Buffalo Trace discovers distillery from 1800s

19th October, 2016 by Annie Hayes

Buffalo Trace Distillery has unearthed early foundations and fermenting vats dating back to 1873 inside one of the oldest buildings on its Franklin County site.

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Buffalo Trace Distillery has unearthed early foundations and fermenting vats dating back to 1873

Buffalo Trace began renovating an old building formerly used for distilling – the O.F.C. Building, which sits alongside the Kentucky River – with plans to convert it into a meeting and event space.

When construction crews went in to shore up the foundation, they discovered the the original 1873 distillery foundation along with fermenters dating back to 1882.

Historic preservation consultant and whiskey historian Carolyn Brooks and Bourbon archaeologist Nicolas Laracuente were called in to confirm that the findings were from an earlier build of the distillery called the O.F.C. Distillery, in the days of Col. E. H. Taylor, Jr.

The distillery was destroyed by fire in 1882 but work began immediately to restore it, using the original foundations. The project, which was completed in a single year, saw the site expanded with the installation of 11,000 gallon fermenting vats.

According to Buffalo Trace, Taylor said: “The walls of the O.F. C. fermenting room are constructed of rough ashler from limestone quarries – the floor is grouted in best English cement…. The vats… are constructed of brick, laid in English cement – the base six feet below the level of the floor, and the top eleven feet below the ceiling. They are first lined with first quality of Portland cement, and this again lined with the best sheet copper, manufactured especially for this purpose.”

The foundation and the vats were then covered with a cement floor when the building was decommissioned in 1958.

“To have a find like this, that dates back to Taylor’s time in the 1800’s is simply amazing,” said Mark Brown, president and chief executive officer, Buffalo Trace Distillery. “We look forward to preserving these discoveries for many more generations to enjoy.”   

The distillery plans to preserve the discovery, opening it up to the public for tours, complete with at least one restored operational fermenter.

The remaining upper levels of the building will continue to be renovated according to the original plan.

Bourbon archaeologist Nick Laracuente added: “Archaeological investigations at large, continuously active, distilleries like this never yield intact remains since the buildings and equipment are typically salvaged, repurposed, or torn down. We were lucky to discover it.

“But, what is even more impressive is that Buffalo Trace took the time and effort to completely change their project in order to preserve and interpret this unique piece of whiskey history.”

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