(UPDATED OCTOBER 2022) Buffalo Trace is one of the most exceptional bourbon-making facilities you will ever have the chance to visit. Located in Frankfort, Kentucky, this 200-year-old bourbon destination, voted “2018 Distiller of the Year” by Whiskey Magazine, is fun for everyone, whether you drink bourbon or not. The Buffalo Trace property alone (440 acres) is worth the visit, and tours and tastings are free.
How to Get to the Buffalo Trace Distillery
If you are traveling from Lexington, Kentucky, the distillery is 28 miles away. Or, if from Louisville, 55 miles. By the way, Buffalo Trace is a National Historic Landmark, a designation that always impresses me.
Hours and Tour Prices
Buffalo Trace has a wide variety of tours that run Monday through Friday. Reservations are required, but tours are complimentary, and tastings are included. Tours do not run on Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
The most popular option is the Trace Tour, which includes a bit of the brand’s history, bourbon-making stages, and an excellent overall introduction to Buffalo Trace and the landmark property. This tour is available seven days a week, and reservations are not required.
National Historic Landmark Tour explains why Buffalo Trace has been distilling before, during, and after the prohibition. The tour concentrates on the property’s architecture, buildings, and history, mostly between 1933 and 1953.
The Ghost Tour option shares legendary stories of the most haunted Buffalo Trace areas, including Stony Point Mansion and The Old Taylor House. This tour only runs Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings.
The Bourbon Barrel Tour shares barrel specifics, history, how the bourbon ages in the barrels, and what happens to the barrels when Buffalo Trace can no longer use them to store bourbon.
The Whiskey Making Process
Several tours include going through whiskey-making to understand what makes this 90-proof (45% alcohol by volume) adult libation so darned good.
The E.H. Taylor Tour takes you on a walk through what they call “Bourbon Pompeii,” where you can learn about the man behind the brand. See the original structures he built and how he perfected his bourbon-making process.
Buffalo Trace’s Hard Hat Tour shows the distilling process from grain to bottle. Follow the steps from the grain distillery to mashing, then fermentation to distilling. I love touring distilleries for the smells alone, and this one is exceptional. If you’ve always wondered how grain becomes alcohol, one of the biggest selling markets in the world, here’s your chance. This tour is also available on Saturday.
Fun Fact: Buffalo Trace is America’s oldest continually operating distillery.
The Tasting and Buffalo Trace Distillery Brands
Mr. Freddie Johnson was in charge of my tasting, and while not a big drinker, he certainly made it fun. Freddie is a third-generation employee at Buffalo Trace Distillery, a local celebrity (Neat: The Story of Bourbon), and was inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2018. Today, he is a Distillery VIP Visitor Lead and has the most magnificent personality that just exudes happiness.
From showing you how to properly sip and get your mouth warmed up for tasting the bourbon whiskey properly, Freddie covered all the bases. Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Rare Eagle Bourbon Whiskey, Wheatley Vodka, Bourbon Cream (think a beefed-up Bailey’s), and Freddie’s Root Beer were the featured products in my sampling.
He paired the bourbon cream with the soda, which was like the best dessert ever! I had to take home both products to make for later. We also tried a Rebecca Ruth Bourbon Ball, made with Buffalo Trace.
Buffalo Trace brands include O.F.C. Vintages, Van Winkle, Bourbon Cream, Benchmark, Wheatley Vodka, Ancient Age, and many more. One of the most coveted photography spots at Buffalo Trace Distillery is inside, with the hundreds of aging barrels as the backdrop. Masks were required during my visit, but I will cherish the photo opportunity and remember learning about an essential part of Kentucky’s history.
Bonus Features at The Trace
Seeing the Whiskey Vault inside Buffalo Trace was pretty cool. Here, a collection of the oldest bottles and rare attempts are stored and saved. There is much history in this tiny area, and your tour guide will explain the importance of what you are seeing.
Check out the incredibly well-stocked George T. Staff Gift Shop and Gallery before finishing up your Buffalo Trace visit. The shop has many great things, including signature logo apparel, collector’s items, snacks, candies, toys, bourbons, and Wheatley Vodka.
If you can’t make it in person, you can do a virtual tour at buffalotracedistillery.com/virtualtour.
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