If you’re lucky enough to visit Whiskey Row in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, we hope you’ll make sure to stop by the famed Evan Williams Bourbon Experience® (EWBE). Since 2013, Bourbon fans have joined us for behind-the-scenes tours, Whiskey tastings and exclusive bottles—like our very own handcrafted line of Kentucky Straight Whiskeys, Square 6.
And if you’re extra lucky, you’ll get a chance to visit one of Whiskey Row’s most unique attractions; located all the way in the back of the EWBE building, you’ll find a single copper pot still distillery, manned by none other than Jodie Filiatreau, artisanal distiller and Whiskey expert.
Jodie first joined Heaven Hill Distillery in 1981, and since then we’ve kept him busy. While Kentucky locals might recognize him as the coach of our award-winning Bourbon Barrel Relay teams, his day job consists of making one barrel per day, by hand, at the EWBE’s artisanal distillery. It’s a pretty unique job and we heard our fans were curious to learn more, so Jodie took some time out of his schedule to answer the 10 most-asked questions about the EWBE, Square 6, his job and more.
Q: WHAT DOES YOUR DAY-TO-DAY LOOK LIKE AS AN ARTISANAL DISTILLER?
My team’s day starts at 7:00 a.m. with agitating the fermentor that’s scheduled to be distilled and pumping the fermenter to the beer still. While we’re doing this, we’re also pumping over the heads and tail with the low wine from the previous day into the Whiskey still.
And at the same time, we’re steaming out the mash cooker and heating up water to sterilize the supply lines. Then we open up the steam lines to start heating up the stills, and throughout all of this we’re getting grain deliveries, shipping full barrels and receiving empty barrels.
The barrels don’t stay empty for long, though, since we’re also cutting the Whiskey in the gauging tank to fill them. At the end of the day, we collect backset and clean up. It’s a lot of work, but there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.
Q: WHAT’S THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE WITH THE EWBE NOW COMPARED TO WHEN IT OPENED?
The biggest change from when we started in November 2013 is the knowledge of our guests. Now, the majority of our guests have been on several tours and most have an understanding of the Bourbon making process, so they like to try new products like our Square 6 Kentucky Straight Whiskeys.
Q: HOW MANY BARRELS HAVE YOU ALL PRODUCED SINCE OPENING?
At the EWBE, we produce one barrel every day in the copper pot still on-site. We opened in 2013, and so far, we’ve produced over 2,000 barrels of different American Whiskeys. Bourbon, Rye, Wheated Bourbon and more—we’ve been able to craft a wide variety so far and are excited for some new ones to be released.
Q: IS SQUARE 6 REALLY MADE ONSITE AT THE EWBE?
Yes, Square 6 is handcrafted here. We unload the buckets of grain, measure out the mashbill and run the pot stills all by hand.
Q: WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE MASHBILL TO EXPERIMENT WITH?
We’ve developed several mashbills at the EWBE, but my favorite one to experiment with is our 70% Rye Whiskey. The higher rye percentage was a challenge to produce, so we used a technique I learned in the 80s at Heaven Hill Distillery. It helps us mash a great-tasting Rye that’s currently aging in our rickhouses.
Q: I’VE BEEN TO THE VISITOR CENTER IN BARDSTOWN, IS THE EWBE MUCH DIFFERENT?
Yes! Both the Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience and the EWBE have experiences for fans who want to learn more about the history of American Whiskey—or sample some—but they’re very different. One unique feature of the EWBE is that it’s a fully-functioning distillery, so visitors get to see us hard at work producing Square 6 and crafting new products. If you’re a Whiskey or Bourbon fan, I recommend you visit both places at some point.
Q: IF I ONLY HAVE A FEW HOURS AT THE EWBE, WHAT SHOULD I DO FIRST?
I would suggest taking our Traditional Tour & Tasting, where you’ll explore the history of Evan Williams, the first licensed distiller in the state of Kentucky, and learn how important Whiskey Row was to the Bourbon industry—plus the impact Prohibition had on Louisville. You’ll also get to sample our products in one of our tasting rooms.
Q: WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE AREA OF THE EWBE TO SHOW PEOPLE?
We do a Behind the Glass Experience that takes you backstage into our artisanal distillery. You get to tour the distillery and learn about the process from me or one of my colleagues. You also get to taste Whiskeys that were made onsite, plus bung and sign that day’s barrel.
It’s always exciting to show Whiskey fans “the room where it happens” and give them a more in-depth look at our distillation procedures.
Q: I’VE NEVER DONE A BOURBON TASTING BEFORE. WHAT CAN I EXPECT?
Our Bourbon tastings are informative, fun and you get to sample our great American Whiskeys—some that are only available here. If you love something you try, you can find it in our retail shop and bring it home with you.
Q: WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE INSIDER FUN FACT ABOUT THE EWBE?
We were the first distillery on Whiskey Row! I like to share that with people.