Off the Kentucky Bourbon Trail
is a review of things to do, places to stay
and honey holes to visit off the
Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
Westport Whiskey & Wineby Jeremy Schell
Walk up to virtually any retail package store, excluding those big box locations, and it seems everyone has a preconceived notion of what to expect. We’ve all been in them. Dark and dingy, iron bars covering windows glowing from the neon lights of Bud Light and others. Inside, boxes line every inch of the floor and you’re careful not to knock anything over for fear of agitating the proprietor who’s mindlessly reading his betting guide or watching Judge Judy, as if he’s going to appear on a show very soon. Not all these stores are the same, when in Louisville and you’re looking for a unique experience, variety, and education, get Off the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and visit Westport Whiskey & Wine.
Located in Louisville’s upscale and eclectic east end shopping center of Westport Village, Westport Whiskey & Wine “WW&W”, isn’t your everyday retail store. From the moment you approach the store and walk in, there’s almost the feeling reminiscent of Soho in New York City. Don’t expect to find a massive beer cave, or any beer cave for that matter. The store is laid out exceptionally well with a balance between an extensive wine selection, specialty beers, few vodkas, gins, rums, and other liqueurs and cordials. Oh, did I mention bourbon and other whiskeys, oh yes. WW&W prides itself on being an independent, local shop and they aggressively support craft distilleries and producers. There will be no problem finding mass-marketed, non-allocated products but also many limited selections from area craft distilleries are regularly featured. Overall, the selection is outstanding but only rivaled by what is available in WW&W’s Tasting Room.
Besides a diverse selection of whiskeys, for more than the past decade, WW&W has been offering some of the most interesting, tasty, and affordable private single barrel selections available anywhere in the market. Single barrel offerings from brands such as Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, Russell’s Reserve, Kentucky Spirit, Peerless, New Riff, Four Roses, Whistle Pig, Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, Old Forester, Pinhook, Jefferson’s, and many more. Each of these single barrel offerings provide an outstanding opportunity for consumers to enjoy a unique expression of each brand, as selected by the expertly trained staff of WW&W.
It is always fun to just drop into WW&W but be sure to check out their web site and event calendar. WW&W regularly features a variety of events including wine tastings, master distillers and exclusive brand tastings, dinners with local chefs, open bar nights (no, not what you’re thinking but a great way to create your own whiskey flights at affordable pricing), and monthly Certified Bourbon Steward training through the Stave & Thief Society. Many of these events require registration and a small fee, each of which are worth the time and investment.
The crown jewel of WW&W is their speakeasy-style tasting room in the back of the store. Unlike many local tasting bars, WW&W’s Tasting Room equals many of the best bourbon bars in the area, just with much more reasonable pricing. Several hundred bourbons and rye whiskeys, allocated, rare, and many from prior years are readily available for the tasting including BTAC, PVW, Weller, Orphan Barrel, Jefferson’s Presidential, and others. Allocated whiskeys are not the only choices you’ll find, often all the brands available for retail purchase, single barrel selections, and others are available on the tasting bar. If you’re not certain you want to invest in a new bourbon you’ve never had before, the WW&W Tasting room is the perfect place to try before you buy. Most pours are modestly priced between 1/15th and 1/20th the MSRP bottle price, even the more allocated and rare selections.
Often the tasting bar selection can be overwhelming, don’t worry, many of the expert staff at WW&W are Certified Executive Bourbon Stewards and happy to assist you. Whether you’re looking for something new and unique to try or putting together your own tasting flight, the friendly staff will have a number of suggestions to consider.
Now, don’t expect to regularly find the latest allocated products openly sitting on the store’s shelves. However, if Black Friday shopping in November is not entirely your jam, mark your calendar for WW&W’s annual November Treasure Sale. This event is annually scheduled on the Friday after Thanksgiving and men and women alike who do not want to fight the troves of shoppers at the local malls come out to WW&W for their annual allocation sale. Come out early and get in line for allocated releases from the entire year. Each person allowed into the store can select two bottles from the assortment. The process has changed over the years, however, being first doesn’t always mean having access to the best. The staff at WW&W regularly updates the available options throughout the morning giving many of the patrons an opportunity to purchase something special.
Next time you’re in Louisville, get Off the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and stop by and meet the amazing and well-trained staff at Westport Whiskey & Wine, you’ll find yourself staying for a dram or two.