Location: Louisville, Kentucky
Type of Venue: Off-site, distillery
Capacity: More than 100 guests
Nearby Accommodations: 21C Museum Hotel
In theory, making bourbon is just a matter of cooking. You char some oak, ferment some grains, boil some water and let it all rest. But bourbon-making is a fine art, a true craft that has been passed along through generations of artisans and distillers. That’s the case at Evan Williams: Its bourbon has been made using the same time-honored methods since its namesake opened a distillery on the banks of the Ohio River in 1783.
Evan Williams was the first commercial distillery to open in Kentucky. It’s now part of the Heaven Hill family of brands, the country’s second-largest distillery selling Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey. The distillery closed its doors during the 1920s but was welcomed back as the first distillery to open in downtown Louisville since Prohibition.
Today, the distillery is just a few blocks from the first location of the original distillery. But bourbon connoisseurs and rookies alike can learn about the history and production of Evan Williams whiskey at Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, a museum with a small distilling operation and distinctive meeting spaces.
The experience is intended for all ages. During an interactive museum tour, visitors are guided through the distilling process for 45 minutes to an hour. The group passes by the artisanal still and hears the legends and tales of more than 230 years of bourbon-making before those 21 and older are invited into the tasting rooms to sample some of the company’s creations.
The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience welcomes groups with two distinct meeting and event spaces that provide an opportunity to gather and connect within the halls of this historic distillery. Within walking distance of all the downtown hotels and the convention center, the distillery is in the heart of Louisville’s Bourbon District.
The meeting spaces are infused with local flavor, and on-site event coordinators are on hand to ensure that attendees are taken care of throughout their time at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience.
The meeting spaces at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience include rooms for gatherings of up to 100 guests with complimentary Wi-Fi for all attendees. The most popular space, the Speakeasy, features audiovisual capability and flexible seating for up to 60 guests — maximum 100 guests standing — with a cherry wood bar and two 70-inch flat-screen televisions. For smaller groups, the Black Label Boardroom can accommodate up to 12 guests, with audiovisual capabilities that include a 70-inch flat screen television, and conference table seating at a 12-foot conference table with leather chairs. During social distancing, both spaces can accommodate groups at 50% capacity.
The on-site events coordinator assists meeting planners by providing a hand-picked list of local caterers. Planners are then free to collaborate with their caterer of choice to design their perfect menu. Bourbon-pairing dinners are popular, but menus can range from carving stations and passed hors d’oeuvres to catered lunches for a long day of meetings in the boardroom. In addition to the Bourbon Tours and Tastings at the distillery, groups can add one of the bar packages to follow any meeting or event held on-site, with a happy hour or a networking gathering following the meeting.
Meeting and event attendees can get a deeper immersion into the distillery through a variety of tour options, including guided and self-guided possibilities, mixology workshops and behind-the-scenes bootcamps. All the tour options include a bourbon tasting for guests 21 years old and older. The on-site retail shop is a fantastic resource for meeting planners to elevate their events with custom gifts for attendees, like personalized bourbon bottles with a logo or attendees’ names. The retail shop also carries glassware, apparel, chocolates and sauces, as well as new and rare bourbons from the Evan Williams family of products.
Before and After
The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience is within walking distance of the downtown hotels and convention center, so guests have direct and easy access to all of Louisville’s Bourbon District before and after events. Visitors can stick to the Urban Bourbon Trail or venture a bit farther out to cross off all 21 of the world-renowned distilleries that make up the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. There are more than 100 restaurants within walking distance, and popular attractions include Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby; the Muhammad Ali Center; the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory; and the Belle of Louisville.