Buffalo Trace Distillery Unearths “Bourbon Pompeii”

If we’re ever buried and forgotten, we hope it’s in a room full of high-quality whiskey like this.

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Buffalo Trace Distillery

Amy Lynch

Frankfort, Kentucky, always attracts a lot of tourists in September for Bourbon Heritage Month, but the Buffalo Trace Distillery now offers a particularly good reason to make the trip down I-65. While working on a restoration project a year ago, contractors struck a different kind of pay dirt than they were expecting on the National Historic Landmark grounds. The process of shoring up a vacant property foundation unearthed a handful of long-forgotten fermenting vats that had been covered sometime in the 1950s. Local historians investigated and soon confirmed the tank room was a remnant of one of the red-bricked campus’s earliest production facilities. This fall, the distillery began offering guided tours of the renovated space.

Situated on the banks of the Kentucky River next to a natural spring that once supplied limestone-filtered water for bourbon production, Buffalo Trace holds the title of longest continuously operating distillery in America. The place has been churning out whiskey for more than 200 years. Colonel E.H. Taylor ran the show from 1870 to 1878, investing a small fortune to update and improve operations. Today, a mural of the bespectacled magnate watches over the rediscovered building, where his successors plan to put one of the fermenting vats back to work.

The upper level of the building now functions as a meeting/event space, but curious bourbon fans can get a gander at “Bourbon Pompeii” for themselves Monday through Friday. One of several free Buffalo Trace tour options, that excursion includes stops at the circa-1790s Old Taylor House and a walk through the distillery’s massive “Warehouse C,” where many of the barrels age. And yes, the package includes a complementary bourbon tasting.

For more information, buffalotracedistillery.com.

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