Bar Belle: Derby at the distilleries (Angel’s Envy, Stitzel-Weller and Rabbit Hole)

It was a lovely day for a brunch at Angel’s Envy. | Photo by Sara Havens

This year, I decided to do Derby differently by totally avoiding Churchill Downs in favor of a few Louisville-based bourbon distilleries hosting shindigs. I didn’t have to worry about parking, wearing pink or even peeing, as I Ubered to each and encountered absolutely no traffic whatsoever.

But just like the track, bourbon flowed, betting tips were swapped and people were in great spirits. Some folks dressed to the nines because they were heading to the track, others were already dressed up from spending the day at the track and some people embraced a more casual look — and I don’t blame them.

I actually donned some dressy flip-flops because I seem to have misplaced my nice sandals. Nobody said a word about it, so I’m hoping they just didn’t notice or didn’t care. Hey, I never said I was a red-carpet girl. I’m more of a flat Vegas escalator that glides into the party unnoticed.

The first stop was the Oaks Brunch at Angel’s Envy, which featured a cocktail and food pairing each hour from about 10 a.m. through 1 p.m. Catered by La Chasse, my favorite dish was the Chicken & Waffles and my favorite drink was the neat pour of Angel’s Envy Rye. I had forgotten how decadent and delicious their rye is, and it’s something I could sip on all day long.

The brunch was hosted in the courtyard of the distillery, and — unlike Derby Day — we enjoyed beautiful weather.

The tables were set on the grounds of the historic Stitzel-Weller Distillery. | Photo by Sara Havens

Next up, later that night, was the Stitzel-Weller Affair, which celebrates the historic Shively distillery’s anniversary each year. This was its 83rd birthday.

The fancy dinner and party featured a few cocktails with Blade & Bow bourbon, a sample of the highly coveted Blade & Bow 22 Year, and live music by Marc Broussard. It was catered by the always solid Wiltshire Pantry.

This was the fanciest thing I’ve ever attended at a distillery, so I actually left my flip-flops at home and wore more appropriate close-toed shoes. As the sun set on the beautiful property, guests were served dinner outside at long tables.

Part of me felt like I was crashing the Affair, until I saw a place setting with my actual name on it.

The drinks were delicious, but the Blade & Bow 22 was the highlight of the night — as it should be, since it retails for $250 if you can even find it. The oak notes mingled with sweet vanilla, and the bourbon finished with a surprising spicy character.

The following day, aka Derby Drown 2018, I stopped by the opening-night party at the new Rabbit Hole Distillery, which was sponsored by Porsche. The cool event featured amazing cocktails crafted by New York City’s Death & Co., live music by Maggie Rose, Sucré and Them Vibes, plus neon green laser lights beaming all throughout the distillery.

Rabbit Hole went all out for the party, and people seemed genuinely excited to check out the new space as well as let their hair down. The dance floor was definitely the place to be.

But don’t take my word for it … check out the pictures below for a quick recap of a Derby spent at distilleries: