Buffalo Trace

Last Friday, after leaving Daniel Boone’s grave site, I drove over to Buffalo Trace Distillery, one of the stops on Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail. My unfamiliarity with the name Buffalo Trace was explained right at the beginning of the tour when Don, the tour guide, revealed that the distillery was bought some years ago and renamed, but that they originally produced (and still do) Ancient Age bourbon, which I did recall from my younger days.

And if, like me, you were wondering where the name “Buffalo Trace” came from, there is an interesting explanation. Located on what was once an ancient buffalo path on the banks of the Kentucky River, the distillery’s namesake is a tribute to the buffalo that created paths followed by America’s early pioneers. The Sazerac Company, a New Orleans, Louisiana-based producer and importer purchased the distillery in 1992 and decided to take the distillery back to its roots with the renaming. In Louisiana, they call a path a “trace” so, to honor the old buffalo path it was built on, the distillery was christened “Buffalo Trace.”

Pretty cool.

The tour was interesting and the tour guide was very informative and personable. While it is true that all bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon, the fermenting and distilling process is much the same in general for all whiskeys. When Cindy and I and her parents were in Scotland 3 years ago we toured several Scotch distilleries and while on the Buffalo Trace tour I remembered a lot of the same information from the Scotland tours.

One of the important differences is that bourbon distilleries use their aging barrels one single time. What do they do with all those used barrels? They ship them to Scotland for them to use with their Scotch, to Mexico for them to use in making some dark Tequilas, to the Caribbean for their Rum and to Canada for their Canadian whiskey.

The one thing I wish was that they would have given us a tour of the actual distillery. We saw the storage area and the bottling area, but not the distillery itself. Again, though they are all basically the same principle and I saw several of them in Scotland, it would have been interesting to see how they do it specifically for bourbon. That lack almost made me think about going to one of the other distilleries on the trail, but it was getting late in the day and I had other things to do.

Of course the end of the tour is what everyone goes for; the samples. I tried one of their sour mash products known as “White Dog” that could have easily been called white lightning! Despite the very tiny amount in the cup, my throat burned for 20 minutes after downing it. I don’t see how anyone could really drink that stuff straight or drink much of it unless they had a very high tolerance.

It was a fun tour; very interesting and enlightening. If you get the chance, I recommend you take a tour of one of the distilleries on The Bourbon Trail.

Pictures from the tour are up on my Flickr page.

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About The Word Of Jeff

I'm a freelance writer and blogger who has written for, among others, Tribune Media Services, Suite101 and Athena Guides. As an intrepid traveler I have chronicled some of my travels at The Verbal Vagabond, my travel blog. And, being an avid amateur photographer, I also have a photography blog spotlighting photos I have taken of areas around my hometown at Postcards From Maggie Valley. Speaking of Maggie Valley, that is where my wife, our Golden Retriever/Border Collie mix, Bella, our Orange Tabby, Tigger and I live in a log cabin on a mountain in Western North Carolina, just at the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I enjoy hiking, camping, art, travel, photography (as mentioned above), and an occasional glass of good wine while reading or writing in front of the fireplace.
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3 Responses to Buffalo Trace

  1. Kara says:

    If you want to see more of the distillery, take the “Hard Hat” Tour. It has all of the behind-the-scenes action.

  2. Georgie says:

    Interesting. Especially the part about the “recycled” barrels. Do they use wooden barrels and, if so, I wonder how much bourbon stays in the barrels and how that affects the other beverages made in them.

  3. Kara,

    Thanks for the information. I’ll have to try that on my next visit to Kentucky.

    Georgie,

    Yes, they use wooden barrels (oak) and sometimes quite a bit of the bourbon remains in the wood. From what the tour guide told (and showed) us they typically get anywhere from half of the barrel after aging. Sometimes, they get nothing. Depends on the dryness of the wood.

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