On our fourth and final day touring distilleries in Kentucky we visited two extremes as far as age. We started at one of the newest and high-tech distilleries in the state, Town Branch, and ended at the oldest continuously operating distillery in the state, Buffalo Trace. The contrast in methods is striking, but the process is the same.
Town Branch is a new brand, and the off shoot of an interesting process. Alltech Brewing has been making beer for years under the Kentucky Ale label. Their flagship is Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, a wonderful ale that is finished in used bourbon barrels for six weeks before bottling. This creates a wonderful dark ale with the sweetness and caramel flavor of bourbon enhancing the hoppy ale to amazing effect. Since beer and bourbon start out fairly similarly, they decided to distill their own bourbon to ensure a ready made supply of old barrels (although they use barrels from several distilleries).
Seeing the brewing and distilling processes side by side at Alltech was a very interesting part of the trip. After touring all of the other distilleries, seeing such a modern operation was great as well. It was a very enjoyable time. It also made for an interesting contrast from our afternoon at Buffalo Trace.
Our last stop on this whirlwind adventure to see ten distilleries in four days was the storied Buffalo Trace Distillery. Makers of the four hardest to find and highest rated bourbons in the word (Pappy van Winkle, George T. Stagg, William Larue Wheller, and Thomas Handy), Buffalo Trace was the distillery I most wanted to visit on this trip. While I wasn't able to snag any of these hard to find brands from the gift shop (they are in such short supply that they are apparently never sold on site) it was an amazing tour, made better by our guide Coy's knowledge and the amazing access afforded us on what Buffalo Trace calls their "Hard Hat Tour".
As you can see Buffalo Trace really rolled out the carpet and gave us full access on their tour. I have many more pictures, but these illustrate the process of making Bourbon and show the age and character of the distillery best, in my opinion.
This ends the tours of distilleries in Bourbon Country. I have completed my passport and will be sending off for my t-shirt. We had a great time, and will return to Kentucky soon. Carrie and I both loved it, and found a ton of places we would like to explore with more time.
Stay tuned for reviews of a couple of the better restaurants we visited and pictures from our time at Church Hill Downs and Keenland for Kentucky's second biggest tourist draw, it's wonderful horse and racing tradition.