Yesterday The Bourbon Society went to all eight (That is right, 8) bars in one day. The trip took 9 hours to complete and we lost a few along the way. I thought you all might be interested in hearing about the trip and my opinion of the stops on the trail.
First off, I would like to Thank Sean from Mint Julep Tours for helping organize the trip and renting the bus. I would like to thank John and Jason at the Bourbon's Bistro for organizing the food. I especially want to thank Angela, Mark and Nancy from Louisville Tourism for providing the t-shirts and flasks at the end of the night and other small gifts in our bags. These people helpeed make this a very successfull event.
We started the day at 3:00 at the Galt House in front of Mint Julep Tours with members and invited guests numbering about 34 people. Sean had prepared some bags with items such as The Bourbon Review Magazine, a "I would rather be drinking bourbon" beer cozy, ink pen, passports and a brochure about tours offered by Mint Julep Tours. In true Bourbon Society fashion, many members were late and a few did not show up until almost 4:00 as we were leaving for the second bar. We gave members until about 3:10 when those present went on down to the first stop - The Jockey Silks Bourbon Bar in the Galt House. I had already decided that Iwas not going to drink above 90 proof since I was in this for the long run. I ordered a Rebel Yell neat and was served by Leslie. The cost was $7.50. The bar tenders were pleasant and knew some about bourbon, but there have been better at the Jockey Silks. Unfortunately Jean, the most experienced bartender was under the weather not working that night. I thought the cost was a little high for Rebel Yell but not to the extreme. My biggest complaint about Jockey Silks is the fact that the Galt House treats it as an after thought and focuses on their other bars. The bar closes at 8:00 and if someone calls in sick, they may not even open it. Many people have complained about not being able to find it open to get the stamp for the trail and that is a problem with out of town people taking the trail. The Galt House needs to either put some more support to the bar or remove themselves from the Urban Bourbon Trail.
The second stop was Maker's Mark Bourbon House and Lounge. We loaded on the bus and were dropped off very close to the bar. We went in and I ordered a Jim Beam Black and was served by Melissa. It cost me $7.00 and once again I thought that was a little high for Jim Beam Black, but not excessive. The bartenders were efficient and seemed to know some about bourbon, but no real scholars on the subject. We planned this stop early because we knew it would get crowded and loud later. As it was at 4:00 on Saturday afternoon, they were active but not terribly busy before we arrived and everybody enjoyed their drinks. At about 5:00 we started to our next stop on the trail.
The next stop did not involve a bus ride because it was the Old Seelbach Bar so we simply walked across the street from Maker's Mark Lounge. I ordered a Four Roses Yellow Label and was served by Edward. The drink was again $7.00 and a bit more than I would have expected for Yellow Label, but not excessive. The bar staff are excellent and well informed about bourbon. The bar at the Seelbach is rich with tradition and heritage (Al Capone stayed at the Seelbach during prohibition) and the selection is very good. The atmosphere is comfortable and yet elegant. This is a very good bar.
We loaded on the bus at about 6:00 and went to the Bourbon's Bistro for some food and drinks. The Bistro had some heavy appetizers lined up buffet style for us when we got there and the food was excellent. We had chicken breast in a peanut sauce, shrimp and grits and goat cheese and garlic spread with toast planks. Crystal stamped my passport, but Dave Pape bought me my drink, the house barrel selection of Buffalo Trace at a cost of $11.00, about what yould expect for a personal selected barrel from a bar. After eating I smoked a La Flor de Cano (Cuban) cigar given to me by one of the members of the Bourbon Society. It was an excellent cigar and the porch outside the restaurant makes for a great place to enjoy a cigar. As the cigar progressed I found it tasted better and had a rich caramel tone to the tobacco.
At about 8:00 we loaded up and went to the next stop - Park Place on Main where I had a Wathens and was served by Christina. The drink cost $8.00 which is very reasonable for a single barrel bourbon. Several of the members quickly left the bar to go to Browning's next door for the Bourbon Barrel Stout aged in Pappy 23 barrels, but most stayed and enjoyed the live piano music and had dessert. This dessert made us run a little late to our next stop since we did not leave until 9:10.
The next stop on the trail was the Bar at BLU. This was the worst place on the trail. I had an Old Charter 10yo and was served by Brigette. The drink was an exorborant $11.67. A bottle of Charter 10yo only cost about $18.00! The bartenders were rude and obnoxious and seemed to think that they were doing us a favor to acknowledge our exisitence. High prices and bad attitude with what was really a poor selection of bourbon (I did not see the minimum 50 they are supoose to have to get on the trail). I say take them off the trail before they destroy Kentucky's friendly reputation and the quality of the bourbon bars on the trail.
We left there by 10;00 and went to our next stop, Proof on Main. We should have done this one earlier becuase it was crowded. I had an Old Forester and it was only $6.50 which is about what I would expect for an Old Forester. The bar staff was so busy I never even got the name of the person serving me. Most members were not happy with Proofs and after spending some time checking out the art most were ready to go to the last stop. While my drink was reasonable, one member paid top price for an Eagle Rare and received what could only be called a shoddy pour. It was less than a half ounce.
The last stop on the tour was one of my favorites. We left Proof at about 10:45 for the Brown Hotel Bar. I ordered a Four Roses Small Batch and was served by Rebecca. Rebecca used to work at the Bistro when it opened and worked there for about a year and was at the training session John and Jason asked me to give to their staff, so she knows bourbon. The Four Roses Small batch was $8.00 and I consider that a good price. The bar is in the lobby with lots of comfortable chairs and couches with plenty of tables for setting down drinks. As Shay put it - "Damn this Smoking Ban. This would be a great place for a cigar and a bourbon." I could not agree more. I have always liked the Brown. It was here we were given our t-shirt and flask and we loaded on the bus to be taken back to the Galt House at about 11:50. From there it was into the Jeep and drive home for an end of an excellent night. My pacing myself combined by plenty of water, and food left me tired, yet still sober. I would do the Urban Bourbon trail again, but I think I would split it into at least 2 nights.
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873