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Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Step into a Kentucky distillery for look at bourbon making

Barrels of aging bourbon can be seen through the windows of the the 1881 Warehouse C at Buffalo Trace Distillery. The barrels are rotated from the bottom  to the top of the building so each gets a chance to absorb the hot humid Kentucky conditions which caused the bourbon to soak into the charred interiors of the oak barrels.

 Buffalo Trace Distillery, in business more than 200 years, was the favorite distillery visited by Dr. Emil Paganini on his Bourbon Trail Tour of Kentucky with a group of other men. You’ll read about him in a story I’ve written for Monday’s paper.

His curious scientific mind embraced the many things this distillery is doing to craft and improve the bourbons including experiments in bourbons made in a single oak barrel, and collectible bourbons such as Pappy Van Winkle, Eagle Rare and Old Charter. Paganini has acquired some of these for his own bourbon collection.

The September to April distilling season was over when I visited in May, so I wasn’t able to take the behind the scenes hard hat tour that Paganini so enjoyed. He was able to see the microstill where Buffalo Trace’s award winning experimental collection whiskies are made.

But my tour gave me a good overview, and like the others, was free.

All the tours  end with a taste of distillery’s flagship whisky. During my tour I learned that this distiller, which has had other names over the years wasbuilt on this site in 1857,  was one of the few to remain open during Prohibition. It had a license to make medicinal bourbon.

 The distillery has won many awards as Buffalo Trace, which pays tribute to its location in the countryside where it's located.

It takes its name from the  nearby trail made long ago by herds of buffalo heading to the Kentucky River along the edge of the property. Explorers followed on the Trace, which made their walking easier.
Barrels on racks in the warehouse exude the fragrance of evaporating bourbon, called the "angel's share."s

Stepping into Warehouse C, built in 1881, the most amazing aroma surrounded us. “It’s called the angel’s share,” our guide told us. “Its the scent of bourbon evaporating.”

Blanton's Single Barrel Bourbon is done mostly by hand. 
We walked over to the Blanton’s Bottling Hall, where workers on a line were hand bottling Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon. Some of their work even included handwriting the labels.

 Other tours include one that’s framed around post-Prohibition bourbon product, and a ghost tour, to try and spot the ghost of early distiller Col. Blanton, reputed to be haunting the Stony Point Mansion where he died in 1959.

Should you be in north central Kentucky, make some time for an hour-long tour at Buffalo Trace Distillery. Even if you are not a fan of bourbon, you'll enjoy the tour.

The tours are free and not all of them take place every day, so call 800-654-8471 or see its website

Stop in at this blog in the next few days for more about my visit to Louisville, And be sure to watch for the Travel section coming on Sunday, July 14.

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