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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Barton 1792, Kentucky, USA

My fourth stop of the day (but this distillery, like Buffalo Trace, is owned by Sazerac and is not on the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail) and if the Jim Beam experience lowered my expectations regarding the asthetic qualities of bourbon distilleries, then Barton 1792 sent them crashing through the floor.  This was a whiskey factory and industrial site, pretty it aint.  Still I really like the 1792 Ridgemont Reserve so this is still worth seeing as it goes some considerable way to dispel the Scottish distllery myths about the location, water and overall "terroir" magically contributing to the wonderful spirit.  1792 is a great product... and it is made in slightly run down, red brick factory in the middle of Bardstown.  I also learned that the 1792 date is a bit misleading, it has nothing to do with the distillery, but was chosen because it was the year that Kentucky became a commonwealth of the United States (well played Sazerac Marketing Department).  My tour was a little surreal, they are not in production now so our first stop was the obligatory bottling hall where we got to see (and hear) Taaka vodka filling.  Vodka on a bourbon tour?  Our guide seemed to have carte blanche to wander the site and so we did, rather aimlessly, looking at warehouses full of Magaritaville mixers and Cluny blended scotch as well as loaders, boiler houses and weigh bridges with the same level of enthusiasm as the stills or warehouses themselves.  This was a tour that desperately needed some structure and editing.... even I was bored by the end.  Simply put they need a story... what are they trying to tell the visitor?  Jim Beam talked about their family heritage, Maker's focussed on their brands, Heaven Hill told the overall bourbon story.  Sazaerac... come up with a story and then build a tour.  The highlight was without doubt the samples at the end, one I had never even seen before but will definately look for, Very Old Barton, and of course the excellent, high rye content, 1792. Just before I left I was, of course, offered a chocolate and I realized I had just been to my first Kentucky distillery that DIDN"T have a Beam connection.

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Buffalo Trace, Kentucky, USA

This distillery is owned by Sazerac and is not part of the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail.  It is the oldest continuously operated distillery in the USA as it continued to produce whiskey even during prohibition.  It is also a very "haunted" distillery and featured on an episode of Travel Channel's Ghost Hunters.  The tours are free and they also have a nice cafe as well as a well stocked gift shop.  This distillery is home to several very well known brands (Buffalo Trace aside) including the Van Winkle, Blanton and Weller lines and they make a total of 17 brands here of which 5 are wheated bourbons.   The tour does not see much of the actual distillery, but instead features a walk through the site to a converted warehouse where a movie called "The Buffalo Trace Story" is shown and then the guide gave a lecture on making bourbon.  This was my 7th distillery in 2 days but the first that actually talked in detail about the importance of malted barley.  We also learned the distillery boasts the largest fementers in the industry at 93,000 gals.  Suitably impressed by the size of their fermenters it was time to see the botting hall, fortunately it was not running, but then something a little strange happened.  The guide showed us the chill filtratioon system and was quite proud of it.  Chill filtration is something that Scots distillers dont even talk about, unless they are proudly claiming that they don't chill filter their products, but here was a tour guide actually pointing out the equipment they use to chill filter their whiskies.  It was a bit weird. After the bottling hall it was time for the tasting and they poured the Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare 10 year old expressions.

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