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Bourbon goes urban

Courtesy Louisville CVB

It was an appropriate start to a day exploring Louisville’s Urban Bourbon Trail: the Presidential Breakfast at Dish on Market. A favorite of President Harry Truman, the meal consisted of an egg, a slice of bacon, a piece of toast, a cup of fruit, a glass of milk and a shot of Old Grand-Dad bourbon.

Dish on Market is located in a 1904 downtown building that was built as the city’s first movie theater and was a favorite watering hole for local lawyers and businessmen for 57 years before being repositioned two years ago as a neighborhood bar specializing in bourbon.

I had joined Stacey Yates and Jessica Dillree of the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau to learn more about the CVB’s creative program that allows visitors to sample Kentucky’s rich bourbon heritage firsthand.

“The Urban Bourbon Trail grew out of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail,” said Yates, the CVB’s vice president of marketing communications. “We are the gateway to bourbon country. It is meant to be a complement to the trail. We want to send people to the distilleries. Visit distilleries by day, the bars by night.”

The four-year-old trail is expected to grow to nearly 30 stops by this summer. To qualify, a place must have at least 50 bourbons, serve food that incorporates bourbon in at least three items, have at least one significant bourbon cocktail and offer sample bourbon flights.

There is a wide range of options. “You can go from the Seelbach Hotel, where Al Capone had a drink, to modern art at Proof on Main,” said Dillree, the CVB’s marketing communications coordinator.

Several of the Urban Bourbon Trail sites also showcase neighborhoods that are undergoing exciting revitalization. We had lunch at Harvest, located in the NuLu district of Market Street near downtown; cocktails at Silver Dollar, in a former fire station along Frankfort Avenue, which is bustling with restaurants, bars and boutiques; and dinner downtown at the Bristol Bar and Grille on Main Street, which has eight Urban Bourbon Trail restaurants and nine museums within easy walking distance in a four-block area known as Museum Row.

Although not on the trail, another stop that highlights bourbon-infused products is Bourbon Barrel Foods in the Butchertown Market, which ages soy sauce in used bourbon barrels and makes a variety of bourbon-smoked products.

“We are the only microbrewery for soy sauce in the United States,” said owner Matt Jamie, who is building a demonstration kitchen with large windows overlooking the production line in a former warehouse. “Not many people in North America have seen soy sauce brewed. We want to create a market for super premium soy sauce.”

Jamie feeds staves from old bourbon barrels, which still have some bourbon in the wood, into a large smoker, where he smokes 13 different products, including sugar, sea salt, pepper and paprika. “Anything you can smoke I am going to smoke,” he said.