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With a southern drawl and a warm, welcoming smile, the tour guide seemed every bit like a local at first glance. We totally assumed that he was born and bred in Kentucky until he dropped the bomb that not only was he from Philadelphia but also that he had once lived just five blocks from the house that we left behind when we answered the call to travel.
Buffalo Trace Distillery
Located just 660 miles from Philadelphia, Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort feels like another world. Instead of the high rises and parking lots that define the Philadelphia landscape, horse farms and distilleries dot the grassy landscape of Frankfort’s rolling green hills.
Originally called the O.F.C. Distillery and later the George T. Stagg Distillery, Buffalo Trace makes many bourbons beyond its signature Buffalo Trace whiskey including cult favorite Pappy Van Winkle and Blanton’s.
Inspired by the wild buffalo that once roamed freely along the Kentucky River on passes called traces, parent Sazerac Company renamed the company to Buffalo Trace in 1999.
Buffalo Trace Distillery Tour
We know how we got to Buffalo Trace from Philadelphia – a simple detour from Cincinnati to Nashville during our epic road trip. After visiting Graeter’s, the country’s greatest ice cream company, it was a no-brainer for us to visit Buffalo Trace, arguably the country’s greatest bourbon distiller.
But how did tour guide Fred Mozenter get to Buffalo Trace from Philadelphia? It’s not exactly a normal path to move from Philadelphia to Frankfort. And how did he end up with a coveted job working at the distillery where he traded his Philly accent for a southern drawl?
It turns out that Mozenter worked for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) as a store manager for 34 years before taking an early retirement package. Upon retiring, he decided to pursue his true passion – bourbon.
That passion led him to Kentucky and his second career at Buffalo Trace. Hired because he could “make bourbon fun”, Mozenter has been giving tours at Buffalo Trace since he moved south to Frankfort with no end in sight.
History and Fun
During the Buffalo Trace Bourbon tour, Mozenter educated us about the company’s storied history which dates back hundreds of years and survived prohibition.
The oldest continuing operating distillery, Buffalo Trace distributed bourbon for “medicinal purposes” during prohibition. Today, the distillery displays memorabilia from its history including site maps and pictures detailing the long, eventful past.
The Buffalo Trace Hard Hat Tour shows Buffalo Trace Bourbon in its various stages as it transforms from corn mash to liquid gold.
Starting with the cookhouse and the huge fermentation vats, the tour is hands-on – literally. During the tour, participants get to taste fermenting mash and wash their hands with freshly distilled bourbon, activities that let all five senses experience the distilling process.
Buffalo Trace Bourbon Tasting
“All bourbons are whiskey but not all whiskeys are bourbons.”
95% of all bourbon is distilled in Kentucky and the state’s limestone water gives bourbon its distinct flavor, Mozenter said. The remaining 5% is made elsewhere in the United States, but the taste is not the same without Kentucky’s limestone water.
At the end of the tour, we tasted four different Buffalo Trace brands distilled at Buffalo Trace including Clix vodka and decadently rich bourbon cream. As an unexpected treat, we indulged in Buffalo Trace Bourbon chocolates made by a local chocolatier, Rebecca Ruth Candy Factory. All of these products and more are available at the distillery’s onsite Buffalo Trace gift shop.
We will long remember Buffalo Trace’s distillery tour, especially when we drink their bourbon. We will especially remember the tour guide, Fred Mozenter.
Just like his getting the job at Buffalo Trace, us meeting him was “meant to be.” Hearing his story validated our decision to follow our dreams of traveling and tasting the world.
Buffalo Trace Distillery is located at 113 Great Buffalo Trace, Frankfort, KY 40601, United States.
Lunch in Frankfort
Since man cannot live on bourbon and chocolate alone, you should follow your distillery tour with lunch at one of the many restaurants near Buffalo Trace Distillery.
After our tour, we ate a Grilled Kentucky Hot Brown at Gibby’s in downtown Frankfort. Located just two miles from the distillery, Gibby’s is a local institution and a perfect spot for lunch.
Gibby’s is located at 204 W Broadway St, Frankfort, KY 40601, United States.
Schedule a Buffalo Trace Distillery Tour
Buffalo Trace tours are complimentary but must be reserved in advance. We took the Hard Hat tour which we highly recommend. You can make your free reservations here.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.