If I had a nickel for every time someone said, “Oh no! Not another bourbon bar,” I’d be able to afford a decent pour of a Maker’s Mark bottled in 1972 at the newly opened Neat Bourbon Bar & Bottle Shop in the Highlands.
I don’t care what you think, Louisville does not have too many bourbon bars. Why are millions of visitors filling up our hotels year after year? Because they want the Wellerz and the Pappiez and everything else in between. They want a one-of-a-kind bourbon experience they can brag about to their buddies back in Kansas.
Besides, would you rather have another smoke shop or tattoo parlor? How about a pizza place or coffee shop? I think I’ve made my point, so let’s get on to Neat.
Neat is unlike any other bourbon bar in town because its particular niche falls firmly in vintage, dusty category. Opened by bourbon buddies Owen Powell and Danielle Elder, Neat caters to those curious about bourbon’s past.
You won’t find a wide variety of today’s releases on the shelves here, but instead you’ll find older expressions of some of your favorites — bottles that once they’re gone, they’re pretty much gone forever.
I chatted with Neat General Manager Craig Rupprecht and Powell last night while I was there to try a bottle of Yellowstone from 1941.
Rupprecht and Powell have been friends for quite some time, bonding over bourbon and even starting an online club called Louisville Bourbon Hounds a few years back.
While that has since disbanded, you can see their friendship and passion for this hobby called bourbon is evident throughout the comfy confines of Neat.
Rupprecht says of the 165 open bottles on the shelves, about 90% are vintage. That being said, the prices aren’t stiff, which allows you to truly enjoy “history by the pour” ( a phrase Rupprecht coined that is used on the front of each bourbon menu).
Neat is a throwback to a time when bars were dark and moody. Red velvet curtains keep the sunlight out, and plush 1920s-style couches and chairs dot the main bar room. The bar itself is a dark mahogany dotted with red leather bar stools. And memorabilia from bourbon’s past is scattered throughout, a nice touch for fanatics who like to geek over an Old Crow statue or a J.W. Dant serving tray.
There’s even another room toward the back with more plush seating. And in the back corner of the main room, there are some shelves of both modern and vintage bottles that can be purchased.
Neat also employs some of the city’s best bartenders who can help educate you if you’re not sure what to order. But don’t be alarmed — it’s not all neat pours and men boasting about their latest bottle score. There’s a cocktail menu with seven different options, as well as wine and beer offerings. The Old Fashioned is always a solid choice, and Neat’s is quite good.
Neat is open from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. every day except Sunday, when it opens at 1 p.m. There are no snacks, so eat before you bourbon. It’s located at 1139 Bardstown Road, across from where Highland Coffee used to be.