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IT COULD BE said that Louisville is open to possibility but determined to protect its history.

That was no more evident than in 2008, when Abramson announced the launch of an Urban Bourbon Trail to guide visitors to local bars and restaurants that promote bourbon’s legacy. Abramson says he intends to make Louisville the “gateway” to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

To be on the urban trail, an establishment must stock at least 50 Kentucky bourbons and have a staff conversant in the “history and culture” of bourbon in the state. Stops include bars at Louisville’s two historic downtown hotels, the Brown Hotel and the Seelbach Hilton, and restaurants, such as the Bourbons Bistro, located two miles from downtown on Frankfort Avenue.

Cowdery, who lived and worked in Louisville years ago, says there’s definitely been a change in attitude from the time when many locals were almost embarrassed by their association with legal vices, such as drinking.

“Louisvillians, in general, have embraced their heritage more than in the past,” he says. “They’re proud that Louisville is the capital of the American whiskey business.”

Seems ex-Louisvillians are too. Abramson, who is leaving the mayor’s office in late 2010 to run for state office, says more and more people are returning home. “I can point to physicians, IT people, marketing and financial folks — all former Louisvillians who went away to larger cities, got married and are either expecting or have young children — [who are coming back],” he says.

Maybe Abramson’s bourbon handouts didn’t have everything to do with it. But they surely didn’t hurt.

Roland Klose is a newspaper editor who grew up in Louisville and whose best writing is fueled by Kentucky bourbon.


TRAILING SPIRITS


Eight Kentucky distilleries, all within a 65-mile radius of Louisville, offer tours and tastings. The six that follow are on the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail. For more information, visit www.kybourbontrail.com.

Jim Beam Distillery
526 Happy Hollow Rd.
Clermont, Ky.
(502) 543-9877
www.jimbeam.com
* Beam brands include Jim Beam Black, Knob Creek, Basil Hayden’s, Baker’s and Booker’s.

Heaven Hill Distilleries
1311 Gilkey Run Rd.
Bardstown, Ky.
(502) 337-1000
www.heavenhill.com
* Brands include Evan Williams, Elijah Craig and Old Fitzgerald.

Maker’s Mark Distillery
3350 Burks Spring Rd.
Loretto, Ky.
(270) 865-2099
www.makersmark.com
* Maker’s Mark is the signature brand of this distillery.

Four Roses Distillery
1224 Bonds Mill Rd.
Lawrenceburg, Ky.
(502) 839-3436
www.fourroses.us
* The distillery makes a number of bourbons, including several produced exclusively for the export market.

Wild Turkey Distillery
1525 Tyrone Rd.
Lawrenceburg, Ky.
(502) 839-4544
www.wildturkey.com
* Brands include Wild Turkey, Russell’s Reserve Rye and American Honey.

Woodford Reserve Distillery
7855 McCracken Pike
Versailles, Ky.
(859) 879-1812
www.woodfordreserve.com
 * This distillery makes Woodford Reserve.