Bourbon-themed leisure district developed in Lexington, Kentucky
Plans are at an advanced stage to create a new bourbon-themed leisure district in Lexington, Kentucky on the site of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
Every year, spirit lovers from across the US make the journey to the state to savour bourbons produced by different boutique distilleries.
The recent completion of a deal to bring back a James E.Pepper bourbon distillery to Lexington – a city the brand last called home over 50 years ago – has kickstarted a wider development set to boost tourism to the town.
A rediscovered old tar distillery located within a tobacco warehouse has been transformed into a music venue, with more amenities to follow. An old Rickhouse on the same street – where bourbon was once aged – is being restored into a five-storey facility with a gastropub, cafe, restaurant, residential accommodation and an exhibition on Lexington’s bourbon industry.
Real estate developer Barry McNees and local architects Pohl Rosa Pohl are working on these two projects, while entrepreneur Amir Peay is opening the new James E. Pepper distillery, which will also feature a bar and restaurant.
“We liked the idea of going into these places, going behind the scenes and showing people how bourbon is made and showing them the incredible architecture of these old buildings,” McNees told CLAD. “People are really drawn in by experiencing process and seeing something in action. That’s an element we’re particularly excited to bring to Lexington.
“The idea of the project began with us being romanced by this concept that there's all this bourbon-making history here that had been largely forgotten for two generations. We want to recover, rediscover and celebrate that history.”
The side of the Rickhouse has been decorated with a giant mural, one of several pieces of street art created by the likes of famous urban artist Phlegm to decorate the district.
“The artwork is designed to contrast with the traditional background of Lexington,” said McNees. “Here we’re known for our thoroughbred horses, beautiful rolling countryside and our bourbon. The art provides an interesting juxtaposition that we hope visitors will find fascinating.”
Further bars and restaurants, many themed around bourbon and the James E. Pepper brand, are expected to be completed in the next three years. An estimated US$10m has been spent on the project.