Gary R. Gayheart

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Gary R. Gayheart was a Master Distiller at Buffalo Trace Distillery. Gary was born in Eastern Kentucky in Floyd County in 1939. At the age of eight Gary’s father moved to Louisville looking for better employment opportunities. He attended and graduated from Valley High School in 1957 and then the University of Louisville with his Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry in 1961. It was at this time that he became interested in the distilling process and making whiskey. During his years at U of L, he visited several area distilleries during in and around Bardstown and Louisville. While attending Louisville he met and married his wife Linda and over the next few years the had their two daughters, Gabrielle and Melissa. Upon graduation, he started at the Fleishmann Distilling Corporation in Owensboro, Kentucky.

Gary worked at the Fleishmsnn plant for a little over a year a half and then took a transfer to newly built plant in Plainfield, Illinois, where he was promoted to a Supervisors role and beacme the plant’s Quality Control manager. In 1969, he joined Schenley Distiller’s Frankfort, Kentucky plant called the George T. Stagg Distillery. He was hired on a distiller and in line as a replacement for the Master Distiller Elmer T. Lee. Gary worked in distilling, quality control and barrel warehousing to gain the necessary experience and expertise to insure continuity and quality of the plant's products. Upon Albert G. Geiser’s retirement in 1972, Gary became the Plant Manager and in early 1980, he assumed Master Distiller’s responsibility for Schenley’s Bernheim plant in Louisville.

In 1983, Schenley sold the George T. Stagg Distillery, its whiskey and a number of brands to a group of private investors. This new company retained Gary as distiller and he participated with Elmer T. Lee in the introduction of Blanton’s, the world’s first single barrel Bourbon. In 1992, the distillery and all of its whiskey inventory in storage was sold to the Sazerac Company, Inc. of New Orleans. All of the employees were retained, and the distillery began a program of brand expansion and new product introductions. In August 1999, the distillery was renamed Buffalo Trace Distillery and made Gary 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.

Gary R. Gayheart was inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame in September 2007. Gayheart became only the 6th of 9 Buffalo Trace Distillery members to be inducted into the Bourbon Hall of Fame behind only Elmer T. Lee, George T. Stagg, Colonel Albert Blanton, Julian Pappy Van Winkle and Orville Schupp.