In April 2012 Heaven Hill Brands Executive Vice President Harry J. Shapira announced that the company would build the first new distillery along Louisville, Kentucky’s Whiskey Row in nearly 100 years. It was Shapira’s foresite that started a bourbon building boom in the downtown area that today counts nine distilleries either open, under construction or announced in the area. That announcement led to the November 2013 opening of what was to become the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience. Unfortunately, just three months prior to the opening of the artisanal bourbon experience, Harry Shapira passed from a 10 year battle with cancer.
Bunging the 1,000 Barrel at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience
On February 1, 2018, Harry was smiling down as Evan Williams Bourbon Experience Artisanal Distiller Jodie Filiatreau bunged the distilleries 1,000th barrel of Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey. Today, the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience is the cornerstone of Whiskey Row’s renaissance. The artisanal distillery reached this milestone after producing one barrel per day since production began in September 2013. To put this in perspective, the companies recently expanded Bernheim Distillery, just a few miles across town, produces 1,300 barrels of whiskey per day.
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The multi-million dollar downtown artisanal distillery, immersive tour experience and retail location celebrates the legacy of Evan Williams, Kentucky’s first distiller, and is the first official stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Kentucky’s bourbon tourism continues to grow rapidly, with the Kentucky Distillers’ Association reported more than 1.4 million visitors enjoying tourism experiences across Kentucky in 2017.
“When the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience opened in 2013, a unique, innovative experience was created where Bourbon fans, historians, and visitors alike could enjoy our nation’s spirit,” said Heaven Hill President Max L. Shapira. “We are proud to celebrate filling 1,000 barrels at our artisanal distillery with the City of Louisville and look forward to sharing product from the first barrels when they mature.”
A Look Back at Harry Shapira’s 2012 Bourbon Tourism Vision
“We at Heaven Hill Distilleries are so pleased to be able to announce this exciting new initiative for Louisville, for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and for our Evan Williams Bourbon brand,” stated Heaven Hill Executive Vice President Harry J. Shapira at a press conference in April 2012. “It brings together a lot of important economic development, tourism and historical forces—an important new manufacturing and distillation facility, a major Louisville and Kentucky-themed attraction, and the history of Whiskey Row and Evan Williams as an important Louisville figure and early distiller. 122 years ago, when this building was first constructed, this area of Main Street was an important center of commerce for the Bourbon industry, and now Evan Williams, Kentucky’s first commercial distiller, is coming back home to his original locale.
The 1783 Evan Williams Distillery
Evan Williams (1755-1810) established his distillery in 1783. He was not only a pioneer in Bourbon, but also a Trustee of the City of Louisville, wharfmaster, and built the first county clerk’s office and city jail. In honor of Williams’ heritage in Louisville and the milestone achieved by the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, the 1,000th barrel was dedicated to the City of Louisville. The unfilled barrel was displayed in the lobbies of seven downtown partners for one day each before being transported from to the Mayors office to the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience to be filled.
“Bourbon is a unique part of both our rich history and our bright future,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. “Distillery experiences like Evan Williams are part of what we call Bourbonism (What is Bourbonism?), creating a great opportunity for our city to become an even more popular tourist destination in the years ahead. And that’s more great news for our economy.”
Today, distilling at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience is lead by Artisanal Distiller Jodie Filiatreau. He took over in late 2017 when long time Master Distiller Charlie Downs retired. The location features a fully functioning, copper pot still distillery producing one barrel per day, just as Evan Williams would have in his distillery on the Ohio River in 1783.
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A Day on the Trail at Evan Williams Bourbon Experience with Charlie Downs [Video]