By Alice and Danny Scott
Several bridges span the Ohio River connecting the Indiana countryside with the modern skyline of Louisville, Kentucky. Limestone aquifers supply the perfect water to distill “America’s Native Spirit” – good old Kentucky bourbon. The Angels’ Share is a vapor that escapes from the oak barrels infusing the air with a sweet scent of vanilla, butterscotch or maple syrup. Numerous distilleries within an hour of Louisville deliver rich history of before, during and after prohibition along with a tasting. Woodford Reserve has the oldest still house of 1840. Abandoned for 20 years, it was purchased by Jack Daniels and is going strong with its double-barreled oak and rye whiskies. At the Buffalo Trace Distillery, we met Freddie Johnson who promised his Dad Jimmy Jr he’d work there at some point in his life just like he and his Granddad Jimmy Sr. did. A wall honors all their family stints. Freddie gave us a personal and passionate tour from the barrel shop to the packaging department, sharing the secrets to making great bourbon. He demonstrated how temperature affects flavor. Chilling brings out the soft caramel notes. Buffalo Trace produces several brands - Sanzerac, Wellers, Blanton’s and more. All tours and tastings are complimentary at Buffalo Trace.
The Urban Bourbon Trail downtown is rewarding. Stop at the Visitor’s Center where The Kentucky Colonel is lauded as the first Top Chef, not just a finger lickin’ chicken man. Pose for a pic with him and pick up a passport for the Urban Bourbon Trail. 6 stamps from 35 stops yields a cool t-shirt. Historic architecture amazes along the way. Don’t miss The Old Seelbach Bar as one of the stopping points. Past guests of the Seelbach Hilton include Al Capone, U.S. Presidents and F. Scott Fitzgerald whose character “The Great Gatsby” was inspired by his stay there. Renovated rooms are elegant with modern amenities. Situated on the corner of the new 4th Street Live Entertainment complex that lights up the night, Seelbach is central to all the action. Ten minutes away, the best place for a mint julep is Churchill Downs, which turns into a red carpet for the well-hatted who’s who, dressed to the hilt for the Kentucky Derby, the most famous horseracing event in the world.
Just blocks away from Seelbach, is the Louisville Slugger plant for touring, close to the 21C Museum Hotel. Not your ordinary lodging, not your ordinary museum; eclectic art at every turn incorporates all mediums. Digital artistry is surprising and fun. Push the button for the elevator and notice yourself in larger than life video on the wall as letters sprinkle down lining your body with different words. Move and they bounce off to settle again when you settle, carrying another message. Even the men’s room is a riot. The urinal is a long wall of cascading waterfalls and unbeknownst to the eliminator, it faces a 2-way mirror so that people outside can be seen but can’t see in. Guard the door so ladies can see it too. The Poison Arrow at the Proof Bar, yes bourbon cocktail, pairs well with catfish dip for dinner or an appetizer before a dinner cruise with music and dancing aboard the Belle of Louisville or Spirit of Jefferson. Either vessel embarks from the wharf beside the Waterfront Park. The largest of Louisville’s 120 parks has acres of grass, gardens, sculptures and trees for hiking, biking and events.
Of course the golf is great, too. Minutes from downtown, the Quail Chase Golf Club on Chapel Road has 27 holes designed by David Pfaff. Rolling through the woods over creeks and Kentucky blue grass, this is pure country golf. The West course has no homes except to the wildlife, deer, fox and turkey. The East course has a few estates tucked out of play. It is the toughest of the three nines with blind narrow fairways carved out from the native forests. The South course is wide open in comparison. The clubhouse is down home understated with a great staff and friendly members. It could be our new Kentucky home.
We’ve been there, done this and that and yes got the t-shirt but gotta go back for more. If we get a mulligan trip, we might schedule the Heritage Hill Golf Club or Fuzzy Zoeller’s home course, Covered Bridge. Across the river, Indiana has some nice courses, too. French Lick in particular won the Best Historic Resort award by USA Today readers, but that’s another story. Stay tuned. www.gotolouisville.com.
Alice and Danny Scott are known as America’s Golfing Couple and travel the world writing for many publications. Visit their website at www.americasgolfingcouple.com.