Buffalo Trace Distillery (#5 of 19) is the home of some of the most desired brands in the world. In fact, many of their labels are on allocation. Meanwhile Pappy Van Winkle and Weller's have earned a reputation and price tag to boot. Learn about these legendary brands on a free tour.

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An Enjoyable Tour and Tasting All For Free

kentucky buffalo trace campus

Getting There

Make sure when you come in that you look for and keep following the visitor's center signs. I parked in the employee parking lot and figured I would be waiting a couple hours for the tour because there were so many cars. It took about 2 seconds to realize my mistake. Also, when you arrive inside the visitor's center, they tell you to just queue up. That made me a bit nervous as more people started to gather, but they actually took 2 tours out at the same time by splitting us up, so no waiting. That may be different on busy days though. 

Impressions From the Free Tour

Within this video I will unscramble the mystery of the scarcity of Pappy Van Winkle, in case you were wondering. 

Takeaways

  • I was buzzing (with excitement not inebriation) after this tour because I actually mistakenly followed someone into the wrong building and lucked into a conversation with one of their master tasters. Cool experience. 
  • Quit Your Bellyaching: I heard a few people complaining that the samples weren't unique enough. I have a hard time complaining about a FREE TOUR where you get to taste Eagle Rare and Buffalo Trace at the end. You are limited to two selections and then they give you a mixer that is a bit more my style called Bourbon Cream. Good for Irish coffee or ice cream. They also let you sample their White Dog which is available for purchase or their Wheatley Vodka. By comparison, Woodford Reserve's tour costs $16 and you only got to try their two bourbons, so I think Buffalo Trace is a tremendous value.
  • I try not to be sucked in by branding, but I found a ton of things I liked in their gift shop. I ended up walking out with 2 Glencairn glasses and a coffee mug. The Buffalo Trace logo is one of my favorites and it's bottle design sucked me in. The product afterwards didn't disappoint either.
  • Got to walk in and see them bottling Blanton's by hand. A very unique experience in a large distillery that they let you ask the workers questions as long as you don't disturb operations. 
  • They did a nice job with their history. And they are very open about the Weller/Van Winkle scarcity issue.
  • Their campus is fun to walk around so take advantage of it when they suggest it, including a walk around the clubhouse.
  • I finally saw the John Wick movies. Don't mess with a man's dog!

kentucky buffalo trace blantons

Bonus Video of Buffalo Trace's Clubhouse GROUNDS

This was designed by the same architect that designed Four Roses in Lawrenceburg, KY.

Side Tracked: Allocation

As bourbon gets more and more popular and distillers struggle to keep up with demand, the word "allocation" will become more and more prevalent in the bourbon buying vernacular. I mention this after talking about the Buffalo Trace tour, because they are one of the distilleries where this term is used most frequently.

What it means is, because a particular bottle of bourbon is in such short supply (due to low quantities being distilled as in the case of Pappy Van Winkle, or just because demand caught the distiller by surprise in the case of Buffalo Trace Bourbon) they are only allocating a certain amount of bottles to be sent to each store or maybe restricting it's sale to a particular region of the United States.

The way to survive in the world of allocated bourbons? Get to know your liquor store operator and ask them if they have a certain day when allocated liquors arrive. Pappy Van Winkle 23 year is only sent out twice a year and so it has a very tight list and you may not be able to get it. Whereas something like Buffalo Trace or Eagle Rare may come in once or twice a month in limited supply.

Scotland is already dealing with a similar problem and there is talk of a worldwide shortage of aged spirits because producers had no idea how popular they would become. Some people may go towards hording bottles. Let's hope it doesn't get to that.

Next up, Kentucky Artisan Distillery just outside of Louisville, KY.