Friday, December 27, 2019

Visit from Dillingers

We were very pleased to have our lifelong friends, Rex and Natalie Dillinger along with their older son, Ben, come to visit us at our Georgetown, Kentucky home.  This is the first visit from our WV friends since my retirement on December 20.  We value our friendship with the Dillingers and were very pleased that they came to see us.  Rex had been to our house on several prior occasions including helping us to complete our move here in August 2018.  However, neither Natalie nor Ben had been here before,  We hope to have them come more regularly.
Mary fixed a great dinner of huge grilled pork chops and baked potatoes followed by a choice of Christmas goodies.  Everyone enjoyed the meal and catching up.  
After dinner we decided to go for a drink at Country Boy Brewing, a very popular craft beer producer in the area.  We each had flights of four beers from the dozens of selections available.  We not only sampled our own four choices but those of others at the table.  I think that we all eventually found a beer or cider that suited our tast best.  The bar area was busy but not crowded and, since there was no live band that night, it was possible to hold a conversation at our table.

Ben, Rex and Natalie Dillinger at Buffalo Trace
The next morning after a breakfast of ham, cheese and spinach omlets, we drove the 45 minute trip to Buffalo Trace Distillery.  We had been here many times since one of their signature bourbons (Eagle Rare) is one of our favorites and the tour guides are interesting and engaging providing guests with a memorable experience.  When we arrived we were surprised to see a huge crowd waiting outside the visitor center.  We learned that several limited bourbons, including Blanton'sReserve, were being released and that most people were waiting in line to purchase one or more bottles.  Once we make it to the desk to sign up for the tour we went to the side porch to meet our guide.  We were very fortunate to have Freddie Johnson as the guide.  He is a third generation employee of Buffalo Trace and has worked here for most of his life.  Freddie knows Buffalo Trace better than anyone and is by far the most popular guide.  
Freddie Johnson
Freddie told us about the history of Buffalo Trace before, during and after Prohibition and how Buffalo Trace was one of the few distilleries designated as a supplier of medicinal whiskey during Prohibition.  We watched the movie on Buffalo Trace's process and products then walked the short distance to the experimental rickhouse.  I always look forward to the smell inside a bourbon rickhouse.  The aroma of the bourbon that leaks from the barrels and the aging charred whire oak is just a pleasing smell.  

We walked over to the Blanton's bottling facility and saw Blanton's Reserve being hand bottled and labeled.  We saw the prized horse stoppers being added to the bottles and even saw some of the Blanton's Reserve Gold being prepared for sales abroad. 
As always, our tour concluded in the tasting room where we could choose from many of Buffalo Trace's spirits.  We all tried samples from their offerings and, of course, the most popular was the bourbon cream, especially with the bourbon chocolate candy.  Ben bought a few nosing and rocks glasses from the Buffalo Trace gift shop as we were leaving.
Blanton's Reserve being bottled
Our group split up after leaving Buffalo Trace with Mary and Natalie going to the shops in Midway and Georgetown.  They enjoyed walking through the boutiques and local stores then getting lunch at Josie's between Georgetown and Lexington.  
Rex, Ben and I stopped at Grime's Chicken for lunch.  We all got the spicy chicken tenders with our choice of side.  My small container of red beans and rice was quite good and the three huge servings of spicy coated chicken for under $5 was a bargain,  We took our meals across the street to Douglas Park where we sat on a picnic table and appreciated the beautiful day for late December.  Ben didn't expect the chicken pieces to be so large so he ordered a six piece lunch was hardly able to finish his meal.  
We signed up for the brewery and distillery tour at Town Branch and browsed the attractive gift shop while we awaited the start of our tour.  This visitor center is one of the more attractive on the Bourbon Trail.  The new building houses a recreation of an Irish street scene with highly lacquered storefronts housing shelves of Town Branch products.  
Fermenters at Town Branch
Our tour started in the brewery area by looking at the grains that are used in producing the many beers that are made here.  Their most popular beer is Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale which is aged in used bourbon barrels after brewing but before bottling.  In the beer tasting room we were able to choose from among the stouts, porters, ales and other offerings.  Our knowledgeable guide gave us a lot of background on the ingredients and production of each beer.

Pot stills at Town Branch
From there we started the distillery tour where we learning about the production of the bourbons, gins, rums and Irish style whiskies made at Town Branch.  We went through the area where giant fermentation tanks hold the grains during alcohol production then to the Scottish pot stills that refine the low alcohol liquid into spirits that will be aged and sold.  We learned that the newly distilled whisky that will become bourbon is stored at rented rickhouse space at the old E. H. Taylor Distillery, now Castle and Key
Tasting room at Town Branch
As with most distillery visits, the trip concludes with a tasting.  We all appreciated our sips of the spirits made at Town Branch.  Our final drink was Bluegrass Sundown, a sweetened coffee and whisky concentrate that is served hot with a layer of heavy cream. 
We browsed the gift shop at Town Branch where Ben picked up another specialty glass then drove the short distance to Lexington’s historic DistilleryDistrict.  This area had fallen into disuse for many years until a revitalization project brought some small local restaurants, craft breweries and distilleries back to the area.  One of the first to come was Barrel House, a very small operation that produces rum, moonshine and bourbon.  Their total operating space is no larger than a four car garage at least half of which is the gift shop.  I had been here many times before and since time was running short, we decided to limit our visit to a peek into the fermentation and distillation area through the open door.
James Pepper Distillery
We went a few yards away to the James Pepper Distillery hoping for a tour but the operation was closed for the holidays.  This distillery is a revived distillery that had been in operation at this location from the late 1800s until the late 1950s when the bourbon industry’s sales were in a major slump.  The facility had fallen into disrepair for over 50 years when restoration began to reopen as a distillery.  We looked in the windows and planned to return when the facility is open and available for tours. 
After leaving Lexington’s Distillery District, we decided to return to our Georgetown home via 460 to see some of the attractive horse farms along the route.  Although the day was cloudy, the weather was warm and made for a nice day of sightseeing.  We had a brief visit at the house then the Dillingers started for home.  We hope that they will visit again soon.