The Seat Of Blanton’s, Pappy And Stagg Offers A Revamped Look For Visitors
By Richard Thomas
Perched on a scenic spot on the banks of the Kentucky River, Buffalo Trace Distillery is one of the big draws of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Last year the Frankfort distillery saw over 123,000 visitors, a 26% increase over the previous year. Part of the reason why is the attraction of all the esteemed bourbons made at Buffalo Trace, such as Blanton’s and Pappy Van Winkle, but part is also found in the wide selection of tour formats available to visitors, all for free.
Now all those visitors can look forward to a buffed-up reception in the form of a new, expanded visitors center, and a new attraction has been added to one of the distillery’s most specialized tours.
New Visitor Center
The old reception area for visitors to Buffalo Trace was essentially their gift shop with a tacked-on tasting room, and had become overshadowed compared to the more modern and expansive facilities at Wild Turkey or Stitzel-Weller, nevermind the full-on tourist attraction offered by the Evan Williams Experience. As excellent as the Buffalo Trace tour experience could be, the front of house had turned hum drum as Kentucky bourbon tourism evolved.
The distillery took that old space and expanded upwards, into the second floor. Now visitors can go up the spiral staircase from the old gift shop and into a waiting area cum tasting room, with historical news clippings and artifacts on display and greatly expanded and more attractive tasting bars. The expansion has also allowed the now reorganized first floor to expand its gift shop role, taking up the space occupied by the old tasting room.
The facelift isn’t quite over, as Buffalo Trace intends to add a vault housing rare, antique bottles into the new second floor space in the near future. Yet in the here and now, the distillery visitor center is more in tune with Bourbon Trail standards for a major distillery.
The Old Taylor House
With a ground floor dating to the late 1700s, The Old Taylor House is not just the oldest building on the Buffalo Trace property, but the oldest in all of Franklin County. This is a building so old and so Kentuckian that the walls are partly made from horse hair! It was originally built for Commodore Richard Taylor, who served as superintendent of navigation on the Kentucky River and was the great grandfather of Colonel E.H. Taylor, namesake of a now esteemed line of bourbons and ryes.
The house was off-limits for years to just about everyone due to decay, but is now thoroughly renovated. The second floor has been turned into a mini-museum, drawing on artifacts used in the house, including period beakers from its days as a laboratory.
The intention is to feature the house on tours, but at present it is included only on the nighttime ghost tour, offered at 7 p.m. every Thursday through Saturday. With Halloween just around the corner, this is just the right time to mix a little bump-in-the-night fun with bourbon and a historic fixture like The Old Taylor House.