Hundreds of years ago, long before iron rails and interstate highways, navigating the American frontier involved following the buffalo. Once forming a thriving Eastern population, herds of migrating bison crossed the big rivers along our nation’s spine and left swaths of roads—known as traces—through the hills of Kentucky that encouraged both westward expansion and quiet distillation. Early settlers along the banks of the big rivers brought with them the Scots, Irish, and Welsh traditions of whiskey making; in the late 1700s, some of these spirited pioneers set up shop along the Kentucky River, where the buffalo roamed, and gave Buffalo Trace Distillery a home.
The proximity of the river is not lost on present-day visitors, as the roads wind down from the bluegrass hills and picturesque horse farms outside Lexington and carve their way through limestone hills and historic districts of Frankfort, following the contours of the river. Less than a mile upriver, the same water winds through the Buffalo Trace Distillery, cooling the cookers, stills, doublers, condensers, and other equipment essential to the whiskey-making process, much of which has been used by Buffalo Trace Master Distillers since the 1930s.
Buffalo Trace, though, is not resistant to change. Instead, they harbor a spirit born of their community motto, “Honor Tradition, Embrace Change.” Harlen Wheatley, Master Distiller at Buffalo Trace, explained that this mantra seems to wend its way through every decision they make, a notion made all the more compelling when you consider that bourbon, by design and definition, results from a rigid production process rooted in 18th Century Scotland. Theirs is not an industry that approaches innovation willy-nilly. However, Wheatley recognizes that distillers ignore new technology at their peril, and Buffalo Trace takes that recognition to a factor of X—the company’s Warehouse X. –Miles DeMott
The full article was published in the August-September 2015 issue.
Photos By: Elmore DeMott
The proximity of the river is not lost on present-day visitors, as the roads wind down from the bluegrass hills and picturesque horse farms outside Lexington
The full “THIRD BATCH LEGACY” feature is pUblished in the
August-September 2015 Issue
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