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2019 Springtime in Kentucky Caravan

2019-05-13 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Cumberland Falls, Corbin, KY – Day #19

Today we once again traveled into the green hills of Kentucky; all around us is the Daniel Boone National Forest.  We are headed to the State Park to see the Cumberland Falls and the Dupont Lodge…

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It was a lovely lodge.  Not as nice as the Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge, but still nice…

But before we could enjoy the lodge we walked 3/4 mile to the falls.  The path was wet, but fairly easy; there is a 270′ elevation change walking down to the falls…

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We could see the highway bridge over the Cumberland River far below…

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The raging river was lapping over this walkway…  There is about 10 times the normal water flow today due to melting snow up north and the recent rains locally… (thus, the muddy appearance…)

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We finally arrived at the falls… They were great!

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We went down below for a closer view…

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Did you know that over 280 people die each year taking selfies in dangerous locations?

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Further downstream we got a wider view…

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And then it was time to walk back up… But by now we were even further down.  We walked up 66 steps, then up the 270′ rise on the 3/4 mile path back up to the lodge…

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And then we sat down…

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Soon it was time for lunch…

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The food was decent and the view was great!

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We returned to the campground.  We stopped along the way for Lynda to get her hair cut, and we took the truck to the local Chevy dealer for an oil change.

We had an “Open House” so that we could peak into all the other Airstreams; this gave way to Happy Hours…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-05-14 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Traveling to Renfro Valley, KY – Day #20

An easy travel day today.  We left London and drove about 30 miles north to Renfro Valley, the gateway to Mt. Vernon, KY.  We are at Creekside RV Park…

This is a wide open campground with large sites, but relatively primitive – gravel everywhere…

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We were “de-parkers” at the campground in London, KY; this means we checked out all the rigs as they left the campground to make sure lights worked, doors were locked, things like that… So we were the last to leave, and the last to arrive at this new campground.

Shortly after we were set we left for the town of Berea, home of Berea College.  More on the college later, but we moved on to the Tater Knob Pottery Studio.  We watched and learned how pots are “thrown”.  These people have been making pots and earning a living at it for 40 years… She is so talented that she can make a 60 piece set of dinnerware in a day…

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Today she was making these mugs…

They also make bells and lumieres.  We bought one to keep a candle lit on our front porch…

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(Ours is almost all blue…)

We returned to Berea and visited the historic Boone Tavern…

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This entire block is owned and operated by Berea College.  Berea College is distinctive among institutions of higher learning.  Founded in 1855 as the first interracial and coeducational college in the South, Berea charges no tuition and admits only academically promising students, primarily from Appalachia, who have limited economic resources.  Berea’s cost of educating a student for four years is nearly $100,000.

Berea College offers rigorous undergraduate academic programs leading to Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in 28 fields.  All students work at least 10 hours per week in campus and service jobs in more than 130 departments.

The College has an inclusive Christian character, expressed in its motto “God has made of one blood all peoples of the Earth” (Acts 17:26).

Berea’s primary service region is the Southern Appalachian region, but students come from all states in the U.S. and in a typical year, from more than 60 other countries representing a rich diversity of colors, cultures, and faiths. About one in three students represents an ethnic minority.

Berea College continues to build upon a distinctive history of more than 150 years of  learning, labor and service, and find new ways to apply their mission (the Great Commitments) to contemporary times by promoting kinship among all people, serving communities in Appalachia and beyond and living sustainably to conserve limited natural resources.

It is a beautiful, traditional-looking campus… This block with the hotel, restaurant, and events center also includes a coffee house, a crafts store, a shop with hand-made wooden dulcimers, and other related businesses…

The hotel began when the constant stream of visitors to the college and the city became too much of a burden to for Nellie Frost, the college president’s wife.  In one summer alone she hosted over 300 visitors in her house!  Finally she convinced the college to open a guest house in 1909; the guest house grew into the hotel we see today under the direction of  of Richard Hougen, who was general manager of the hotel from 1940 to 1976.

We will be having our “Final Banquet” here on May 16…

 

We returned to the Villa; Happy Hours ensued; an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-05-12 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Big South Fork Scenic Railway – Day #18

Our first excursion in the London area was to the Big South Fork Scenic Railway, about one hour south of here, in Stearns, KY, near the Tennessee border.  This is also adjacent to the Daniel Boone National Forest…

Stearns, KY, is another one of the many small, thriving, towns which died in the 1950s.  At one time Stearns was a bustling industrial town of 10,000 – 15,000 people.  Today there are fewer than 1,600 people here.  The only remnants of the town, besides the few houses, are the Big South Fork Scenic Railway, along with the few remaining buildings that were once operated by the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company.

Stores adjacent to the train depot:

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This building now houses the museum; it once was the headquarters office building of the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company; it also housed the telephone exchange and the local bank…

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The train was awaiting our arrival…

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We had a lovely drive again, through miles and miles of tree-covered hills as far as the eye can see… After we arrived and procured our train tickets, we toured the museum.  There was the usual assortment of memorabilia plus photos showing the once-thriving town…

We enjoyed our box lunch, then waited for the train…

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And here it is!

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The cars may be vintage, but they are nicely finished inside… Soon we were underway.  The train’s planned destination was the Blue Heron Mining Community – a National Park Interpretive Center.

Blue Heron, or Mine 18, is an abandoned coal mining town.  It was a part of the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company’s past operation in what today is the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park Service.  Most of what we know about life at Blue Heron, and the other Stearns coal towns, has been handed down through oral history.  Blue Heron mine operated from 1937 until it closed in December
1962.  During that time hundreds of people lived and worked in the isolated community on the banks of the Big South Fork River.  Their story is the focus of this interpretive tour of the Blue Heron Community.

When the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company abandoned Blue Heron in 1962, the buildings were either removed or they lapsed into decay.  There were no original buildings standing when the town was “re-created” as an interpretive center in the 1980s.  Consequently, the town was restored in an “open-air” museum format, and new structures were constructed on the approximate site of several of the original buildings. These new structures are open, metal shells of buildings, and are referred to as “ghost structures.”  Each ghost structure has an audio-tape station with recorded recollections of some of the people of Mine 18.

Unfortunately, recent winter storms damaged the train tracks, so Blue Heron is no longer reached by the railroad.  Big South Fork Scenic Railway is now the railroad to nowhere.  We rode about 1/2 hour, enjoying the scenery…

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Some passengers took a nap…

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Plenty of green…

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And wet… The train announcer told us that yesterday the creek was running slow and crystal clear… Remember the rain we had last night?

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And then the train stopped, and we backed up for 1/2 hour until we returned to the depot.  Some caravanners drove on to Blue Heron, but we, and others, returned to the campground…

There were many happy hours groups at several of the Airstreams this evening.  Some Airstreamers were happier than others…

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-05-11 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Moving to London and Fried Chicken – Day #17

Today we hitched up and drove.  In the rain.  We started with another Drivers Meeting.  No pictures of the drivers, but these geese swam by during the meeting and they were way more interesting…

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We drove for about 2 1/2 hours through the rain, through more gorgeous green Kentucky countryside…

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We went about 100 miles on Highway 23.  All along there were signs denoting birthplaces of “famous” country music singers…

We arrived at Levi Jackson State Park in London, KY.  We set up easily – the rain had mostly stopped…

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We had a relaxing afternoon; tonight was the real treat!

We drove a few miles to Corbin, KY, the home of Harland Sanders;  this is where he ran a motel, a gas station, and a cafe.

Colonel Harland Sanders (September 9, 1890 – December 16, 1980) was an American businessman, best known for founding fast food chicken restaurant chain Kentucky Fried Chicken (now known as KFC, with the corporate name of Yum! brands…).  In his later years he spent his time acting as the company’s brand ambassador and symbol.  His name and image are still symbols of the company.  The title ‘colonel’ was honorary – a Kentucky Colonel – not the military rank.

The Colonel began selling fried chicken from his roadside restaurant in Corbin, KY, during the Great Depression of the 1930s.  During that time Sanders developed his “secret recipe” and his patented method of cooking chicken in a pressure fryer.  Sanders recognized the potential of the restaurant franchising concept, and the first KFC franchise opened in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1952.  In the late 1950s Interstate 75 was planned; Sanders saw that his roadside business would suffer when the traffic moved to the Interstate, so he sold the property.  He then devoted himself full-time to franchising his fried chicken throughout the country.  And the rest is history…

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While the motel, gas station and the original cafe are long gone, the Sanders Cafe is a recreation of the original building.  In it you can not only buy all the chicken you could ever want, but there are several historic rooms that you can visit to get a sense of what Sanders was doing 65 years ago…

With 50 caravanners showing up the place was soon packed…

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We had arrived early, so we didn’t wait much.  We viewed the various museum rooms…

The kitchen:

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The cafe furniture…

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There was also a “model” motel room set up adjacent to the women’s restroom in the original cafe.  The room would demonstrate for the women how nice the rooms were…

It was a fun piece of nostalgia…

And then it started to rain.  The skies opened up; some of the Airstreamers were wondering why we were not visiting the Ark (www.arkencounter.com) instead…

But we returned to the Villa without incident… And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-05-10 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Butcher Holler and the Coal Miner’s Daughter – Day #16

We began today by spending time at OSCAR, the Oil Springs Cultural Arts and Recreation center; it is located in a school that was sold off in 1955 when the mining industry shut down and the population plummeted… (more on the mines later…)  The school was purchased by a local businessman who has lent it to OSCAR for the past many years…

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We did crafts.  Just like – well, you know… There was wood carving, tin punching, painting, wire art, and several other things that we could try our hand at…  We spent the morning crafting away, and they even provided a tasty mid-morning snack…

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I did a little relief carving of an apple…

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Lynda made something out of tin…

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Some others made these wall plaques…

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The sky was roiling when we returned to the Villa; we had a light lunch in the Airstream, and then we headed out for our next tour.  The rain held off for the rest of the day…

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We carpooled to the town of Van Lear, and the Webb General Store… About 1 1/2 miles down the road from the store is Butcher Hollow, or, in Kentuckian, Butcher Holler…

Here the story begins…

Loretta Lynn was born Loretta Webb on April 14, 1932, in Butcher Holler, in the “house” that is still standing today.  She is the eldest daughter and second child born to Clary and Ted Webb.  Ted was a coal miner and subsistence farmer.  The youngest Webb daughter was Crystal Gayle (born Brenda Gail Webb).  There were six other children born to Clary and Ted, but you only need to remember Herman, Loretta’s immediate younger brother.

Butcher Holler was one of many communities that loosely made up the town of Van Lear, KY.  There were five coal and slate mines in the area dating from the early 20th century, with 2,500 miners, and four railroad lines serving the mines.  These mines supported a community of 15,000 to 20,000 people.  When the mines closed in 1955 the population plummeted.  There is little remaining today of this thriving community.  Today, even with recent “suburban” style growth, Van Lear has fewer than 2,000 people.

On January 10, 1948, 15-year-old Loretta Webb married Oliver Lynn, better known as “Doo”, or “Mooney”.  They had met only a month earlier.  Despite Doo’s promise to Loretta’s father never to take her away from Butcher Holler, the Lynns left Kentucky and moved to the logging community of Custer, Washington, north of Bellingham, when Loretta was seven months pregnant with the first of their six children.  The happiness and heartache of her early years of marriage would help to inspire Lynn’s songwriting.  In 1953, Doo bought her a $17 Harmony guitar.  She taught herself to play the instrument, and over the following three years, she worked to improve her guitar playing.  With Doo’s encouragement, Lynn began singing in local clubs in the late 1950s.  (In the Movie, “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, she mentions that she was going to be playing in a “nasty ol’ honky tonk over to Lyndon”.  I sincerely doubt that Lyndon ever had a “nasty ol’ honky tonk”…) 

Lynn signed her first recording contract and cut her first record, “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl”, in February 1960.  Her first album was recorded in Hollywood.  The Lynns toured the country to promote the release to country stations.  By the time the Lynns reached Nashville, the song was a hit, climbing to No. 14 on Billboard’s Country and Western chart, prompting her first appearances on the Grand Ole Opry in 1960.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Her best-selling 1976 autobiography, Coal Miner’s Daughter, was made into an Academy Award–winning film of the same title in 1980, starring Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones.  Spacek won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as Lynn.

Back to Lynn’s brother, Herman Webb.  After the mines closed most of the Webb family moved to Indiana.  But Herman always wanted to return.  In 1975, he bought the local general store near Butcher Holler.  He named it Webb’s Store and ran it until his death in 2018.  Today his son and daughter run the store and offer tours of the house where Loretta Lynn grew up…

Butcher Holler is a fer piece down the road, about 2 miles past Van Lear, and about 10 miles past Paintsville, (pop. 5,700 today).  Butcher Holler is way back in the hills…

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This is Webb’s store…

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The sign is a little worn…

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There are signs everywhere hawking the tours in case no one is at the store…

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A shuttle took us up the 1 1/2 mile one lane road to the house.  We shouldn’t complain – when the Webbs lived here there was no road, just a footpath.  (In the movie, “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, Doo drives his Jeep to the house by driving in the creek…)

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The house is pretty much original.  When Herman moved back to Butcher Holler in 1975 he did shore up the foundation and replace much of the front porch using 1970s techniques and design.  (If you notice the front porch guardrail you will see that it is VERY similar guardrails in 1970s era apartment buildings in Orange County, CA…)

Inside the house we were given a tour by Hermasina, Herman’s daughter.  There are four rooms plus two attic bedrooms.  Much of the furniture is original to the house; there is a lot of memorabilia from the Webb and Lynn families…

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This view up the valley was not like this when the mines were operation.  There were few trees; any tree over 6″ in diameter would be needed as shoring in the mines, so this view would have extended miles up the valley.  The area would be farmland for residents to raise their own vegetable gardens…

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It was a great tour – very authentic and not too much hype and certainly no glossy brochures…

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This road was only a footpath in the 1940s…

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We forewent the shuttle ride and walked back to the Webb Store…

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We did pass one of the entrances to one of the mines…

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The store isn’t much – more memorabilia, a few staples, candy, and lots of moon pies and RC Colas…

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Other than the store, just about all evidence of this thriving community is gone… No train tracks, no industry, no other businesses, very few people…

So we returned to the Villa.  We had a little FaceTime with our grandson, Ian.  He is five years old this week!

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In the evening we returned to the Highway 23 Museum.  We enjoyed a nice dinner, then the pickers began… Bluegrass music!

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There was music, dancing, singing, and even some square dancing!

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-05-09 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Country and Country Music – Day #15

We visited three local points of interest today… We started at Mountain Home Place…

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This is a working farm; all the buildings here were moved onto this property from adjacent land that was taken when the Paintsville Lake State Park lake was built.  The buildings date from 1850 to 1900.

Of course, we start in the Gift Shoppe… They sell all hand-made products produced by local craftsmen…

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The old men caravaners enjoyed sitting on the front porch…

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We strolled the property and saw the vintage buildings; we also enjoyed their animals…

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I enjoyed what appeared to be really tentative foundations…

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We saw the local church…

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And the local one-room school house, in use until 1958…

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A typical cabin…

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Interesting ladder to the attic lofts…

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Then we moved on to lunch in Paintsville…

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I enjoyed a local delicacy… Fried Bologna Sammich…

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The next local landmark we toured was the Mayo United Methodist Church; the church was donated in 1904 by Mr. Mayo, who made his fortune in coal mining.  (We are only about 50 miles from the West Virginia border.)

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The stained glass windows are remarkable…

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The organ was relatively small (1,000 pipes, 18 stops, two manuals), but high quality, and still in good condition; it still uses the original mechanical connections to operate the pipes.  The manual pumps were replaced by electric fan chambers in 1914 when electricity arrived at the church…

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Our own caravaner played for us, and we returned the favor by singing a few hymns…

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Next door was Mr. Mayo’s house… The Mayos only lived here for a few years; Mr. Mayo died suddenly, and Mrs. Mayo moved to Tennessee to be with her family.  The house (45 rooms) is now a Catholic School…

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And finally we visited the Highway 23 Museum…

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It was so-named because of the many country music stars who were born along Highway 23…

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The only country music stars I had known anything about were Loretta Lynn and her sister Crystal Gail.  We also saw a video of an interview with Loretta Lynn about the making of the movie, “The Coal Miner’s Daughter”… We will visit her childhood home in nearby Butcher Hollow tomorrow, and re-watch the movie in a few days…

The museum is small, but it was enjoyed by those who followed country music… We returned to the Villa, and walked along the lake again…

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Happy Hours ensued, and an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-05-08 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Travel to Staffordsville and Paintsville, Ky – Day #14

We had a nice travel day today.  We are heading east, into the hills of northeast Kentucky.  Expect country music (banjos?) and beautiful hills…

We left the campground at about 10:00 am and drove for about one hour…

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We gathered at Natural Bridge State Park, a beautiful place…

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We took the skylift up to the top of the mountain…

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Others were already coming down…

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We arrived at the top, and walked along, enjoying the views…

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We walked down the narrow path…

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And we were under the arch!

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We walked back up the narrow path…

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We walked back atop the arch…

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We wondered if the arch can be seen from the stone cliff across the way… So we walked around to find out…

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Yes!  You can!

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We returned to the lift and descended the hill…

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We met a few friends coming up…

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Down in the parking lot we had a little lunch…

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We then headed out for the last leg of today’s trip… We were soon set up at the Paintsville Lake State Park…

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There is a beautiful lake here…

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At 6:00 we joined the others for a group meal…

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After dinner some of the Caravaners (Lynda) stayed to play Left-Right-Center…

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I returned to the Villa.  After the game, Lynda caught some sunset photos…

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-05-07 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Toyota Tour – Day #13

We carpooled together to the Toyota Manufacturing Plant in nearby Georgetown, KY.  We were given very specific directions:  Long pants, closed toed shoes, no camera or mobile devices of any kind…

So here is all you get:

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It’s a massive plant, over 8,000,000 sq. ft., producing over 550,000 cars per year, with over 10,000 employees.

The tour took us through the three assembly lines.  Hundreds of robots are taking a roll of sheet steel and turning it into a car.  There are self-driving carts which drive through the aisles, delivering extra parts to the robots on demand.  It is the future of manufacturing!  It was a fun tour!

We then went to downtown Georgetown, which is also the site of Georgetown College.  The town is filled with stately houses…

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The town is filled with delightful storefronts…

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Georgetown is where Elijah Craig first ran a bourbon distillery in 1789; we tasted Elijah Craig bourbon at Heaven Hill a few days ago…

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No idea what this building is, but I was intrigued by its form and location next to the river……

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Great old Baptist church on the corner…

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We had lunch at Fava’s…

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We returned to the Villa.  There were tours of another museum and the old Capitol building, but we needed to relax and catch up on a few things… Lynda caught up on her reading…

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We had another drivers meeting in the evening.  I hope one day the drivers meeting takes less time than it does to drive to our next destination…

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We returned to the Villa for a nice supper of pulled pork sliders;  and an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-05-06 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Frankfurt, KY – Day #12

We carpooled together this morning to Frankfort – the capital of Kentucky.  I’m always surprised when I see a state capital that is such a small town.  The population of Frankfort is only about 28,000… It is so small you could hardly see it because of the trees…

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But before we could park at the capitol building we found:  The Zeigler Residence!

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It is not open to the public… Sad…

So we moved on to a perfect example of Beaux-Arts/Greek Revival Architecture…

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Statue of Abe Lincoln…

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The rotunda dome… LED lights subtly change colors…

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EVERYTHING in this building follows the golden rule – what you do to one side you must do to the other.  True in algebra and true in the symmetry of classical buildings…

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The other president born in Kentucky – Jefferson Davis…

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The State Supreme Court…

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The legislative floor…

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The Assembly Chamber…

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The Senate chamber…

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I’m not a fan of these neo-classical building.  I do appreciate the attention to detail, beautifully executed by the stone masons…

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What annoys me is when designers, who often do not know how materials and buildings go together, try to duplicate these details in a studs and stucco construction… Sorry – you can’t do these details in stucco!

All in all it was a nicely detailed building but a little over-scaled.  It seemed too heavy for my taste, and the proportions seemed a little “off”…

We had a great tour, then we moved on to the Kentucky VietNam Veterans Memorial…

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The design is unique in that it is a sundial with the names of the dead located on the granite floor such that the shadow of the point of the sundial falls on the name on the day of the year that he or she died…

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It is a little confusing, but a moving memorial in any case…

Time for a break.  We drove into downtown Frankfort; we walked the (small) town and  enjoyed a nice lunch at Serafini…

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During lunch we saw a commotion of people gathering just outside the restaurant and across the street, on the lawn of the “old” state capitol building…

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Today was an all-state peace officers memorial ceremony for officers killed in the line of duty…

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Bagpipes were playing…

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It looked like a nice, small town parade and gathering of like-minded people.  Very nice…

After lunch we walked around the town; we especially liked the buildings overhanging the Kentucky River…

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We soon arrived at our next tour:

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Rebecca Ruth was in business making candy for over 60 years; as a women this was unheard of… In Kentucky in the 19th and early 20th century women without a father or a husband simply didn’t exist – they could not own property, have a bank  account, or do much of anything… She confounded all these ideas…

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Rebecca Ruth is credited with inventing the famous bourbon balls, although the claim is disputed…  There was a nice tour and many folks bought lots of chocolate…

But we were moving on to our final tour of the day:  Buffalo Trace!

Buffalo Trace is one of my favorite “go to” daily drinking bourbons, along with Makers Mark.  But I knew little about it; I was looking forward to this tour!  Boy! Was I surprised!

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The distillery is very old, and is listed on the National Listing of Historic Places…

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Here is the buffalo… I’m not sure what they are trying to tell us about the water they use here…

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We had the standard tour, seeing the barrel houses, the fermentation tanks, and the bottling line…

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Wait!  This is Buffalo Trace?

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When we toured Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam, Jack Daniel’s, and others, we heard all about the original family’s dedication to making a high quality whiskey (or whisky), how they developed their brand, their distinction in the marketplace, and their unique flavor profile.  And, yes, we learned that the family eventually sold out to one of the multinational conglomerates that own the vast majority of makers of wine, beer, and spirits…  Here at Buffalo Trace I learned something different.

Buffalo Trace Distillery is a corporate “made up” brand, and is part of a corporate conglomerate that buys up smaller brands and farms out their services and distilleries to brands owned by others.  Buffalo Trace is owned by the Sazerac Company, which is privately owned by a billionaire (William Goldring and his family) in New Orleans.  The corporate office is in Louisville, Kentucky.  As of 2017, it operated nine distilleries, had 2,000 employees, and operated in 112 countries.  It is one of the two largest spirits companies in the U.S., with annual revenue of about $1 billion made from selling about 300 mostly discount brands.  They claim it is the largest and privately held distillery, but Heaven Hill disputes that point… They also claim it’s the oldest continuously operating distillery, built in 1812.  However, Burks’ distillery, now used for production of Maker’s Mark, disputes this.  According to its citation in the registry of National Historic Landmarks, Burks’ Distillery’s origins extend to 1805, and Burks’ Distillery is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest operating bourbon distillery.  So we know that Buffalo Trace claims things that may just be apocryphal…

The distillery has historically been known by several names, including the George T. Stagg Distillery and the Old Fire Copper (O.F.C.) Distillery.  The company says the name “Buffalo Trace” refers to an ancient buffalo crossing on the banks of the Kentucky River in Franklin County, Kentucky.  The Sazerac Company purchased the distillery in 1992, and Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey was “invented” in 1999.  So, as you see, Buffalo Trace was no small Mom and Pop brand that did well…

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.  The first distillery was constructed in 1812 by Harrison Blanton.  In 1870 the distillery was purchased by Edmund H. Taylor and given its first name, the Old Fire Copper (O.F.C.) Distillery.  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.  This is another unique feature of Buffalo Trace… Most other brands brag that their barrel houses are NOT climate controlled… (Except for Woodford Reserve…)

While Buffalo Trace Distillery is mainly known for its bourbon, it also produces other spirits such as rye whiskey and vodka, plus quasi-bourbon such are Bourbon Cream.  (More of Bourbon Cream later…).

Buffalo Trace is HUGE!  The following spirits are produced by Buffalo Trace Distillery:

  • Self-produced brands
    • Buffalo Trace – straight bourbon
    • Col. E. H. Taylor – small batch, single-barrel, and barrel proof straight bourbon and rye
    • Eagle Rare – straight bourbon and 17 year antique collection
    • George T. Stagg – barrel-proof straight bourbon
    • Stagg Jr.- barrel proof straight bourbon
    • McAfee’s Benchmark – straight bourbon
    • O.F.C. – straight bourbon (with a prior name for the distillery)
    • Old Charter – straight bourbon
    • Old Taylor – straight bourbon
    • Sazerac – straight rye and Sazerac antique collection
    • Thomas H. Handy – barrel-proof straight rye
    • W. L. Weller – special reserve, antique 107, and barrel proof William Larue Weller antique collection straight bourbon (with a wheated mash bill very similar or identical to that for the Van Winkle brands)
    • Wheatley Vodka
  • Brands produced in partnership with Age International (a former owner of the distillery, now part of the Japanese company Takara Holdings):
    • Ancient Age – straight bourbon
    • Blanton’s single-barrel – straight bourbon
    • Hancock’s President’s Reserve – single-barrel straight bourbon
    • Elmer T. Lee – single-barrel straight bourbon
    • Rock Hill Farms – single-barrel straight bourbon
  • Brands produced in partnership with the Van Winkle family (under an agreement established in June 2002):
    • Old Rip Van Winkle – straight bourbon (wheated)
    • Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve – straight bourbon (wheated)
    • Van Winkle Special Reserve – straight bourbon (wheated)
    • Van Winkle Family Reserve – straight rye

So, rather than having a great family story, Buffalo Trace is a product of a giant corporate conglomerate.  Nothing romantic, no great family story, nothing to write home about.  However, it is a VERY good bourbon!

Finally we moved on to the tasting…

We tasted some white lightning and some vodka that they make.  Nothing special, although the vodka is rated to be very good and is at a price point far below other premium vodkas…

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We tasted Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare.  Same mash bill, but Eagle Rare is a higher proof and it has been aged longer… It was marginally better than Buffalo Trace, which, of course, was quite good.

Then we tasted the bourbon cream.  It is a bourbon liqueur, 30 proof; It is made with bourbon and real cream.  A special process enables these two dissimilar products to blend nicely without curdling.  It was spectacular!  (And I don’t like Harvey’s or Bristol Cream…)

Then we added a little root beer to the bourbon cream.  Root beer float!  Add a little ice cream for a real treat!

And, of course, we were given bourbon balls to enjoy!

So the tasting was fun, but the back story was disappointing…

We returned to the Villa and turned in early.  And an enjoyable time was had by all…

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