Buffalo Trace Distillery

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Buffalo Trace Distillery
Buffalo Trace Tower.jpg
Buffalo Trace Distillery water tower
Location Frankfort, Kentucky
Built 1792
Architect Oberwarth, Leo L.; Blanton, Albert Bacon
Architectural style Romanesque, Colonial Revival
NRHP Reference #


Added to NRHP May 2, 2001

Buffalo Trace Distillery is a distillery located in Frankfort, Kentucky. It has historically been known by several names, including most notably, the George T. Stagg Distillery and the O.F.C. Distillery.[2] Its namesake bourbon brand, Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon whiskey, was introduced in August 1999. The company claims the distillery is the oldest continuously-operating distillery in the United States.[3] Located on what the company claims was once an ancient buffalo crossing on the banks of the Kentucky River in Franklin County, the distillery is named after the American bison. The Sazerac Company, an American family-owned producer and importer based in New Orleans, Louisiana, purchased the distillery in 1992 and is now the parent company of Buffalo Trace Distillery.[4]

Under its old name, George T. Stagg Distillery, the property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 2, 2001, and designated a National Historic Landmark on March 11, 2013.[1][5]


The company claims the distillery to be the oldest continuously operating distillery in the United States.[3] Another distillery with similar historical extent is Burks' distillery, now used for production of Maker's Mark. According to its citation in the registry of National Historic Landmarks, Burks' Distillery's origins extend to 1805,[6] and Burks' Distillery is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest operating bourbon distillery.[7][8]

Records indicate that distilling started on the site that is now the Buffalo Trace Distillery in 1775 by Hancock Lee and his brother Willis Lee who died in 1776.[9][10] The oldest building on the site, the Riverside house, was constructed in 1792 by Commodore Richard Taylor and is still standing.[citation needed] The first distillery was constructed in 1812 by Harrison Blanton.[11] In 1870 the distillery was purchased by Edmund H. Taylor and given its first name, the Old Fire Copper (O.F.C.) Distillery.[4] Taylor sold the distillery eight years later to George T. Stagg along with the Old Oscar Pepper Distillery. This second distillery was sold within the year to James Graham, in order to add more land to the O.F.C. Distillery. In 1886, Stagg installed steam heating in the storage warehouses, the first climate controlled warehouse for aging whiskey in the nation.[12]

During Prohibition, the distillery was allowed to remain operational, in order to make whiskey for "medicinal purposes".[3]

In 1972 Gary Gayheart became the master distiller. After his retirement in 2005, he was succeeded by Harlen Wheatley.

In 2016 Buffalo Trace Distillery announced plans to expand operations with a capital investment of $200 million. [13]


Production capacity at Buffalo Trace is estimated at about 2,650,000 US gallons (10,000,000 L) of whiskey per year. This is carried out at a beer still with a capacity of 60,000 US gallons (230,000 L).[14]


Buffalo Trace bourbon whiskey

While Buffalo Trace Distillery is mainly known for its bourbon, it also produces other spirits such as rye whiskey and vodka. "Buffalo Trace" is a bourbon brand made by the Distillery. It was introduced in August 1999, two months after the distillery changed its name from the George T. Stagg Distillery. Approximately 25–30 barrels are selected and mixed before bottling. It has won several awards since its introduction.[15]

The following spirits are produced by Buffalo Trace Distillery:[16]

List of Buffalo Trace Brands
Label Type of Spirit Style Notes Distributor
Ancient Age Kentucky Straight Bourbon Ancient Age Distillery
Blanton's Single Barrel Bourbon Blanton Distilling
Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Buffalo Trace Distillery
Col. E. H. Taylor Kentucky Straight Bourbon & Rye Whiskeys Old Fashioned Copper Distillery
Eagle Rare Kentucky Straight Bourbon Old Prentice Company
Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Bourbon Buffalo Trace Distillery
George T. Stagg Kentucky Straight Bourbon Barrel proof Buffalo Trace Distillery
Hancock's President's Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Buffalo Trace Distillery
Old Charter Kentucky Straight Bourbon Old Charter Distillery
Old Taylor Kentucky Straight Bourbon Buffalo Trace Distillery
McAfee's Benchmark Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Rock Hill Farms Single Barrel Bourbon Rock Hill Farms
Van Winkle Wheated Bourbon Old Rip Van Winkle
W.L. Weller Wheated Bourbon W. L. Weller and Sons
Wheatley Vodka Buffalo Trace Distillery
Sazerac Rye Whiskey Buffalo Trace Distillery
Thomas H. Handy Rye Whiskey Barrel proof Buffalo Trace Distillery


  • The Distillery itself was named "Brand Innovator of the Year 2015" and "Whiskey Distiller of the Year 2014" by Whisky Magazine's "Icons of Whisky America".
  • Multiple whiskeys produced at the Distillery have performed well in international spirit ratings competitions, including the Ultimate Spirits Challenge (USC), San Francisco World Spirits Competition (SFWSC), Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition (LAIWSC), and the International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC).
  • Whiskey writer Jim Murray named Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old the "Third Finest Whisky in the World" in his Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2015 (ISBN 978-0955472992).
  • 2014 competition results included the USC Chairman's Trophy awarded to George T. Stagg; SFWSC Double Gold Medals awarded to Pappy Van Winkle 20 YO, W. L. Weller 12 YO and Stagg Jr.; LAIWSC's Best of Category award to Sazerac Straight Rye, and a Gold Outstanding Medal awarded by the IWSC to Eagle Rare Single Barrel Bourbon.
  • In a late 2014 competition, the New York World Wine & Spirits Competition, Double Gold Medals were awarded to Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Blanton's Single Barrel Bourbon and Eagle Rare Single Barrel Bourbon, which was also named Best in Show Spirits Sweepstakes Winner for "Best Bourbon, Best Whiskey & Best Brown Goods."
  • Eagle Rare won the inaugural "Bourbon Trophy" at the 2013 IWSC, as well as a Gold Outstanding Medal.
  • A 2013 Ultimate Spirits Challenge Chairman's Trophy winner was Blanton's, which also won a Double Gold Medal at the 2013 San Francisco competition and a Gold Medal at the IWSC of 2013.
  • Other Double Gold Medal winners at the San Francisco Competition in 2013 include Sazerac Straight Rye, Col. E. H. Taylor Small Batch, Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year and William Larue Weller.
  • Pappy 15 Year was named 2013's Best Small Batch Bourbon and Best Bourbon at the 2013 San Francisco event.
  • Similar accolades - including Chairman's Trophy Finalist, Gold, Outstanding Silver and Silver medals have been awarded to Buffalo Trace Distillery whiskeys at these same competitions in 2012, 2011, 2010 and earlier.



  1. ^ a b National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. [dead link]
  2. ^ Lew Bryson. "Bourbon Company, Bourbon Man Buffalo Trace Distillery & Mark Brown". Malt Advocate. Malt Advocate, Inc. Archived from the original on 2008-01-20. Retrieved 2007-12-05. 
  3. ^ a b c Official website
  4. ^ a b "The Buffalo Trace Distilling Company". ellenjaye.com. 2001. Retrieved 2007-09-23. 
  5. ^ "Secretary Salazar, Director Jarvis Designate 13 New National Historic Landmarks". 2013-03-11. Retrieved March 14, 2013. 
  6. ^ Burks' Distillery, National Historic Landmarks, U.S. National Park Service.
  7. ^ Oldest Operating Bourbon Distillery, Guinness Book of World Records.
  8. ^ Oldest Operating Bourbon Whisky Distillery, Guinness World Records plaque, Waymarking.com.
  9. ^ Reigler, S (2013) Kentucky Bourbon Country: The Essential Travel Guide, University Press of Kentucky
  10. ^ "Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky", Uisce Beatha,Retrieved on 3 March 2015.
  11. ^ Klebe, J., E. (2015) The Kentucky Encyclopedia, University Press of Kentucky
  12. ^ "National Register of Historic Places Registration Form" (PDF). National Park Service. March 13, 2001. p. 33. Retrieved January 31, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Buffalo Trace Distillery Expands With $200M Investment". Stateways. Retrieved 25 May 2016. 
  14. ^ Buffalo Trace at Whisky.com[permanent dead link]
  15. ^ "Critical Acclaim". Buffalo Trace Distillery. Retrieved 2010-05-17. 
  16. ^ "Great Bourbon". Buffalo Trace Distillery. Retrieved 2010-05-17. 


  • Taylor, Richard (2002). The Great Crossing: A Historic Journey to Buffalo Trace Distillery. Frankfort, KY: Buffalo Trace Distillery. ISBN 0971683719. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°13′03″N 84°52′11″W / 38.217506°N 84.869702°W / 38.217506; -84.869702