Buffalo Trace Founders
The Buffalo Trace Distillery distillery is located on the Kentucky River in Frankfort, Kentucky in what was formerly Bourbon County (now Franklin County). It has been well known in the past under several other names like the George T. Stagg Distillery or the O.F.C. (Old Fire & Copper) Distillery. The distillery makes the largest number of whiskies in the world spanning some 83 different labels, brands or variations.
Unlike other distilleries the Founders from Buffalo Trace all hail from different families and not the same clan or two.
Colonel E. H. Taylor
Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr. was born in Columbia, Kentucky in 1832. Taylor was a descendant of two U.S. presidents, James Madison and General Zachary Taylor. Two years after Taylor purchased the Leestown Distillery, just out side Frankfort in 1869 he christened it the, "O.F.C. Distillery (Old Fire Copper) Distillery."
George T. Stagg
George T. Stagg was born in 1835, near Lancaster, Kentucky. He is one of the founding fathers of what is now the "Buffalo Trace Distillery" in Frankfort, Kentucky. In November 1861 he enlisted in the Union Army during the U. S. Civil War. Early in his tenure as a soldier George gained a reputation for his bare knuckle fighting in the ring.
Col. Albert Blanton
Born on an adjacent farm in 1881, Blanton joined what was then O.F.C. Distillery as an office boy at the age of 16. Over the next several years, Blanton was promoted and given experience in every department at the Distillery. After 34 years of hard work at the distillery, Albert was promoted to the President of the company in 1921.
Elmer T. Lee
Elmer T. Lee joined the distillery in 1949 as a maintenance engineer after coming home from World War II. He served as Plant Engineer, Distillery Superintendent Master Distiller and Plant Manager. Elmer supervised much of the Distillery’s updates hefty growth until he retired in 1985.
Julian P. Van Winkle
A man who was true to the craft, Julian P. “Pappy” Van Winkle Sr.’s motto “We make fine bourbon at a profit if we can, at a loss if we must, but always fine bourbon." This type of bourbon used wheat as the second flavoring grain instead of rye. The wheat gave the finished product a softer, smoother taste. Pappy had an affinity for his family and the legacy of his family name. His name has now become synonymous with quality in the bourbon industry.
William Larue Weller
A true distilling pioneer, William Larue Weller is credited with being the first distiller to produce Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey using wheat instead of rye in the mash bill. Weller’s original “wheated bourbons” became extremely popular, with a softer, smoother taste.
Colonel’s Right Hand
It was Orville Schupp who told Elmer T. Lee on his way out of the plant, to “show up next Monday morning and we’ll find something for you,” after Colonel Albert Blanton told him “Son, we’re not hiring any hands today.” It was also Schupp that led the Buffalo Trace Distillery for fourteen years after Blanton retired and ran the plant with precision for nearly two decades.
Freddie Johnson’s family has worked at the Buffalo Trace Distillery for three generations and works as its Chief Tour Guide and V.I.P. Visitor Supervisor. Born in Paris, Kentucky, he spent some of his early childhood with his maternal grandfather who was a coal miner and moonshiner. Freddie cherishes memories of both his father and grandfather working at the plant for five decades.
21st Century Master Distiller
In August of 1999 the Sazerac family purchased the distillery and changed its name to the Buffalo Trace Distillery and introduced its new flagship brand. Wheatley was instrumental in the release of “Buffalo Trace Bourbon” and made a large contribution into the make up of the brand. It was an immediate success with consumers and within months Harlen was promoted to the position of Plant Manager in May of 2000.
“Ronnie Eddins was an expert on barrel management and was in many ways like a Grandmaster of Chess, mastering the delicate act of which 500 pound barrels need to be removed, which barrels needed to be placed where in the Distillery’s fleet of 23 warehouses, and even when the windows needed to be opened or closed for best aging climates.”
In August 1999, the George T. Stagg Distillery distillery was renamed Buffalo Trace Distillery and made Gary Gayheart the Master Distiller. During Gayheart’s tenure Buffalo Trace received many industry awards including “Distillery of the Year” in 2000 and “Whiskey of the Year” in 2001 and 2002.