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A bourbon flight at Proof on Main in Louisville, Kentucky (Photograph courtesy Proof on Main)

Where Bourbon Hits the Spot: Louisville

Louisville’s whiskey revolution is making a splash.

When the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience opened this fall along cast-iron Whiskey Row, Main Street welcomed its first distillery in a century. Tipplers can now swirl, sniff, and sip Kentucky’s native drink across from the 18th-century site where Williams made his name as an early spirits purveyor.

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A bartender pours a glass of whiskey at Silver Dollar (Photograph by Thomas Wavid Johns)

Corn whiskey has coursed through town nearly since its 1778 founding, from civic leaders toasting board decisions with a jug of it to whiskey warehouses anchoring the port along the Falls of the Ohio River.

Prohibition dried up the city’s stills, but a recent boom in craft spirits has sent distilleries barreling back into the resurgent downtown. New cult brands like Michter’s and Angel’s Envy as well as 19th-century revival Peerless Distilling are all set to open to visitors this year.

Long the gateway to the Bourbon Trail, connecting the stillhouses of the surrounding bluegrass, Louisville has a surplus of top-shelf bars and restaurants pouring the state’s finest, any way you like it—in a tasting flight at arty Proof on Main (with 75-plus labels), straight with a side of honky-tonk at Silver Dollar, or in classic cocktails at throwback Down One Bourbon Bar.

Tip: Order whiskey with a “branch” (a drop of water) at any of the 26 bars on Louisville’s urban bourbon trail.

Katie Knorovsky is an associate editor at National Geographic Traveler magazine. Follow her on Twitter @TravKatieK.