When I walked into the new Evan Williams Bourbon Experience yesterday, the dignitary chairs were all lined up and the local reporters were setting up cameras and tripods. There was a strange painting of an early American man with his hand in the jacket. What the hell was this painting?
The room was stuffed with important types, and I quickly put on my hobnobbing hat, grabbing a few quotes here and a photo there. The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience is Louisville’s first stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, so it’s a big deal. Maker’s Mark’s Bill Samuels, Kentucky Secretary of Tourism Marcheta Sparro and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer attended the ceremony for the Bourbon Experience, which will not be open until the fall.
Heaven Hill president Max Shapira said the Bourbon Experience was only 100 yards from the original Evan Williams distillery. “We are bringing Evan Williams back to where it all began,” Shapira said. “It was not all that long ago that bourbon was cast off. Now, it’s the darling of spirits. ….” A man dressed in early 1800s American garb jumped in front of the straight-laced executive and caught us all off guard. It was the guy in the painting!
“Hello, all, I’ve got whiskey straight off the still,” the man said, hoisting an old whiskey jug.
Shapira acknowledged the man was the 200-year-old Evan Williams and pointed out it was illegal to serve the crowd the straight-off-the-still whiskey. We all had a good laugh, and the guests of honor took turns speaking about the importance of the new Bourbon Experience.
The mayor said the new facility will be another great tourist destination on Main Street, complementing the Louisville Slugger Museum, The Kentucky Science Center and Frazier History Museum. Fischer said the Bourbon Experience is an investment for Louisville and an instrumental piece in resurrecting Whiskey Row, the historic district of Main Street that was once the Wall Street of the whiskey world.
“Bourbon means jobs,” Fischer said. “Bourbon is a food group in this city. It’s a part of our heritage.”
Meanwhile, Evan Williams, who looks really good for 200, is itching to pour some whiskey. After everybody speaks, he tilts the jug and the juice is of brown color.
Now, hold on a second, Mr. Williams. You said this was straight off the still. If that were the case, the spirit would be clear. He started acting suspicious, too, and his brogue went from half Southern, half English to modern New Yorker. He was smiling, trying to contain his laughter. What’s going on here?
And then I realize: Maybe this wasn’t really Evan Williams. Maybe he was an imposter sent from Vodka makers to sabotage the Bourbon Experience. I take another look at the painting, and the pigments are fresh, not crackled like old paintings normally are. This alleged Mr. Williams represents something fishy.
Is this a greater conspiracy? Is the mayor involved?
I will get to the bottom of this. No 200-year-old Vodka sabotage artist will ruin the Bourbon Experience. It’s too important to my city and the bourbon industry.