On our recent trip to Kentucky to select a barrel of bourbon at Four Roses Distillery (Detailed in our last blog post https://whiskeycentral.com/blogs/news/four-roses-barrel-selection) we made a few other stops on the bourbon trail along the way and decided to snap a few pictures to share.
One of the highlights of the trip was the day we spent at Buffalo Trace Distillery. Located in Frankfort, Kentucky, this sprawling distillery is on a beautiful plot of land along the Kentucky River. They make some of the most well known whiskies in the market today, Including the self titled Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Eagle Rare, Blanton’s, Sazerac Rye, Elmer T. Lee, the Colonel E.H. Taylor line, All the W.L. Weller products, George T. Stagg and the rest of the highly coveted Antique Collection. Not to mention all the Pappy Van Winkle bourbons are currently being sourced from Buffalo Trace by the Van Winkle family. Needless to say, they make some of the best whiskies currently available and the scale of their production is impressive to say the least.
Buffalo Trace and their staff were more than gracious hosts, as they gave us a private luncheon at the original home of Albert Blanton (namesake of the aforementioned single barrel bourbon) located on top of the hill overlooking the entire property. Then we hopped on a golf cart with our tour guide Jimmy for an all access inside look at the distillery.
Here’s some of the highlights:
The distillery felt like its own entity, as if it was a small self-sustaining town. Despite the modern additions and machinery, it was like being transported back in time. They have been making whiskey on this site for over 200 years. Although they are attempting some cutting edge and progressive whiskey making techniques, it still felt like some areas of the distillery were unchanged or timeless.
Speaking of cutting edge, one of the first stops on the tour was at ‘Warehouse X’, a building they constructed in recent years to attempt some interesting and uncommon aging processes. Here’s the placard with their own description:
Here’s a look inside as these barrels are being aged in the open air, exposed to many of the variables that are usually controlled in traditional rickhouses.
It was interesting as our tour guide noted that ‘Warehouse X’ is so new, and the yields so unpredictable that they could be completely undesirable results. In which case they’ll scrap all the bourbon and try something new. It’s true that sometimes failure is part of innovation. I guess only time will tell in this case.
I was told this corn would eventually reach the top of the building.
Down the road we went, and we ended up at the oldest building on the property.
The “Old Taylor House” was built sometime between 1772 – 1811 and is the oldest building on the property, dating back to when the earliest settlers came to this area, known back then as “Lee’s Town”. These were the early family members of E.H. Taylor, Jr.
The next stop was at the building where they bottle Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon.
At the time of our tour the bottling line was cranking out some Blanton’s ‘Straight From the Barrel’, an export only barrel strength release version of the single barrel bourbon. If you’ve ever had the chance to try this rarity it is quite delicious. I wish they would’ve let us grab a case or two on the way out. Seems like they had plenty to go around!
And speaking of being able to look but not touch, how about this mouth watering display case that left us feeling even more envious on the way out. Drool.
We tucked our tongues back in our mouths and headed back out to continue the tour. We hoofed it around the facility some more, slowly making our way to the barrel dumping facility, enjoying the sites on the way
We went inside this building to where they dump the barrels.
If you look closely at the barrels that they were dumping, you can decipher the text to determine the specifics on the bourbon.
These were W.L. Weller barrels that were filled on 4/23/12. That makes this a 14+ year old wheated bourbon that we were told would be used in this years release of Pappy Van Winkle 12 year old. Pretty interesting considering the whiskey would be two years older than the stated age on the bottle.
It seemed like the list of things we really wanted to drink but couldn’t was growing exponentially with every room that we visited. It’s tough to be surrounded by such awesome whiskey without being able to try it. To say this building smelled amazing would be an understatement.
Moving on, we continued the tour on foot for a bit, snapping pictures and taking in the sights along the way.
The iconic Buffalo Trace water tower looms large over and can be seen from practically everywhere on the property.
The next stop on the tour was the infamous Warehouse C. In 2006 a tornado ripped the roof and part of the wall off Warehouse C, leaving the barrels inside exposed to the elements for an extended period of time. The resulting bourbon, known as “Tornado Surviving”, was part of the E.H. Taylor line, a rare special release that was critically acclaimed and now extremely scarce. This exposure to the elements and the positive result was the impetus for Warehouse X and the start of the Experimental Collection.
These barrels are a handful being used in the Experimental Collection, where they alter the barrel size and type of wood amongst other variables to see how it plays on the final outcome of the whiskey.
Another innovative undertaking done at Buffalo Trace was the Single Oak Project, a massive aging experiment that used different types and ages of oak for 192 different expressions of whiskies that were all tracked and rated online. Read more about it here http://www.buffalotracedistillery.com/brands/single-oak-project.
Here’s a shot of all 192 Single Oak Project bottles. This was back at the tasting room where we got to sample some new releases by Buffalo Trace, including Wheatley Vodka, a new spirit named after Master Distiller Harlan Wheatley using his specific mashbill. We also sampled the delicious new Buffalo Trace Bourbon Cream that uses actual 7 to 8 year old Buffalo Trace bourbon with cream and sugar. That should be hitting our market soon and we would all surely recommend after trying it.
After our tasting we took an obligatory group shot. Vinny and myself with Matt, Brendan and Fred from Gates Circle Wine & Liquor plus our excellent tour guide Jimmy.
That concluded a great day on the trail, and I hope some of you enjoyed taking part digitally. Thanks for checking out our blog. Cheers!