Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse Distillery (#10 of 19), located on 4th Avenue is nestled between iconic restaurants and bars in the main entertainment zone of Louisville away from Whiskey Row. Take a tour or just enjoy a tasting.

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About the Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse

  • Location: Louisville, KY
  • Impression: This is an easy stop off for a tasting in the heart of Louisville.
  • Website: Tour Information (Requires Age Verification)
  • Cost: I paid $8 for the tasting and did not take a tour. They are open late, so it can be a late tack on for your day of bourbon exploration.
  • Samples: 3 Selections including Jim Beam Extra Extra Aged Black, Jim Beam Double Oak and Jim Beam Vanilla liqour. We were also given the chance to choose one additional drink. I chose Bakers. 
  • Perks: I received a shot glass with Louisville and Urban Stillhouse on it.
  • My Instagram Photo

Takeaways

  • I mention it's day 6 in the video, but for some reason I was getting my days messed up. Maybe it's the bourbon talking ;)
  • Lyft, Uber and/or busses make a trip downtown easy and you don't have to worry about having "too much" to drink. I haven't said it much, but do be responsible! And taste, don't guzzle. 
  • I believe you can tour this facility, although I only did the tasting.
  • I probably felt more like I was walking into a commercial on this visit more than any other.
  • Probably a good place to take a date when downtown to get them into bourbon and show off your newly acquired knowledge!  Hey no problem...just buy me a drink sometime.

Off Topic: A Word About Transparency

Before I took this trip, I had been binge watching a Scottish whisky taster's YouTube channel to learn more about whisky in general. I was absolutely amazed at how this guy could pull so many flavors out of a glass of whisky. His name is Ralfy and I highly recommend you watch his videos.  One thing Ralfy talks about is how American spirits are really bad at transparency.  They don't always disclose clearly that their spirits are made elsewhere, or that they use a lot of misleading marketing terms.  

I must say after taking this trip and learning so much, I have to agree. 

More than once on this bourbon tour, I've heard some blatant marketing hogwash. Prior to this tour, I might have bought that same non-sense, but after hearing the process over and over, you start to realize that some people are just flat out pulling your leg. For instance, more than once, I heard promotional videos or tour guides saying "our bourbon is aged in American Oak barrels" with an inflection like were superior because of this fact. If you know about bourbon, then you know that oak is a requirement of bourbon and most of these distillers use some form of American Oak. 

Other bourbon's use the term "sour mash" like it is something special. I didn't hear of a single distiller that left sour mash out of the process.

And the biggest one is aging. There is forced transparency, in that any product not aged for at least 2 years cannot carry the name "Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey" on the bottle, and that any under 4 years must have an age statement (see a bottle of McAfee's Benchmark Old No. 8 as an example of this), but Very Old Barton's is not very old, and Old Charter 8 is not aged 8 years, but instead for 8 seasons according to the bottle (which could be 2 years by my calendar, but the bottle used to say aged 8 years, so it now creates confusion and if it were just 2 years, it would have to state that fact). Distillers all along the way are all saying age statements don't matter, it's when the spirits are "mature."  Okay, maybe so...or maybe that is a convenient way to get out of age statements when the high demand for bourbon may be driving some distillers to pull barrels earlier and earlier. Sad part is, we just don't know. 

We get marketed to every minute of every day. We see ten million drug commercials with smiling happy people where the product will potentially kill you and yet it doesn't stop people from "asking their doctor."  It's bizarre.  It seems borderline criminal to me. At the very least irresponsible. But maybe that is the cost of living in a free market society.

I think two things need to happen. The bourbon industry needs to cut the fluff and give us a little more information on the bottle (something akin to Nutrition statements). And we as Americans need to stop being as gullible as we seem and should start educating ourselves instead of taking a marketing company's word for it.  That is my take on things.  And that is why I highly endorse these distillery visits. It uncovers a lot of misinformation.

Side Tracked: Bottled-in-Bond

There is one item that sounds like marketing but it actually is an official, legal statement and that is Bottled-In-Bond. Bottled-In-Bond is a government supervised program that is as close to a guarantee of quality as anything. These products must be aged for 4 years under government supervision and must be 100 proof. The program was started because in the late 1800's distillers were putting questionable products into whiskey, including poisons such as the "heads" of the distilling process (something that is discarded these days) that can cause death or blindness. 

Next up, Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville, KY.

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