Tag Archives: buffalo trace

The Beauty in Bourbon’s History

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Spirits Tank, George T. Staggs Distillery, Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, KY.  

Whiskey making has been an integral part of American history since frontier times. Kentucky is home to more barrels of bourbon than people, and ninety-five percent of all of America’s native spirit is produced in the Bluegrass State. In Kentucky, early settlers brought stills to preserve grain, and they soon found that the limestone-filtered water and the unique climate of the scenic Bluegrass region made it an ideal place for the production of barrel-aged liquor. And so, bourbon whiskey was born.

More than two hundred commercial distilleries were operating in Kentucky before Prohibition, but only sixty-one reopened after its repeal in 1933. Though the businesses were gone, most of the buildings remained, unused, slowly deteriorating for decades. Now, thanks in large part to the explosion of interest in craft bourbon, many of these historic buildings are being brought back to life, often as new distilleries. As the popularity of America’s native spirit increases worldwide, many historic distilleries are being renovated, refurbished, and brought back into operation.

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Spears Warehouse, Second Floor, Jacob Spears Distillery, Bourbon County, KY.

In The Birth of Bourbon: A Phorographic Tour of Early Distilleries, award-winning photographer Carol Peachee takes readers on an unforgettable tour of lost distilleries as well as facilities undergoing renewal, such as the famous Old Taylor and James E. Pepper distilleries in Lexington, Kentucky. This beautiful book also includes spaces that well-known brands, including Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, Four Roses, and Buffalo Trace, have preserved as a homage to their rich histories. By using a photography technique called high-dynamic-range imaging (HDR), Peachee captures the vibrant and haunting beauty of the distilleries. HDR photography is a process that layers three or more images taken of the same scene at different shutter speeds. The technique creates a fuller range of luminosity and color and gives the photographs a striking, ethereal quality.

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Knobs and Pipes, J.E. Pepper Distillery, Lexington, KY. 

“Photographed again today,” Peachee explains, “they would look different, which would make some of the images, barely four years old, a relic in their own right.” In 2010, the James E. Pepper Distillery in Lexington was the first set of ruins that she photographed. Four years later, the location was repurposed and commercialized.

Just months after Peachee visited the Old Crow Distillery in Millville, the ruins were sold to entrepreneurs who built Castle & Key Distillery, home to Kentucky’s first female Master Distiller Marianne Barnes. Likewise, the Dowling Distilleries warehouse in Burgin was photographed in the process of being torn down. Major buildings at other sites like Buffalo Springs Distillery in Stamping Ground did not survive to be photographed.

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Pillar and Engine, Old Crow Distillery, Woodford County, KY.

As more and more historical distilleries are lost or altered, these images provide an important glimpse of the past and detailed insight on Kentucky’s relationship with bourbon. The Birth of Bourbon is a tour of Kentucky bourbon heritage that might have otherwise been lost if not for Peachee’s determination to save it. The results not only document what remains, but they also showcase the beauty of these sites through a meditation on impermanence, labor, time, presence, and loss.

Carol Peachee is a fine art photographer and cofounder of the Kentucky Women’s Photography Network. She is the winner of the 2010 Elizabeth Fort Duncan Award in photography from the Pennyroyal Art Guild.


Kentucky Travels: Buffalo Trace Distillery

If you’re from Kentucky then I’m sure you’ve heard the name Bourbon Country before. While Kentucky is known for basketball, horses, and fried chicken; bourbon also tops this list as a favorite among the 21+ crowd, providing a popular tourist attraction for locals and non-locals. Whether you’re travelling near or far for spring break, Kentucky’s bourbon distilleries are a great place to check out.Reigler_Cover_HI

Kentucky is home to several bourbon distilleries, employing over 3,000 people and generating $3 billion in gross state product. It’s no wonder bourbon is so important to Kentuckians, but how much do we really know about bourbon production or the history of the distilleries in Kentucky? Susan Reigler and Pam Spaulding’s book Kentucky Bourbon Country: The Essential Travel Guide details some very important information on bourbon and the distilleries located here in the Bluegrass state. One, very notable distillery mentioned in this book is called Buffalo Trace Distillery.

Located in Frankfort, Kentucky, Buffalo Trace is just a short 40-45 minute drive from Lexington. With over 200 industry awards, Buffalo Trace has certainly outperformed all other distilleries in the area. They offer several different tours: The Trace Tour, The Post-Prohibition Tour, The Hard-Hat Tour, and The Ghost Tour. (Each tour is also complimentary, so you really have no excuse to not visit!) Each of these tours are unique and offer a variety of interesting information on Kentucky’s first bourbon distilling industry. With over 100 buildings and 130 acres of land, you can’t possibly explore it all at once. No matter when you visit you can always come back and learn something new each time. Whether you want to learn about the Buffalo Trace’s rich history, view the beautiful architecture, or visit a haunted mansion – Buffalo Trace is the right place for you.

If you want to learn more about these wonderful distilleries located in Kentucky, pick up a copy of Reigler and Spaulding’s book Kentucky Bourbon Country: The Essential Travel Guide. This book includes nearly 150 full-color photographs and a bourbon glossary, following the Urban Bourbon Trail and the localities surrounding it. Reigler and Spaulding also share their favorite restaurants, lodging areas, attractions, and shopping centers nearby. This book is essential to those who are looking for something fun to do on vacation, or for the locals who just want to spend a day exploring.

Here are a few pictures one of our interns, Nicole, took from a visit this past week. We’d love to see your travel pics, tweet us them @KentuckyPress!

Tell us in the comments below, what are you doing over spring/summer break?