Why the Michter's Fort Nelson Distillery in Louisville Is a Must-Visit for Imbibers

By David Zivan | May 22, 2019 | Food & Drink

Take a peek inside the newest of the new generation of handsome Louisville tasting rooms.

Michter’s Bar at Fort Nelson has a commanding view of downtown Louisville. (Photo courtesy of Michter's)

Louisville establishments in which to enjoy the simple pleasure of an excellent Old-Fashioned have often been decidedly... well, old-fashioned. Now, in what some have called “bourbon urbanism,” the city is aflower with destinations that achieve the elevated sensibility of its best juice. Upstarts Angel’s Envy and Rabbit Hole Distillery recently opened slick spaces; Evan Williams and Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co. also added handsome tasting rooms.

Perhaps none can surpass the newest of the crop, a second facility unveiled downtown by Michter’s, a great American label whose in-and-out-of-business history goes back to the 1750s. The Fort Nelson Distillery resides in a four-story building built in 1890. It survived a cyclone that year and floods in 1913 and 1937, but then was neglected for decades before Michter’s acquired it in 2012. Millions of dollars and numerous engineering challenges later, it began welcoming guests earlier this year. “The restoration turned out to be much more complex than we ever anticipated,” notes Joseph J. Magliocco, the company’s president. Still, he says, “our team is thrilled that we have been able to save this iconic Louisville building.”

An elegant cast-iron and stone landmark with a high corner turret, the place houses a working distillery as well as a proper bar, all combining a rustic edge with a contemporary look. “Michter’s emphasizes quality above all else,” says Pam Heilmann, the brand’s master distiller—and that clearly goes for the new building as well. Along with the opportunity to leave with a bottle of your own blend—de rigueur these days—a visit offers the chance to try a shot of Michter’s hard-to-find 20- year ($700) or a pour of the exceedingly rare Celebration Sour Mash, a neat $1,200.

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