One of the most surreal experiences of my life was visiting the Buffalo Trace Distillery (formerly Old Fire Copper Distillery), a distillery rich in bourbon history. My wife and I were enamored by the red brick warehouses and the columns of smoke rising from a nearby building. The distinct humming of the stills, and the aroma of wood and buttered creamed corn, complimented the sights which included old barrels being rolled through an assembly line. Colonel Blanton’s house stands atop a lush, grassy hill, and nearby is a new dining hall honoring a master distiller, Elmer T Lee. Thunder, a sculpture of a buffalo made from a tree which was struck by lightning, stands near the end of a trickling spring.
We were lucky enough to have a private tour with Freddie Johnson; a 3rd generation member of the distillery. Additionally, we were welcomed by their master blender, Drew Mayville, with whom we tasted several bourbons within the restricted quality control lab; an area where the best palates sample items to ensure product consistency. As Drew answered our questions, he graciously poured us a sample of a personal project of his and what must be the best bourbon I have ever had: E. H. Taylor Cured Oak. We got a chance to see the revered Pappy Van Winkle being hand bottled. As if our experienced hadn’t been memorable enough, Julian Van Winkle strolled in with a rare collectors bottling (a 16 year old hand painted bottle made exclusively for the European market) to share. As we walked to our car while the sun set, we looked at each other realizing that these memories would last a lifetime. That is Buffalo Trace Distillery.