New Landmark— ‘The Barrel’—Opens in Louisville’s Bourbon District

Louisville, KY — March 23, 2018 — At the center of Louisville’s Bourbon District is ‘The Barrel’—a new art piece that serves as a gathering space and celebration of the city’s bourbon renaissance and roots in the Commonwealth’s storied bourbon history. Unveiled today, the iconic structure, designed and built by Louisville-based Solid Light, a full-service firm that plans, designs and builds exhibits and visitor destinations, is an entirely new visitor experience located at the intersection of Fourth and Main Streets—the heart of the Bourbon District. 

‘The Barrel’—a creative interpretation of a whiskey barrel that tops just over 11 feet in height—allows visitors to walk through the ADA-compliant structure and take photos of this new landmark and iconic Kentucky image. It represents the second phase of Louisville’s Bourbon District and Solid Light’s collaboration with the Louisville Downtown Partnership (LDP) to develop the area. 

“We are passionate about all of our projects but designing and building a piece of art in our hometown is especially meaningful for us,” said Solid Light Owner/President Cynthia Torp. “We’ve brought to life an iconic image associated with Kentucky and Louisville—a whiskey barrel—by designing a structure that is not only a must-stop photo opportunity that visitors can walk through, but through our specific design elements, will also give visitors a greater sense of what makes a bourbon barrel unique. It’s a distinctive feature and hallmark of the Louisville bourbon experience.”

The piece has five hoops that grow in height and width, mimicking the design of a whiskey barrel. The two smallest hoops are 9’3” in height, 11’3” in width, progressing to two larger hoops that are 10’3” high and 13’4” wide, with the middle hoop reaching 11’3” in height and 15’5” in width.  

The materials used to create the enormous structure reflect those of an actual oak barrel. The hoops are made to look like the end-grain of oak which is commonly used in barrel-making. The visible texture was hand-carved into slabs of clay and those reliefs were then cast in multiple to create a positive image. Finally, the positive reliefs were cast into concrete to form each cross-section of a barrel stave. The outside is lined with corten steel, reflecting the metal hoops used on a bourbon barrel. The insides of the hoops are lined with a black powder coated steel, imitating the char found in barrels after they are fired, an essential step in the bourbon-making process. 

“Every element of this structure was created with great attention to detail and purpose so that visitors are immersed in the remarkable design of a bourbon

barrel, down to the char found in the barrels,” said Mike McCarthy, Chief Operating Officer at Solid Light. “As they walk through the structure, visitors will have a fun and engaging experience that will give them an appreciation for this iconic image.” 

At the entrance of ‘The Barrel’ is an interpretive sign also designed by Solid Light that provides an overview of the bourbon industry in Downtown Louisville. The sign includes a map showing all the bourbon historical sites and attractions in the district. 

Featuring historic signs, destination signs, banners and a pop-up eventscape, the Bourbon District is a collaborative effort led by LDP, Louisville Metro Government, the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau (LCVB), and the Louisville Water Company, in cooperation with Downtown’s bourbon community. The first phase of the Bourbon District, completed in April 2017, featured historic site signs and destination signs designed by Solid Light. The area has four distillery experiences—including the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience developed by Solid Light—and three more scheduled to open this year. 

“The Bourbon District honors Louisville’s cultural heritage while looking to the future of Bourbonism® in the city. We are excited to share this experience with visitors and found an important partner in Solid Light,” said Rebecca Matheny, Executive Director of the Louisville Downtown Partnership. “Solid Light shares our passion for this project and it’s evident in the approach, design and development of ‘The Barrel’ and Bourbon District.”  


About Solid Light Solid Light designs and builds exhibits and visitor experiences that engage, enlighten, and inspire. We are passionate champions of a client’s vision, bringing powerful stories to life through comprehensive, start-to-finish content, design, fabrication and installation services.

Louisville Barrel Art Piece Marks Bourbon District