Ronnie Eddins was born on a rural Kentucky farm in 1943. He and a friend drove to Frankfort, Kentucky from his rural home and applied for a job at the George T. Stagg Distillery. When he applied for the job at the age of 18 he lied on the job application because you had to be 21 to work at a distillery. He accepted a job and began working on the second shift on the bottling line at night in November 1961 getting ready for holiday shipments at what would become the Buffalo Trace Distillery.
In his first six years at the distillery he worked seasonally at 75 cents an hour. He worked on his farm at home in the warm months and the distillery in the cold months. In year one he worked three months, in year two he worked for five months and in years three through five he worked six months. Back then there were 75-80 on the bottling line, unlike today when 15 people can man the line with automation. In 1965 he was promoted to be a Team Lead in the Shipping Department unloading raw materials and loading up box cars with cases of finished product on the railroad spur that came into the plant.
In 1967 Ronnie was promoted again and moved to the warehousing department where he make his mark. Later Eddins was put in charge of managing more than 300,000 barrels of aging whiskey. Ronnie’s other responsibilities in the warehouse included: incoming barrel inspections, barrel branding, barrel filling, barrel storage and leakage hunting.
In 1984 he was promoted over all warehouse operations as the Warehouse Manager and added such responsibilities as mapping of filled barrels into their ideal aging spot in the warehouses, barrel storage, tank management, warehouse temperature control, selection of barrels for withdrawal and even the selection of barrels for the personalized barrel select program.
According to the Buffalo Trace web site, “Ronnie 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 in order to make room for new barrels to age, which barrels needed to be placed where in the Distillery’s fleet of 23 warehouses, and even when the windows on each floor of those warehouses needed to be opened or closed for best aging climates.”
“Under Ronnie’s tutorship, hundreds of awards were bestowed upon Buffalo Trace Distillery’s bourbons, the marriage of “old” and “new” warehouse traditions were passed along to new generations, and innovations in new product ideas continued to expand. Ronnie was one of the driving forces in the Buffalo Trace Bourbon Experimental Whiskey Program, and headed up numerous experiments for more than 20 years.
Some of the experiments included different chars and woods for aging whiskey. He even visited the Ozarks to hand select trees for barrels based on their growing location. His efforts, along with numerous other individuals, contributed to Buffalo Trace’s tradition of producing award-winning whiskey.”
Buffalo Trace's Single Oak Project began over than 15 years ago when warehouse legend Ronnie Eddins led an expedition deep into the woods to hand-select 96 trees. Upon instructions from Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley, "What if, we could really quantify what is going on during maturation inside of the barrels?" After Eddins team chose 96 white oaks, and made 192 barrels, some from the top half of the trees, others from the bottom. Others made with different sizes of the wood grain, others with differing grades of char, other utilizing different mash bills making them a wheated bourbon or rye based bourbon, many with different entry proofs and finally stored in different warehouse types.
With 192 unique barrels of bourbon whiskey, aged for eight years, were bottled and then released over a four year period. After 5,086 user reviews on the project’s website, the best-scoring whiskeys were narrowed to five bourbons. Those were then sold to consumers across the country but were almost impossible to find. In recognition of his research and devotion to the Single Oak Project Bourbon, Buffalo Trace honors Ronnie with the initials “R. E.” on the back of each bottle.
Ronnie was also behind alot of the Buffalo Trace’s Experimental Collection. He'd been at the warehouse for over 30 years, and he would follow barrels, and track areas in the different warehouses, including many different types of warehouses, and keep track of what worked, what was interesting and as important, what didn't work. He actually learned that the fog off the nearby Kentucky River had a profound effect on the barrels in warehouses when the windows were open.
In 2008 Ronnie received Malt Advocate Magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2009, Buffalo Trace Distillery dedicated Warehouse “I,” Ronnie’s favorite warehouse, to him in appreciation of fifty years of service to the Distillery.
Ronnie Eddins was inducted posthumously into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame shortly after his death in 2010. Eddins became only the 7th of 8 Buffalo Trace family members to be inducted into the Bourbon Hall of Fame behind Elmer T. Lee, George T. Stagg, Colonel Albert Blanton, Juliam Pappy Van Winkle, Orville Schupp, and Gary Gayheart.