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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

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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George Washington's Distillery, Virginia, USA

George Washington's Distillery, Virginia, USA

I can't say how excited I was when I realised I had a business meeting less than 30 minutes from this distillery in Arlington.  This is really more of a museum than a working distillery, but twice a year (March and November) the months immediately before and after the distillery is open for tours, they fire up the only LEGAL open fire stills in the United States and make whiskey to George Washington's original recipe.  The whiskey is extremely hard to get hold of and only available at the the distillery shop or the Mount Vernon (George's plantation a few miles away).  At the time of my visit they had sold out and I was unable to try it.  The tour costs a very reasonable $5 and consists of two major attractions... a working water mill (not original but an authentic recreation) which was used to grind the various grains on the Mount Vernon estate and a recreation of the original distillery based on an archeological dig.  The tour guides explain the history of the mill and George's decision to enter the distilling business very late in life, the disillery was built in 1797 and GW died in 1799, and how it was briefly the largest distillery operating in the USA.  More of an historical tour (understandably) than a whisky tour it was however interesting to see everything used in whisky making process on a relatively small scale and how it would all done by hand. 

Only one complaint.... no whiskey.  I feel that considering the relatively small volumes it can produce (open fire stills and whisky production is obviously limited to the times that there are no tourist wandering around) surely keeping it to pour at end of tours as a sample would be a much more democratic way to treat the limited production rather than seeing be snapped up by "collectors" and hoarded.  Personally I think it is what George would have wanted.  Add a few bucks added to the tour price for those who want a sample and I bet you would still sell for same price (or close enough anyway) per bottle.

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