Where To Start: Inside the newly opened Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center

“It Starts Here.” That’s the slogan for the newly opened Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center. Housed in the Frazier History Museum (fraziermuseum.org), it’s the starting point for visitors to plan their tours of bourbon distilleries throughout the state. Penelope (Penny) Peavler, president and CEO of the Frazier, spoke to LEO Weekly about the project and the museum.

LEO: What is the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center, which opened Aug. 30?
Penny Peavler: It’s the official starting point of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and the Kentucky Craft Bourbon Trail experiences and a wonderful way to add value to your visit to its member distilleries by offering a primer on the industry through an immersive exhibit, ‘The Spirit of Kentucky.’ We have introduced a new public garden, designed by Jon Carloftis, that features native Kentucky species, so plants are also now a part of the offerings. We also offer hard-to-find bourbons and other Kentucky related gifts for purchase.

Is ‘The Spirit of Kentucky’ permanent?
Yes. It’s about the agriculture, land and the water, the family farms, the coopers. Its purpose is to celebrate bourbon’s makers. The exhibit is not about how bourbon is made. It’s about spreading the passion for bourbon and acting as bourbon’s biographer. Each exhibit area can be updated to share new stories and our dynamic interactive dining table that is bourbon’s encyclopedia is sharing information about what stories most interest the visitor. The dining table exhibit allows visitors to curate their own experience and explore more deeply the topics that interest [them].

Why is the Welcome Center at the museum?
The Frazier was decided [by the Kentucky Distillers’ Association] to be the right place to host the story of bourbon and why Kentucky is the one, true, authentic home of bourbon. The museum is where the world meets Kentucky and bourbon is part of Kentucky’s culture and economy.

What’s your background? I’m interested in the journey of how you got to the Frazier.
My training is in tourism — it’s been my background for 30 years. I was working at the Weber Group, Inc. [a national design, construction and specialty fabrication firm] and began talking with the Frazier and the Kentucky Distillers’ Association on what it might look like if Louisville were to build a visitor center and exhibit for the Kentucky Bourbon Trail experiences. I was hired to pursue that project and to make the Frazier the place where the world meets Kentucky.

What does the Frazier do well?
Mr. Frazier [Owsley Brown Frazier, founder of the Frazier History Museum in 2005] thought Louisville needed a great history museum. The Frazier has a high degree of creativity, with a hands-on exhibit design/build team and five teaching artists writing short plays about history. This bespoke approach to teaching, hospitality and presentations is very engaging.

What do you hope to add to or change?
My vision is to make the Frazier a place where the world truly meets Kentucky by sharing the stories of her people, industries and culture. We want to help the casual visitor experience what Kentucky is all about and to encourage visitors to explore our great state. Some of the stories we share are well known, some not as well known. Our goal is to engage visitors and reach them on an emotional level.

You once worked at the Speed Art Museum in marketing and membership. Do you want to merge art with the Frazier’s history focus?
The Frazier has a long history of incorporating performing and fine art and craft into its exhibitions. This is a tradition we will continue as the museum grows. Our approach to exhibiting art is always through the lens of history. This is a multidisciplinary approach to telling a story. •

About the Author

Where To Start: Inside the newly opened Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center

Jo Anne Triplett is the contributing visual arts editor at LEO Weekly. She’s a past member of the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Public Art, was the content advisor on the Glassworks Building video, and has written for Louisville Magazine, Kentucky Homes and Gardens and the national publication Glass Craftsman. Jo Anne came to Louisville from Washington, D.C. where she worked as a researcher and writer for the Smithsonian American Art Museum.



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