Distillers: Frazier Museum could house history, hub for Bourbon Trail

Distillers: Frazier Museum could house history, hub for Bourbon Trail

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The Frazier History Museum gave a Shawnee Academy's Men of Quality, a mentored group of high school freshman and upperclassmen, had quite a hands-on lesson Thursday as to how Native Americans aided Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in their mapping of the Louisiana Purchase.

But seniors Calvin Shelby and Anthony Watson, both life-long Louisvillians, are at a loss for knowledge about "America's Native Spirit."

"The only thing I know about it is, um, it's actually from corn," said Shelby, who plans to major in business at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne.

"I basically don't know anything about Bourbon," said Watson, who's eyeing a computer science degree from Western Kentucky University. "Does the McDonald's Bourbon Burger count?"

Change is fermenting.

"This (the Frazier) could be your one-stop shop," said Kentucky Distillers' Association President Eric Gregory.

"That will really tell the story of bourbon," said Mac Brown, treasurer of Frazier's Board and a Vice President of Brown-Forman Corporation. "It'll show us how it fit into the culture and heritage of Kentucky."

The approach will be different from Heaven Hill's take on its Bourbon Heritage Center in Bardstown.

"Not brand-specific," Brown said.

For that, bourbon-lovers need head only three blocks east, to the Evan Williams Experience, which combines education with recreation in what company executives have billed as the first stop on Louisville's Urban Bourbon Trail.

"That trail is growing," Gregory said.

Michter's is still months away from opening its own distillery experience at Eighth and West Main Streets. Brown-Forman has recommitted to Old Forester, its foundation bourbon, with a $45 million distillery to anchor Whiskey Row, in the 100 block of West Main Street.

"A rising tide lifts all boats," said Kelly Hubbuch, the marketing coordinator for the Evan Williams Experience.

Specifically, the more places Louisville can offer bourbon tourists to eat and play, the more likely they are to stay - and pay.

"We're talking about a multi-year timeline," said Paula Hale, the Frazier Museum's interim director.

"It's gonna be a multi-million dollar campaign over the next few years to really make this happen," Gregory said.

For now, the exact formula is a bit of a mystery, much like the chemistry of a premium small-batch.

"The design will drive a lot of it," Hale said.

The Frazier has room to grow, thanks to the donation of two adjoining buildings, which will virtually double the available exhibition and presentation space.

The Museum has hired Imagination, a creative agency most noted for creating the Guinness Storehouse Experience in Ireland, which the brewer touts as the "ultimate tasting experience" for connoisseurs of stout and draught ales and beer.

"This will be a responsible presentation of our industry's history and its role in our economy," Gregory said.

Translation: Family-friendly.

"We will tell stories that children can hear, and stories that they will want to hear," Hale said.

The Distillers' Association fully expects that its members will cover much if not most of the tab for construction and presentation.

"We will have four or five additions to the Bourbon Trail in the next two to five years. At least three in Louisville itself," Gregory said. "If just one percent of the countries that are just tasting bourbon for the first time start to put in their orders, then we're not gonna be able to make it as fast as they want it."

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