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.
Wiseguy Lounge, Covington, Kentuckyby Jeremy Schell
It is undeniable, the bourbon boom of the last decade has dramatically increased the popularity of Kentucky's native spirit, and overall tourism throughout Kentucky. It used to be horses and the beauty of the bluegrass that enticed visitors to the Commonwealth, now bourbon is king, and it rides on the back of Kentucky thoroughbreds. Areas such as Louisville, Bardstown, Frankfort, and Lexington have seen new distilleries popping up left and right, and visitors have taken notice, visiting, literally, from all around the world. Recently however, in the Northern Kentucky town of Covington, located across the river from Cincinnati, Ohio, there has been growing interest among bourbon tourists since the opening of New Riff Distillery, Boone County Distilling Company, and Second Sight Spirits. It is in the old German neighborhood of Main Strasse Village, you’ll have to get Off the Kentucky Bourbon Trail to find 1920’s style speakeasy with a vibe reminiscent of Prohibition.
The heritage of Main Strasse Village dates back before the Civil War as German and Irish immigrants built homes and businesses in Covington’s west side. Like many neighborhoods over the last hundred years, Main Strasse Village experienced a downturn after the second world war, however by the 1980’s a renewed spirit in the community brought the neighborhood back from near abandonment. The German heritage continues today with a variety of eclectic restaurants, businesses, and upscale bars. Among these is the simple and unassuming, Goodfellas Pizzeria. This quaint pizzeria offers a few tables inside and outside along with a long glass-enclosed pizza counter to select your favorite slice. The atmosphere will have Seinfeld fans finding themselves remembering the Soup Nazi, but don’t let the appearance fool you, the staff is extremely pleasant, and the food is outstanding. With all the Goodfellas has to offer, it is easy to miss the subtle staircase located in the back of the restaurant that holds a not so secret entrance to one of Main Strasse's best kept secrets.
Unlike the speakeasys of the 1920’s, at the Wiseguy Lounge, you don’t need a password to get into the bar. Just take the stairs up located at the back of Goodfellas and you’ll immediately find yourself in a little corner of bourbon heaven. The Wiseguy Lounge features more than 250 bourbons and rye whiskeys and once you’re in the Lounge, you can easily be overwhelmed with the selection of whiskey on the back bar as well as clearly visible above the bar. Many of the bottles are only seen in some highly coveted photos on Instagram, yet at the Wiseguy Lounge, pull up a chair and order a dram. Whether at the bar, relaxing in one of the many leather couches, or outside on the patio, the Wiseguy Lounge has an energy and vibe of early Prohibition speakeasys. Before long, you’re enjoying one of the numerous specialty cocktails and lost in conversation.
It could easily be said, the bourbon selection at the Wiseguy Lounge is one of the best anywhere in the Commonwealth. They say that bourbon is in their blood, it definitely shows, not only with their selection, but also with their affordable pricing. Many of their pours are priced reasonably between $4 and $14, however some of the more exclusive pours range a bit higher. If there is bourbon you’ve been hoping to see and try, more than likely you’ll find it here. These include a modest selection of Willett Family Estate bourbons, variety of Old Forester Birthday Bourbons, a parliament of Kentucky Owls including a variety of different batches, the full line of Buffalo Trace Antique Collection and Pappy Van Winkles, and the especially rare 25 yr. Pappy Van Winkle. It is almost impossible to fathom the idea of not finding a whiskey you have never tried before.
If your wallet isn’t up for the more exclusive pours, try any of the great single barrel selections only available at the Wiseguy Lounge. Also reasonably priced from $7 to $25, these include (at the time of this writing); Knob Creek 15 yr., Eagle Rare, Four Roses OESO 13 yr., Peerless Rye, New Riff, Wild Turkey, Russell’s Reserve, Woodford Reserve, Buffalo Trace, Maker’s Mark Private Select, Old Forester, and Elijah Craig.
With all the great whiskey at the Wiseguy Lounge it is often easy to forget, if you get hungry, just order food from the great Pizzeria downstairs. If I can recommend, either the Cheese Bread or the Buffalo Chicken Cheese Bread are excellent selections.
Next time you’re in you’re looking to get Off the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, visit Northern Kentucky and grab a slice at Goodfellas and a cocktail at the Wiseguy Lounge. You may find yourself tempted to have more than one of both.