Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Tales From A "Spirited" Distillery

October’s Haunted Establishments with “Spirits” Series

Buffalo Trace Distillery – Frankfort, Kentucky

The wind is rising, the leaves are changing and it’s time for our annual trek to check out some haunted restaurants and libation locations around the country. Today, we’ll discover one of the oldest distilleries in the country where there’s more than the usual high alcohol spirits residing …

It has long been rumored that Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky is more “spirited” than other distilleries. The distillery has a rich history beginning sometime before 1773 when Hancock Lee first began distilling spirits there. By 1811, a three-story stone warehouse was constructed near the Kentucky River for the purpose of storing barrels of whiskey as they awaited shipment to New Orleans. A year later the first official distillery was built on the grounds.

Edmund H. Taylor, Jr.
In 1870, Edmund H. Taylor, Jr. bought the distillery and named it the O.F.C (Old Fire Copper) Distillery believing that wood fired copper stills produced the best whiskey.  Two years later, Taylor invested over $70,000 to build a new distillery on site. Taylor proved to be one of the last bourbon aristocrats, making numerous innovative contributions to the bourbon industry; upgrades that are still in use today.

George T. Stagg
George T. Stagg purchased the O.F.C. in 1878 but Taylor continued to oversee the operation. Stagg let Taylor modernize the plant. In 1886, Taylor revolutionized the storage warehouses by adding steam heat, making O.F.C. the first whiskey warehouses to be climate controlled. Working together, the two men built the most dominant American distillery of the 19th century. In 1904 the distillery’s name was changed to the George T. Stagg Distillery.

Albert B. Blanton
By 1900, young distillery employee Albert B. Blanton was promoted to the position of Still House Warehouse and Bottling Superintendent. In 1921, Blanton became President of the George T. Stagg Distillery where he would remain until his death in 1959.

Migrating Buffalo
Buffalo Trace Distillery
In 1999, new distillery renovations were completed and the complex was rechristened the Buffalo Trace Distillery after the Buffalo Trace Road, one of the major buffalo migration paths running through Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois.

Rumors of ghosts abound  on the premises. A simple white stone house, known as the Riverside House, has been the site of several ghostly encounters. Among those who haunt the place is Edmund Taylor, Jr. His spirit has been seen peering out an upstairs window, apparently still keeping an eye on his distillery. People have also reported seeing a young boy at the house.

Stony Point Mansion
It seems one the most haunted location on the 125-acre property is the Stony Point Mansion built in 1934 by Albert B. Blanton.  Employees have reported hearing footsteps echo throughout the house and attribute them to Colonel Blanton. He has also been sighted in the sunroom where he died, wearing his signature bowler hat. Humming can be heard in the house and employees say that is Blanton’s housekeeper, Sarah, a pleasant soul in life … and after. There are also reports that you can hear the sounds of furniture being moved – maybe Sarah is cleaning … The basement has a cold, almost icy feel to it at times, even during the hotter months. Few care to remain there for long.

Warehouse C
Warehouse C, built in 1885, is another paranormal location. Workers were busy in the warehouse one day when a voice suddenly told them to “Get out!”  As the last man ran out, a wall collapsed. No one in the group knew where the voice had come from, or to whom it belonged but because of its warning, no one was injured. Distillery employees also report cold spots in the warehouse, along with fleeting shadows and disembodied voices.

In 2011, SyFy Channels’s “Ghost Hunters,®” investigated some of the stories and came up with more than they anticipated. (Read more about the Buffalo Trace episode here: Distillery of Spirits.)

Buffalo Trace Distillery is located at 113 Great Buffalo Trace near Frankfort, Kentucky. Visit the Buffalo Trace web site for hours and more tour options.

If you’re in the area, make a tour reservation by calling 800-654-8471 and take a walk with the spirits. The one hour Ghost Tour is free and available Thursdays through Saturdays, 7 p.m. at the distillery.

And, don’t despair if you don’t see a ghost, there are always award-winning “spirits” awaiting you at the end of the tour.

~ Joy

(Photos courtesy Buffalo Trace Distillery)