On Thursday afternoon I awoke to find a package on my doorstep. It was from Mark Brown (the President of Buffalo Trace Distillery) and it contained the newly printed book of the history of the Buffalo Trace Distillery.
The Great Crossing - A Historic Journey to Buffalo Trace Distillery
This book is a slim volume of only 109 pages, and was written by Richard Taylor - a descendent of the famous whiskeyman Col. Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr. It is published and printed privately by the Buffalo Trace Distillery.
The story opens before the white man set foot in Kentucky and leaps forward to the first recored observations of the area by a series of explorers and partys of surveyors. The chapter is well documented and contains excerpts from various journals and diaries. It shows that the distillery site was a natural ford across the Kentucky river and that herds of Buffalo crossed there and left a beaten down trail or 'trace' some 150 yards wide. This first chapter is a bit ponderous in it's gate and somewhat of a tedious read - yet it is better written than most history books that I was forced to read in college.
Luckily in subsiquent chapters Taylor hits his stride and everything opens up nicely. "In 1868, shortly after the death of Oscar Pepper, he [E.H. Taylor, Jr.] organized the firm of W.A. Gaines & Co., which connected itself with James Pepper, the late Oscar Pepper's son. The firm became successors to the Crow and Pepper names as respected brands. Taylor, along with his partners William Gaines and Hiram Berry, leased the old Pepper distillery and began to make whiskey in response to the greater demand following the Civil War as the country expanded and the movement westward regained its momentum."
"Taylor's association with distilling at Leestown begain in 1869 when he built the O.F.C. (Old Fire Copper) and Carlisle distilleries situated at the current site of Buffalo Trace Distillery." Pages 55-56
This book is an easy afternoon's read, but is an important addition to anyone's library of whiskey books. It is a great reference not only to the Buffalo Trace Distillery, but to Col Edmond Haynes Taylor, Jr. and how the Taylor familiy was intertwined with early Kentucky and the expansion of the post Civil War bourbon industry. I learned quite a bit that I didn't know before, and once I read it again (more carefully this time) I'm sure I'll pick even more nuggets of information. One of the things I really like about this work is that is it remarkably free of marketing schmaltz. It's "just the facts ma'am" attitude is a refreshing shift away from all the marketing puffery and prevarication that goes on in the bourbon industry. If there is any bias at all it would be in that the author is a Taylor and is thus sympathic towards his ancestor Col. E. H. Taylor, Jr. Yet I think the author's assessment is an accurate one. Even though the scope of this book is narrow, its focus is sharp.
I reccommend this book wholeheartedly to anyone that is interested in bourbonic history.