Buffalo Trace Bourbon Has Been Around Longer Than You Might Think

The Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky is home to some of the bourbon world's most famous brands, from Buffalo Trace itself to Blanton's, Eagle Rare, Elmer T. Lee, E.H. Taylor Jr., George T. Stagg's, W.L. Weller, and of course, Pappy Van Winkle. The latter brand, in particular, has developed a cult-like following in recent decades, and its bottles are often retailed or auctioned for outrageous prices. Since 2002, Pappy Van Winkle has been distilled at Buffalo Trace via a partnership with the Van Winkle family, notes Bourbon Lens.

Brands like Pappy Van Winkle helped to create the boom in bourbon demand that has led to a dramatic increase in its production. In fact, as VinePair observes, bourbon production has quadrupled in Kentucky — the state that makes over 95% of it — since 1999. Buffalo Trace Distillery has been a major driver and beneficiary of this boom and is betting big that it continues. The company is in the midst of a $1.2 billion expansion, per Go Bourbon, and has upped its own production by 50% in the last five years. Production is projected to jump another 50% in the near future as more new equipment and facilities are added.

It's astonishing growth, especially when you consider that the Sazerac-owned company has only been around since 1999, per the Buffalo Trace website. It bears noting, however, that in what is now the Buffalo Trace Distillery, bourbon-making has been taking place for hundreds of years.

The history of Buffalo Trace Distillery

Inspired by the buffalo herds who helped show early Americans the way west, according to The Spirits Business, Buffalo Trace Distillery's modern-day brands are guides to the long history of its location in Frankfort, Kentucky. It's true, of course, that no bourbon has been named after those who distilled on the site in the late 18th century, notes Whisky.com; or after Daniel Swigert, who built a distillery on the location in 1858, per Buffalo Trace Distillery. But bourbon has been continuously made there ever since (per Buffalo Trace).

There is a bourbon brand, however, named for Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor Jr., who bought the distillery in 1870, and called it O.F.C. after the old-fashioned copper stills he believed produced the best bourbon, per Buffalo Trace Distillery. There's also a brand named for George T. Stagg, who acquired the distillery that would also later bear his name in 1878. By 1897, a young man named Albert B. Blanton was working for the company. He would eventually become president in 1921, when the George T. Stagg Distillery was among the few licensed to produce medicinal liquor during Prohibition.

In 1984, Blanton's name would later be given to the first single-barrel bourbon ever bottled, per Buffalo Trace Distillery. Schenley Distillers Corporation bought the distillery in 1929 and expanded it after Prohibition ended in 1933, eventually hiring a young man named Elmer T. Lee. Lee would later become Master Distiller. Yes, there's now a bourbon brand named after him, too.