Trace Distillery provides for the complete production of
bourbon whiskys. All bourbon produced by the distillery
is aged in century-old warehouses. Constructed of massive
wood beams and covered by a brick shell, these structures
allow the alternating cooling and warming of Kentucky's
four distinct seasons to mature the bourbon by nature's
pumped throughout the warehouses during the extreme cold
of winter compensates for the dramatic drops in temperature
and gives the whisky additional cycles in and out of the
wood. This makes for a more balanced bourbon, as the liquid
is able to take additional advantage of the natural sugars
occurring in the charred barrels. The distillery was the
first to use this method of aging in 1859 and has been doing
so ever since.
Trace's warehouses were built in the 1900s (some as early
as 1903) and represent a variety of architectural styles.
The differing styles of warehouses, and their location on
the property, contribute to the significant differences
in the whisky coming from each. Within each warehouse,
certain floors produce better whisky than others do. For
example, the fourth and fifth floors of Warehouse C and
the fourth through sixth floors of Warehouses I and K produce
our absolute best whisky. Consequently, these locations
have been reserved exclusively for making Buffalo Trace
Kentucky Straight Bourbon whisky.
DISTILLERY TOUR INFORMATION
Hours of Operation
Monday - Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. year-round
Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. year-round
Tours start on the hour.
times may be arranged by appointment.
The distillery is closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day
and New Year’s Day.
right onto McCracken Pike to the Labrot & Graham Visitors
Center. Ample Parking.
Reservations are required for groups of 25 or more.
The distillery is handicapped accessible, with a special
tour provided for our physically challenged visitors upon
Buffalo Trace Distillery
1001 Wilkinson Boulevard
Frankfort, Kentucky 40601 USA
Tel: 1-502-696-5926 or
From Louisville: On I64 Eastbound, take
Exit 53B, US 127 North, go about 5 miles. You will cross
the KY River and see the Holiday Inn, turn left (still 127
North, also Wilkinson Blvd.). The distillery will be on
the left in one mile.
I64 Westbound, take exit 58, go North on US 60 until it
becomes 127/421. Go straight, follow signs to Civic Center/Downtown
and do not make any turns until you see the distillery on
your right, about 5.5 miles.
MAKING OF BUFFALO TRACE KENTUCKY STRAIGHT BOURBON whisky
The Grain Buffalo
Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon whisky is expertly crafted
in the time-honored tradition unique to bourbon. Buffalo
Trace begins with the finest Kentucky and Indiana corn,
selected rye, and superior malted barley. Together, these
grains represent our unique mash bill – a trade secret
known only by those craftsmen responsible for producing
this highest-quality whisky.
delivery the grains undergo a general visual inspection
for any obvious abnormalities. Bushel weight is then checked
to ensure the grain demonstrates the proper baseline characteristics.
Finally, a sample of the grain is tested in the distillery
laboratory to determine if it meets Buffalo Trace's rigid
standards for moisture levels and chemical balance.
Milling To prepare the newly received grains for
the mashing process, they must first be carefully milled
to exactly the right specifications. Grains at Buffalo Trace
are milled with a hammer mill using a screen that only allows
particles of milled grain as large as 10/64 of an inch in
diameter through. In our experience, we have found that
this size screen, called a #10, lets more of the true grain
through to be part of the mash without compromising the
integrity of the mash itself. The next larger screen would
allow whole kernels of rye and barley through, and the next
smaller screen would create too fine a grain, causing the
mash to become too thick.
Mash Mashing water–fresh and rich with minerals
from its natural filtration through Kentucky limestone –
is heated in a steam-generated pressure cooker. Once the
water reaches the proper temperature, the corn is cooked
under pressure until it is ready for rye to be added. After
the addition of the rye, a malted barley slurry is added
to the mixture, which allows its activated enzymes to turn
the starch from the cooked grains into a soluble sugar.
The new mixture is, at this point, a sweet mash.
This part of the process takes place in our 12
fermenters – with each fermenter holding 89,962 gallons;
they are the largest in the industry. After the mash has
cooled, yeast is added with a small amount of the previously
fermented and distilled mash, also known as sour mash. The
sugar present in the mash feeds the yeast to produce alcohol
and carbon dioxide. The uniquely rich nutrients of the pure
Kentucky limestone water used in this process also enrich
the yeast. Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon whisky
undergoes a natural fermentation lasting anywhere from three
to five days.
Distillation Process The fermented mixture, or
beer, complete with solids, enters the top of the beer still
and descends through plates, similar to those in a coffee
percolator. Steam, pumped in from the bottom of the still,
encounters the falling beer, creating an alcohol-rich vapor.
The vapor is then recondensed and passed through a second
still, known as a doubler, to create a crystal clear liquid
that, by law, can be no more than 160 proof, or 80% alcohol
by volume. For Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon whisky,
however, the final liquid is removed from the doubler at
a significantly lower proof in order to preserve more of
the flavor and characteristics of the grains. This liquid,
which is commonly referred to as raw spirit or "white
dog," is then entered into newly charred, virgin white
oak barrels. Consistent with our desire to optimize flavor
and characteristics of the grains, we enter the white dog
into the barrels at 125 proof.
Barrels Before Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight
Bourbon whisky is placed into barrels, the barrels themselves
undergo a rigid inspection. Barrels to be used for Buffalo
Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon whisky must be made of
naturally aged, "center ring" wood from trees
typically 70 to 80 years old. This center ring falls between
the outer ring, called sapwood, and the core of the tree.
Our standards for wood selection are more expensive, but
they make for a finer whisky. Also, the grain of the wood
is inspected for coarseness. Very fine wood grain results
in immature whisky that is weak and less flavorful. Grain
that is too coarse leads to an excessive wood taste. Barrels
also are reviewed for broken or cracked staves and open
joints. As a result of these criteria, Buffalo Trace Distillery
has the highest rejection rate of barrels in the industry.
Aging While every step of the production process
is important, Buffalo Trace Distillery believes the aging
process is the greatest factor in producing truly outstanding
whisky. The Distillery’s best whisky comes from
aging in Warehouses C, I and K, and only on selected floors.
For instance, the fourth and fifth floors of Warehouse C
and the fourth through sixth floors of Warehouses I and
K produce the distillery’s finest whisky. These floors
represent the middle floors in each of the warehouses and
have the greatest temperature changes in the course of a
year–the key to reaching full maturity and producing
a balanced whisky. Warehouses C, I and K also are rick
warehouses constructed from large wood beams and surrounded
by a brick shell. Each of the warehouses has an earthen
floor, which best allows nature to do its part in the aging
process and produce truly outstanding whisky. Additionally,
steam pumped throughout the warehouses during the extreme
cold of winter compensates for the dramatic drops in temperature
and gives the whisky additional cycles in and out of the
Selection Only the best bourbon produced by the
distillery is bottled as Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight
Bourbon whisky. Approximately 30-35 barrels of aged whisky
are selected from the middle floors of Warehouses C, I and
K. Samples from these barrels are reviewed by the distillery’s
tasting panel. If any one taster rejects a sample, the barrel
it represents will not be used for Buffalo Trace Kentucky
Straight Bourbon whisky. Only the barrels of approved bourbon
samples (usually no more than 25-30 barrels) will be married
and bottled as Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon whisky.
Filtration whisky from selected barrels is married
and passed through a chill filtration process, lowering
the temperature of the bourbon to below 30"F (-1ºC).
This process ensures that more of the color and flavor naturally
present in the bourbon is maintained than does filtering
through activated charcoal. The bourbon is then reduced
to 90 proof, its bottling proof (45% ABV), using water that
has undergone reverse osmosis filtration. Buffalo Trace
Distillery was the first distillery to use this process,
which is regarded as a benchmark within the industry for
producing the highest quality bourbon. Reverse osmosis water
begins as pure Kentucky limestone water that is placed in
a tank containing a double-sided filter. This filter is
cycled through the water, removing all the minerals and
producing the purest form of water obtainable.
other colors or flavors are added to the final product,
a claim only bourbon, among all whiskys, can make. Buffalo
Trace’s proprietary bottles are then carefully filled,
corked and sealed by hand, and then packed for limited distribution.
FACTS ABOUT THE BUFFALO TRACE DISTILLERY
Buffalo Trace Distillery “Firsts”
To ship whisky down the Mississippi River
To use steam power for distilling
To heat the warehouses
To use the "bung-up" method
To use reverse osmosis water
To commercially market single barrel Bourbon
American distillery to be named "Distillery of the
Trace Distillery “Onlys”
Using 5 whisky recipes
Creating vodka entirely from scratch
With as diverse a range of aged whisky
With more than 50 medals and awards since 1990
Still leak hunting
Three centuries of architecture
No computers in the still house
With organically grown corn in one of its products
Three different stills in the still house
Only distillery to be named both "Distillery of the
Malt Advocate Magazine and "Distiller of the
Year" by Whisky Magazine.
Buffalo Trace Information...