Old Forester Founder George Garvin Brown (painted on a mural to the left) looks over his new distillery. | Photo by Sara Havens

From 1882 to 1919, the Old Forester Distilling Co. had a presence on Louisville’s Main Street, nicknamed Whiskey Row, at the very same address where its new $45 million, 70,000-square-foot distillery opens today, June 14, which fittingly happens to be National Bourbon Day.

Public tours begin Friday, June 15, with ceremonial events happening all day long on Thursday. Insider got a sneak peek of the interactive tour last week with Old Forester President Campbell Brown and were sworn to secrecy until now.

The distillery will produce about 14 barrels a day from start to finish — or from grain to glass — offering an experience not available at any other distillery in the country. As part of the tour, parent company Brown-Forman included a small-scale cooperage operation, which allows guests a chance to see how barrels are made, charred and filled.

The signature of George Garvin Brown was put on the still. | Photo by Sara Havens

There’s also a rick house that’ll store about 900 barrels at capacity, and the tour leads visitors throughout every level. The black steel ricks set against exposed brick, from ceiling to floor, giving the distillery a modern, urban vibe.

The tour lasts about 45 minutes and provides information and memorabilia that are interesting to both bourbon novices and aficionados. For instance, on display at the beginning of the tour are the Old Forester Birthday Bourbons from each year, dating back to when it began in 2002.

There also are intricate decanters from the 1960s that the bourbon once came bottled in.

A few times throughout our tour, we couldn’t help but notice — while glancing out windows that face Main Street — that the Hometown Heroes mural of Old Forester founder George Garvin Brown, painted on the side of Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen, was staring back at us. It’s quite fitting — and gave us the chills — that he will forever watch over the future of the brand he started in 1870.

Tours will run 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; noon-5 p.m. on Sunday; and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Monday. Tours start Friday, June 15. Admission is $16 and includes tastings.

Below are some sights and scenes from the Old Forester Distillery, at 119 W. Main St.

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The distillery features a cooperage where visitors learn how barrels are made. | Photo by Sara Havens

Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville. She's known around town as the Bar Belle and updates her blog (barbelleblog.com) daily. She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."


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