The Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs are famous for their starting gate and photo finish line. Now, after 135 years, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, originally established in 1880 and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail established in 1999, have announced their own official starting line, the Frazier History Museum in Louisville. The Frazier History Museum will be the official headwaters of the bourbon trail according to Eric Gregory, President of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association.

Frazier History Museum Bourbon Exhibit Ladies
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The Frazier History Museum is excited to announce that we are in the early stages of developing an expanded bourbon exhibit! The new bourbon experience and visitor’s center that will serve as the starting point of the very popular Kentucky Bourbon Trail!

Working with the Kentucky Distillers’ Association (KDA), the Frazier History Museum will explore and develop the concept of a new Bourbon-oriented visitor experience that will be located at the Frazier and will serve as an official starting point to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® adventure and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour®. Initial plans call for Bourbon-related exhibits and visitor experiences that impart the history and cultural development of one of Kentucky’s signature industries. Interactive learning programs and events will be developed to introduce and support the growing number of Bourbon distilleries throughout the Commonwealth.

Consideration of an expanded Bourbon presence at the museum began nearly a year ago when the Frazier and the KDA partnered on a Bourbon history exhibit that included the actual Congressional resolution declaring Bourbon to be “America’s native spirit.” The exhibit marked the first time the document left the National Archives since it was signed in 1964. The exhibit, which is still on display, also includes artifacts from the KDA and Kentucky Bourbon Trail® distilleries.

“Telling the rich history of Bourbon in support of this growing industry is truly a concept whose time has come,” said Gregory. “Not only is Bourbon an important part of Kentucky’s heritage but the heritage of our country.  The Frazier allows us to tell this story right in the heart of Louisville’s burgeoning downtown Bourbon boom, including the revitalization of Whisky Row, the success of The Evan Williams Experience and the continuing addition of craft distilleries.  The Frazier is a natural launch point and we look forward to capitalizing on the museum’s experience and resources to make this dream a reality.”

The Frazier History Museum will provide space and management services for the Bourbon exhibit as an extension of its mission to showcase national and international issues and events from local and regional perspectives. It is expected that the exhibit and its related services will require the Frazier to expand to the three buildings adjacent to the museum on West Main Street.  The buildings were a gift to the museum from Laura Frazier and Catherine Frazier Joy, when their father, Frazier Museum founder Owsley Frazier, passed away two and a half years ago.

Frazier History Museum - Anesthesia
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Photo courtesy of the Frazier History Museum.

Through artifacts and objects, the Frazier History Museum tells the stories of a broad spectrum of world, national and regional history. Its renowned historic interpretations of colorful characters and specialized interactive programs have become hallmarks of the institution. To further develop and integrate the expanded Bourbon presence with the Frazier’s current permanent collections, temporary exhibits, and learning programs, the Frazier has hired Imagination, a world-renowned international creative agency.

Imagination created the Guinness Storehouse experience in Dublin, an off-site installation for the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and has worked with both Christie’s auction house and the Natural History Museum in London on a range of projects, as well as creating Innovation Centers for corporate clients, including GE and 3M. Based on the strategy and design plan that Imagination is developing, a capital campaign will be initiated to fund the Bourbon experience at the Frazier Museum.

Bourbon and it’s related industries are big business in the state of Kentucky. A 2014 study from the University of Louisville reports the bourbon economy accounts for,

  • $3 billion in gross state product
  • 15,400 jobs
  • An annual payroll of $707 million
  • $165 million in local and state tax revenue
  • and the number of distilleries has tripled from 10 to 31

You can listen to how the bourbon industry has grown here.

Cover photo courtesy of United States Digital Map Library

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