about the fabulousness than any picture could. Soooo, here’s a picture of my beer to make up for my shortcomings.
Requesting a “cone of safety” to protect me from judgement here. I have never considered myself much of a Pink Floyd fan. I know, I know.
My husband, however, is a huge fan and because of this a few years ago I took him (on another gifting occasion) to see Roger Waters: The Wall. I was blown away! It was this indescribable sensory overload experience of a huge rock show production meets Cirque Du Soleil meets the MTV Music Awards meets I don’t even know what. It was amazing and I loved it. So when this new tour rolled around, I did not hesitate to snap up a couple of tickets (our third stop on the planned activity roster.) For all Pink Floyd fans, this was an amazing show. We were able to hear a few favorites we had not heard in a live setting before and were thrilled. Let me say this though, anyone who knows Roger Waters knows that you’re going to have to take a dose of politics with your show and this night was certainly no exception. With today’s political climate, the first half of this show was a little somber as compared to the energetic juggernaut that was The Wall experience. Second half of the show? Redemption. The energy returned, there were new production tricks up his sleeve which made it feel fresh and the mood was definitely lifted. A side note if you plan on purchasing tickets to a future show: In all my pics below, you’ll notice a large black box almost center in every shot. Yeah, this was not an idiosyncrasy to the venue, this was part of show production. Whereas back, high and center was a preferable seat location during The Wall experience, not this time around. Still, this is a once in a lifetime chance to see a living legend do his thing. A must!
Relaxed from a leisurely and low-key weekend, it’s time to make our way home on Memorial Day Monday. No stops planned today as it’s a holiday and we figure everything will be closed anyway. Making our way south, we approach the exit for the Jim Beam American Stillhouse. My husband who’s been here before decides he would like to jump off the interstate real quick just to show me the campus. He tells me it’s beautiful and we should take a look. I’m game, I say, “Let’s do it!”
Surprise!! They are open and we decide to stay for a quick visit. We strolled around the beautiful grounds alone which was nice and I enjoyed this, the first location with a self-guided component. Jim Beam may tie-up my vote for most picturesque of our stops, it was truly beautiful. We picked up a Fred Noe autographed bottle of Knob Creek in the gift shop because, you have to and then grabbed lunch. Much to our delight, another thing that sets Jim Beam apart is it’s on-site eatery, Fred’s Smokehouse, serving up tasty treats like pulled pork, chicken or brisket sandwiches, pulled pork or chicken nachos and a Bourbon Country ice cream sundae that is to die for! A huge “thank you” to Jim Beam for rounding out a terrific trip and for saving us from interstate drive-through food.
We barely scratched the surface of attractions, dining and other recreation activities. I definitely see a return visit in our future. Besides, we still have to get six more stamps on our Kentucky Bourbon Trail Passport. Here’s to a fantastic mini getaway in Louisville! Cheers, everybody!