Tackling the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and beyond is on the bucket list of every good Kentuckian, and you don’t need to be a bourbon connoisseur to enjoy the Bluegrass heritage that oozes out of every tour along the way. As we embarked on our #DiscoverKentucky series, we knew there had to be at least one distillery outside of the city of Louisville on the itinerary. (We will eventually make it to every stop on the trail, as well as those not officially on that list, but we want to sprinkle in spirits along with other Commonwealth treasures.)
Per the recommendations of friends, family, and followers, we chose Buffalo Trace as our first bourbon destination outside of the Greater Louisville/Bardstown area. As it happens, they are not officially on the trail, but after our visit we join the thousands of former guests who call it a MUST VISIT distillery destination.
After getting a little turned around (GPS systems are not perfect…) we made our way to the campus of Buffalo Trace, nestled into a beautiful wood/river lined property on the outskirts of Frankfort. The sheer magnitude of the operation was amazing. We knew that Buffalo Trace was producing an incredible amount of quality spirits from the Buffalo Trace brand to E.H. Taylor, Blanton’s & more, but we underestimated the space required to produce and house their ever-growing inventory. There’s no wonder why it was named a National Historic Landmark in 2013!
After checking into the Visitor Center we met our guide for the day, Bob, a bourbon enthusiast and retired Folklorist for Louisiana and then Kentucky. His passion for history and gift of storytelling made him one of the most enjoyable guides of any attraction I have ever visited. After posting a photo with Bob on my personal social media there were multiple friends who commented with their mutual love for him and the Buffalo Trace experience as a whole. After all, they are one of the only distilleries I know of who offer ALL COMPLIMENTARY TOURS including tastings of some of their products! What’s not to love about that?
Bob led us around the property sharing tales of Colonel Taylor and family, the phases of property growth through time, current production, inside the rickhouses, bottling, and more. My favorite moment was our walk through Bourbon Pompeii, the original fermenters uncovered by accident at the start of the O.F.C building renovation in 2016. As good stewards of bourbon heritage, Buffalo Trace decided to bring in an archaeologist to uncover the full site, and then restored one fermenter to a working state, filling it for the first time in over 100 years in January. It wasn’t full the day we visited, but I could imagine the sweet aroma of maturing mash filling that room as I looked out over the Kentucky River, awed at the significance of the space.
It was also a treat to see the Blanton’s Bottling Hall in action during our visit. Liquid gold flowed into bottles next to piles of signature horse corks waiting to finish the delicate process like a cherry on a sundae. My affection for the brand may have romanticized it a bit, but I also believe every guest must appreciate the hands-on care given to each premium brand bottle in a space originally build in 1890, with just one major renovation in the 1930s. It was something special.
I’d be remised if I didn’t mention the terrific tasting we shared at the end of the tour. I mentioned earlier that bourbon tours can be enjoyed by both bourbon lovers and those who don’t drink bourbon, be that for preference, health, or abstinence reasons. I love bourbon, but my boss and friend Jason does not drink alcohol. I was able to sip several products while Jason enjoyed Freddie’s Root Beer, also made on site. I am a fan of all Buffalo Trace brands, but I especially enjoyed tasting the flavor explosion of their take on a root beer float, featuring the Bourbon Cream.
Our day at Buffalo Trace Distillery was top shelf, and we highly recommend you hit the road on I-64 to check out this unique place and experience more than one of their FREE tours that each dive into a different aspect of history and production. They are a quick one hour drive from Louisville, and tours are family-friendly, so there’s no excuse not to go. They also book special events at the Elmer T. Lee Clubhouse…can you say distillery wedding?!
Tours are available at various times seven days a week and guests are always welcome to walk-in and join. Groups of 8 or more are encouraged to call for reservations. The full tour scheduled can be found HERE! Also look for special events throughout the year like the Buffalo Chase 5K Run as well as seasonal tours around the holidays! Be sure to plan your visit to include lunch at the on site Firehouse Sandwich Shop, which serves Colonel Blanton’s Burgoo along with a variety of sandwiches, sides and desserts!
If you happen to meet Bob, tell him the crew at Yes Louisville sent you and have a fantastic day diving into the world of bourbon at Buffalo Trace!