Not every day can you say you’ve had 1780s distiller Evan Williams talk directly to you. But after attending the Evan Williams Bourbon experience, that’s just one of the many unique experiences you’ll be able to boast. Although behind an unassuming front located at 528 West Main Street, inside the Evan Williams building you’ll be faced with a hodge-podge of eclectic Bourbonism. 

Bourbonism. No, that isn’t a typo. 

Bourbonism, or Bourbon tourism, is integral to Louisville’s culture. Bourbonism can take a visitor on long road trip from distillery to distillery, without realizing that Evan Williams Distillery is right in from of them. But though not located on a sprawling, acres-long distillery, Evan Williams still gives the classic elements a Bourbon tour needs.

Consuming the lobby is a large fountain in the shape of a cup of Evan Williams bourbon on the rocks. Water pours into the cup from the second floor, creating the illusion that a massive cup of bourbon is being filled before your eyes. 

The official tour begins in a room filled with wooden benches that are surrounded by screens. When the screens light up, you are transported to a town meeting with none other than Evan Williams himself, addressing you from the screen. The tour then progresses into a room filled with fake underbrush and meticulously placed barrels. Videos of actors portraying townspeople walk on either side of you, and the man of the hour, Evan Williams himself, reappears to teach you about the Ohio River valley. 

The rest of the tour continues on this immersive note. The tour winds through rooms where copper bourbon stills are on display, authentic to those Evan Williams used. Vats of bubbling grains in the process of being turned into alcohol are visible as well, not to mention the classic sightings of charred bourbon barrels. A light up display walks you through the entire process of Bourbon making, from harvesting grain to bottling.

From the gift shop on the second floor, you can look down onto the top of the Bourbon fountain from above. The water cascades effortlessly down on top of a mix plastic ice cubes and orange slices.

Bourbon enters the barrel completely clear and gets all its flavor and color from its years in a charred barrel. On the Evan Williams tour, those of age can try the intermediate product called High Wine, a clear, extremely high proof alcohol. The tour ends, for those over 21, with guided tasting of four different Evan Williams bourbons, as well as an Evan Williams bourbon ball. The final stop is the gift shop, where barbecue sauces, spices, and other bourbon-barrel-made products are showcased. 

Samara Angel is a freelance writer for xpLouisville. A rising junior at Yale University, she has had fiction published in campus publications and recently was a recipient of the Wallace Prize for fiction. Originally from Boulder, Colorado, Samara is spending the summer in Louisville, and is passionate about the arts and outdoors.