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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Four Roses, Kentucky, USA

Distillery number two on day two of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail (KBT).  A very interesting Spanish Mission style building, with no warehouses (which was a pity because apparently Four Roses unusually only use single storey warehouses) or bottling hall on site and so the tour focussed on the recipes, actual fermentation and distilling of spirit.  Four Roses was one of the first bourbons I ever tried in 2009 (after getting "into whiskey") while living in the UK and liked it, but  as part of the tour we learned that in USA the name had been associated with a very poor blended whiskey and so while it popular overseas, especially Japan where it is the number one bourbon, the Four Roses brand is "rebuilding" as a bourbon in the USA.  It is rather unique (or at least appeared to be) in that they actually make 10 different recipe bourbons using two different mash bills, one with high rye and one with a low rye content, and then use 5 different yeast strains for fermentation.  5 yeast x 2 mashbills = 10 recipes.  This was interesting as my experience in Scotland had been yeast was bit of commodity (packs of Anchor Distiller's Yeast could often be seen around the washbacks in Scottish distilleries) yet in USA, and especially at Four Roses, yeast is treated with same reverance and importance to the final product as the Scots tend to reserve for their water supply.   I have to say the impact of yeast on final taste seems a lot more credible to me that the mythical water source stories ever did.   That is not to say Kentucky distilleries don't talk about their water.... they all do, but they talk about the more generic "limestone filtered water in this part of Kentucky" rather than their specific source or spring.  Anyway the tour finished with three nice samples, the Four Roses Yellow Label (blended with all 10 recipes), the Four Roses Small Batch (made with 4 of the 10 recipes) and the Four Roses Single Barrel which of course can only be one recipe and contains the higher content rye mash bill.   Another free tour and one I truly enjoyed (perhaps in part because there was no bottling hall to endure).  Definately a distillery on the rise and a gift shop that actually sold 5 cl mini bottles, 4 of the previous 5 distilleries (if they sold at all due to licence issues) just sold 70 cl standard bottles at prices, due to local KY taxes, much higher than I can buy the same whiskey in Texas.

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Buffalo Trace, Kentucky, USA

This distillery is owned by Sazerac and is not part of the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail.  It is the oldest continuously operated distillery in the USA as it continued to produce whiskey even during prohibition.  It is also a very "haunted" distillery and featured on an episode of Travel Channel's Ghost Hunters.  The tours are free and they also have a nice cafe as well as a well stocked gift shop.  This distillery is home to several very well known brands (Buffalo Trace aside) including the Van Winkle, Blanton and Weller lines and they make a total of 17 brands here of which 5 are wheated bourbons.   The tour does not see much of the actual distillery, but instead features a walk through the site to a converted warehouse where a movie called "The Buffalo Trace Story" is shown and then the guide gave a lecture on making bourbon.  This was my 7th distillery in 2 days but the first that actually talked in detail about the importance of malted barley.  We also learned the distillery boasts the largest fementers in the industry at 93,000 gals.  Suitably impressed by the size of their fermenters it was time to see the botting hall, fortunately it was not running, but then something a little strange happened.  The guide showed us the chill filtratioon system and was quite proud of it.  Chill filtration is something that Scots distillers dont even talk about, unless they are proudly claiming that they don't chill filter their products, but here was a tour guide actually pointing out the equipment they use to chill filter their whiskies.  It was a bit weird. After the bottling hall it was time for the tasting and they poured the Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare 10 year old expressions.

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