August 2013

Willett Distillery

Just a couple of years ago, my knowledge of American whiskey consisted of head-splitting Sundays after a night with Old Thompson and a flask of Jack Daniels I once bought in college when I thought drinking whiskey would get rid of my cold. I was not interested in learning more, needless to say. I had found a true love in single malt Scotch and my love affair was proceeding swimmingly.

Then I went to WhiskyFest in San Francisco. It’s the kind of drinking festival where you pay a hefty sum up front and get a tasting glass that never runs dry so long as the festival is still going and you have the wherewithal to extend it to whisky ambassadors working the hundreds of booths in the hall. These things never end well… Read more...

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Buffalo Trace Distillery

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail does not include every Bourbon distillery in Kentucky. As I mentioned in my article on planning a trip to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, there are some distilleries that can’t or won’t pay the fees the Kentucky Distillers’ Association charges its members to be a part of the trail. A well known and much loved case in point: Buffalo Trace. Much like how Glenfarclas has opted to not be a part of Scotland’s Malt Whisky Trail, so, too, has Buffalo Trace chosen the independent route in the limestone hills and hollers of Kentucky.

Buffalo Trace is no secret. They are second only to Jim Beam in terms of Bourbon production, and their portfolio of brands include 17 Bourbon whiskies, three rye whiskies, and a vodka all produced at the Buffalo Trace distillery in Frankfort. If you’re a Bourbon drinker, you’ll recognize many of these names: Eagle Rare, Blanton’s, Elmer T. Lee, George T. Stagg, W.L. Weller, E.H. Taylor, Rock Hill Farms, Ancient Age, and, at the moment, Pappy Van Winkle. Read more...

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Woodford Reserve Distillery

There are two kinds of distilleries in the world: Those that look like the factories they are and those that float in picturesque settings seemingly one with nature. I’m accustomed to the latter – the vast majority of Scotland’s distilleries that accommodate visitors are beautiful, old places often wrapped in vines and built of moss-covered stones. My experience on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail provided a mix of factory and fantasy, but Woodford Reserve, lodged amid forested rolling hills and horse farms, certainly fell into the latter bucket.

Woodford Reserve has been here for a long time, just outside of Versailles, but only under this name since 2003. The distillery traces its lineage back to Elijah Pepper who started distilling in these parts sometime between 1780 and 1797. Read more...

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Maker's Mark Distillery

Who knows what the backwoods of Kentucky hide these days. Illicit stills? Bootleggers? The skeletal remains of lost tourists? Raylan Givens? Point being, this hilly, northern part of Kentucky is largely empty, shot through with narrow, scraggly roads, and defiant of all the best attempts to map one’s way using the latest technology. On the rainy, autumn day in which I found myself driving into the hinterlands south of Bardstown in search of Maker’s Mark distillery, I wondered, for a brief moment, if this might be my swan song, my last foray into the unknown in search of uisge beatha and the difference between Scotch and Bourbon.

Eventually, perhaps by the grace of Bacchus, I rolled into the Maker’s Mark parking lot as rain pattered on the windshield. I had found Loretto. Read more...

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