Prior to Prohibition, Whiskey Row was a big deal in Louisville. Natural waterways made the city an ideal location for producing and transporting goods, and one of the most important goods that was shipped all over the country was, of course, Bourbon. Louisville’s history is intertwined with the classic American liquor, but unfortunately Whiskey Row fell out of popularity following Prohibition in the 1920s. Improving transport infrastructure all over the country meant that Louisville’s waterways were no longer critical for production and shipping; on top of that, the American populace seemed to grow disinterested in locally distilled bourbon in the decades following Prohibition.
Now, Louisville is seeing a surge of new activity on historic Whiskey Row. Not only have Americans developed a renewed interest in their national spirit, but Bourbon has grown more attractive in the international imagination. The new Bourbon craze fits in well with a general shift in attitude towards liquor that’s seeing a greater focus on small, local distilleries, as well as a return to the art of mixology. In 2013, Heaven Hill opened the Evan William’s Bourbon Experience, which was the first of a slew of new distilleries to begin cropping up in the historic downtown area. Four more distilleries have opened since then, and five more are currently under construction.
Some are speculating that Louisville’s Whiskey Row will become the next Napa Valley. More businesses and cultural institutions are opening in the area, meaning that, like Napa Valley, Whiskey Row will become a travel destination for more reasons than the spirit that gave it life.