My Town

Julian Van Winkle’s Louisville, Kentucky

In honor of national bourbon month, we asked Van Winkle to take us on a tour of his whiskey-soaked hometown

Photo: Joe Pugliese

Today, Julian Van Winkle—the president of the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery, like his father and grandfather before him—travels the world on behalf of his family’s fanatically popular bourbon brand. But Louisville has always been home. In some ways, the city is a lot like it was in his boyhood—bourbon and horse racing still reign. In others, though, it’s virtually unrecognizable. “The city sits on the Ohio River, but when I was a kid, it was all industrial down there with no access to the river,” he says. “Now the area is all park space.” The downtown is booming, too. And the restaurant scene is first class. In honor of national bourbon month, we asked Van Winkle to take us on a tour of his whiskey-soaked hometown. Here’s where you’ll find him:

9:00 a.m.
Smart Start: “We don’t eat out a lot because my wife Sissy is a really good cook. But there are some great breakfast spots near our neighborhood. There’s one called Toast, in the eastern part of the city—what people are now calling NuLu. For a while it was kind of a broken-down neighborhood, but in the last 10 years it has really come back. Wild Eggs is another easy place for us to get to in the mornings. And Noosh Nosh serves my daughters’ barrel-aged maple syrup.”


11:00 a.m.
Get Outside: “After breakfast we might go on a bike ride or walk the dog. We have seven grandkids in the city, and they live fairly close by, so they often join us. Cherokee Park, which is one of the city’s Frederick Law Olmsted parks, is about ten to fifteen minutes from us. We have a mini dachshund named Chip. We used to have three dogs. One was a mutt named Scout. She was a beagle lab mix and looked like ‘Honey I Shrunk the Lab.’ She had actually been abandoned in Cherokee Park when we found her.”

Photo: Photo courtesy of

Cherokee Park.

“If we don’t go to the park, I might take a bike ride. I’ve got a road bike and some of our neighborhoods are fairly hilly. It’s good exercise and a fun way to burn off some of the calories from breakfast. Also, in Louisville, there is a system called Parklands, which has created a bike path that goes around the whole city. It follows a creek where you can canoe or kayak. (Editor’s note: The final section of the Parklands’ Louisville Loop Trail opens this weekend.)”


Photo: Photo courtesy of

On the Louisville Loop.

1:00 p.m.
Fill up: “Lunch depends on whether I’m with my wife or one of my kids. If I’m with my son or one of sons-in-law we go to the Frankfort Avenue Beer Depot. It used to be just a place you bought kegs, but now, it’s a really good barbecue place with tons of draft beer.”


3:00 p.m.
Play Explorer: “If I don’t have a golf game, I might take another walk—maybe hang with the kids and grandkids. Louisville is right on the Ohio River. The Falls of the Ohio is actually on the Indiana side, but there are lots of fossils to be found.”

“On my side of town, there is a historic house where George Rogers Clark lived called Locust Grove. My dad is one of the people who worked to have it preserved. It sits on several acres within the Indian Hills neighborhood. I’ve been on the board, my dad too, and my sister Sally is now. It’s a nearby easy place for us to go. Great for walking. Jefferson Forest is another favorite, but it’s a drive.”


7:00 p.m.
Let’s Eat: “We travel a lot for the business, so we like to stay in the neighborhood when we’re home. Bistro 1860 is close by—right there in a popular area at the bottom of Brownsborough Road. Michael Crouch is the chef. They have a good cocktail bar, too. Another place we like is Anoosh Bistro, which is run by chef Anoosh Shariat. The spices and the flavors are so good. He’ll often fix us something not on the menu—just whatever is on his mind. The restaurant scene really is incredible. If my wife and I are going to go out for an occasion, Ed Lee’s 610 Magnolia is amazing. Lilly’s, too. And Anthony Lamas’ Seviche. All these chefs have been nominated for James Beard awards. And there’s a place called Rye that’s really more of a bar, but is a good restaurant as well.”


10:00 p.m.until
Nightcap: “Usually at the end of the day, I’ll have a sip of bourbon at home, but in summer, shamefully, I often switch to vodka tonic.”