Our second bourbon stop is not actually on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, but you don't want to miss it when you're doing the other distilleries! Buffalo Trace runs free tours that include free tastings and free bourbon balls!
Tours are offered Monday-Saturday from 9-4pm and Sunday 12-3pm, running every hour on the hour or more frequently as needed, and they take around an hour (or longer) to complete. We were on a fairly busy day and the tours were running about every 30 minutes.
The drive here isn't super-scenic like to Woodford Reserve (where we had come from) but Frankfort is a cute little town with a river running through it. We stopped by the state capital building (although it was unexpectedly not open) and Rebecca Ruth's candy (free bourbon ball), and ate lunch down by the river at a little hole-in-the-wall diner, before heading over to the distillery.
Buffalo Trace makes a lot of different products. Most famous is Pappy Van Winkle, but among their 20 or so brands, they also make Blanton's, Sazerac Rye, and even a vodka. It was a stark contrast to Woodford Reserve, where they only make two bourbons (and the second is just a differently-aged version of the first).
We were here on Dec 30 on a beautiful Kentucky day.
The first stop on the tour is to watch a video. I admit I immediately was a little annoyed at this (I hate going on "tours" that just show a video and you don't actually get to see anything real) but it was actually a good overview of the company. Our tour guide also gave us a little bit of an overview of the barrel aging process (shown in the photo below), showing how the liquid decreases over time.
The next stop was a walk over to the warehouse, where we passed by another railing system for rolling barrels from building to building.
The bourbon warehouse did not disappoint in smell or ambiance.
Eric and I go on brewery tours frequently and the smell is always a little, well, beer smelling. I officially like bourbon tours better because bourbon warehouses smell delicious. And also the lighting in the warehouses is awesome.
Our tour guide was fairly hard to understand. I am not convinced anyone on the tour really understood was he was saying, but a tip for going on tours in general: be as close to the guide as you can be if you want to hear what is being said. I did not learn my lesson from Woodford and again wandered around the warehouse enjoying the sights and smells, and have no idea what was being talked about.
From the warehouse we went over to the bottling hall. Unlike Woodford, bottling was running full steam at Buffalo Trace, and we got to see it extremely up close.
The bottlers were bottling Blanton on this day. We were standing directly behind all of the workers, and we got to peer over their shoulders for at least 20 minutes. It was pretty cool, but I feel bad for everyone working there because they constantly have a bunch of tour groups peer over their shoulders while they work. Still, from a customer perspective, it was pretty great to see how everything is done! At least here for Blanton's, it was all done by hand.
We watched the liquid inserted into the bottles (above), the caps put on, and watched the wax seal cover the top (below).
Every other bottle got placed in a velvet bag and box. Every bottle got labeled by hand.
Eric's dad made friends with one of the workers (managers?) who let us peer into the big vats of bourbon.
Miniature versions of these Blanton bottles (probably could hold about an ounce) are available in the gift shop and are the cheapest and coolest thing there ($2.50 each).
After the tour, we were taken to the upstairs of the gift shop to the bar for a tasting. And boy was it a tasting session. We had a large group on our tour, so we aren't sure if this is how it normally works, but the bartenders just kept pouring shots and shots and weren't enforcing any tasting limits (although we didn't push our luck much). Also, the bartenders were hilarious and all seemed to be in great moods, which made the whole environment really fun.
We were offered four different products: Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, White Dog, and Bourbon Cream. (If you were under 21, you could get a big glass of root beer.) Buffalo Trace was our favorite, although many people liked Eagle Rare the best (it is supposed to be nicer somehow but we didn't like it as much). White Dog is great for clearing out your sinuses - it is what the liquid is before it goes in the charred barrels, and wow, it burns. We did not like it at all. The Bourbon Cream is like Bailey's but even better.
The tasting finished up with bourbon balls from Rebecca Ruth's.
It was the best tasting after a tour ever.
I definitely recommend taking a couple of hours to do the tour at Buffalo Trace. The tour itself plus the tasting is more than worth the stop! We will probably be back, since the state house was closed and we need to continue our accidental quest to take a tour of every US state capital building.
Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Frankfort, KY: Buffalo Trace Reviewed by Maria on 11:12:00 PM Rating: