Day Tripping: Buffalo Trace Distillery
The bourbon is delicious and the grounds are beautiful, so take the 45-minute drive south to Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, to see the bourbon-making process up close—and enjoy the results.
The distillery produces bourbons such as Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare Single Barrel, and Blanton’s Single Barrel; sought-after rarities Pappy Van Winkle and George T. Stagg; and less-prestigious-but-still-tasty Ancient Age and Sazerac Rye whiskey. Located on the banks of the Kentucky River, they use naturally-filtered and mineral-rich water (thanks, Kentucky limestone!), and corn hand-selected from Kentucky farms and trucked in daily with other grains like rye and barley.
Visitors are invited to set out on any of the five different tours: the trace tour, hard hat tour, National Historic Landmark tour, bourbon barrel tour, and ghost tour. Days, times, and reservation requirements vary, but you can find the details here. Each lasts an hour, is free, and ends with a bourbon tasting (they’re allowed to serve two half-ounce tastes to each visitor 21 and up, per their licensing). And the gift shop of course sells bottles (and more goods, too), so you can take a bigger taste of your favorite home with you. Or buy a bottle of White Dog Mash #1, the clear, un-aged, high-alcohol distillate that, once put into barrels, becomes the whiskey we’re used to.
Still need convincing? Blanton’s, introduced in 1984, holds the honor of being the world’s first single-barrel bourbon, and Buffalo Trace was the first American distillery to be named Distillery of the Year by Whisky Advocate. Plus, the distillery was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2013—in part, for being intact and operative before, during, and after Prohibition. During that era, they were one of the very few permitted to bottle “medicinal whiskey,” and to produce new whiskey from 1930 to 1933.
Stay for lunch, too. Staxx BBQ serves up sandwiches inside the distillery’s original 1930s firehouse. My advice for dessert: The bourbon balls, available in the gift shop. And if you want a more active roundabout through the grounds this summer (or to burn off that BBQ), sign up for the annual Great Buffalo Chase—a Fourth of July 5K that loops through the distillery, historic warehouses, and more of the scenic property.
Logistical note: GPS systems notoriously fail to find the distillery. Follow these driving directions, or the Google map directions here.
113 Great Buffalo Trace, Frankfort, (502) 696-5926, buffalotracedistillery.com
Photographs courtesy Buffalo Trace Distillery