The Frazier History Museum marks the official starting point of Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail
By Ella Treinen
Photos by Andrea Hutchinson
It is a trail with no clear path, and for years, no clear starting point. In 2018, the Frazier History Museum earned a designation and responsibility to change that. The Frazier is now the official starting point of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, offering direction, guidance and a logical place to begin your Kentucky Bourbon tourism experience.
When many think of Kentucky, they also think of fried chicken, horses and bourbon. Bourbon is an integral part of Kentucky’s history and economy with 95 percent of the world’s bourbon produced in-state. As a result, it pours over $8.5 billion into the state’s economy every year.
“We do make 95% of all bourbon, but we like to say we make 100% of good bourbon,” said Bourbon Steward and Manager of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center at the Frazier Sam Newton.
Kentucky is home to 38 bourbon distilleries, each with a brand to represent and a story to tell. The Frazier acts as a launching pad, highlighting the category of bourbon from a completely unbiased perspective. The Frazier teaches visitors what it is about our land, our water, our people and our politics that put Kentucky in this unique position. The Bourbon Trail Welcome Center, located on the first floor of the Frazier, is free to anyone and offers guidance, distillery videos, trail maps, merchandise and more.
“Unlike all the other distilleries that are in business to tell the story of their brand, our job is to tell the story of the industry and how it ties into Kentucky,” said Frazier Bourbon Expert and Group Sales Manager Stephen Yates.
The Frazier tells the story of bourbon in more ways than one. Besides the Bourbon Trail Welcome Center, they offer bourbon tours like their “Ready, Set, Go! Bourbon Experience and The Unfiltered Truth” which offers the perspective of Black Americans in bourbon. The tours are unique and interactive, highlighting the Frazier’s “Spirit of Kentucky” bourbon exhibition which features a speakeasy, a touch-screen interactive table and a bottle hall with over 270 bottles of whiskey. Rather than a lecture-style experience, Yates said he approaches his tours as if he were hosting guests he wanted to show a good time.
Through tastings with one of the Frazier’s bourbon experts, visitors can learn how to isolate the taste of rye on their tongue, where the flavors come from and why Kentucky bourbon just tastes better. If you can’t get enough, there is an array of bourbon programs just a click away on the Frazier’s website. The most recent featured Master Distillers were from Wilderness Trail, Kentucky Peerless and a brewer from Jeffersontown’s 3rd Turn Brewery. September’s Masters Series features Jackie Zykan from Old Forester and the three brothers who founded Kentucky’s first Black-owned distillery, Brough Brothers.
“We’re trying to get more Kentuckians educated about this awesome product we’re making, so when they introduce it to their friends, they can actually tell them the facts so you have a little bit more pride in what you’re talking about,” said Newton.
Kentuckians aren’t the only ones eager to learn. There are license plates from all over in the Frazier History Museum parking lot owned by people eager to get a taste of Kentucky. In fact, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail itself has drawn in over 2.5 million visitors from all 50 states and 25 countries in just the last five years. What better place to introduce the state, and what our state does best, to the rest of the world than the Frazier History Museum.
“It’s promoting what we do at the Frazier, but also, our hometown,” said Yates. “We get to sell our city and our state to the rest of the country.”
Frazier History Museum
829 W Main St.
Louisville, KY 40202