This ‘Bourbon Pompeii’ will help churn out whiskey intended to harken back to the 1800s.

By Mike Pomranz
January 23, 2019

In the world of whiskey, age is one of the most important attributes. Of course, one of the biggest headaches for whiskey producers is that aging takes time (despite science’s attempts to the contrary). So sadly, you can’t create a 100-year-old whiskey without waiting 100 years — but Buffalo Trace has found a different way to travel back in time: The Kentucky distillery has recently recommissioned a fermenter that hadn’t been touched in 100 years to help churn out fresh batches of bourbon with a 19th century pedigree.

Courtesy of Buffalo Trace Distillery

In 2016, the Buffalo Trace Distillery made what it bills as a “historic discovery”: While working on renovations at the distillery’s O.F.C. Building, the company uncovered intact fermenting vats — originally put in by legendary distiller Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor Jr. way back in 1869 — that had been decommissioned and covered with a cement floor. Buffalo Trace quickly abandoned its previous plans to turn the building into more meeting and event space (too bad!) and instead followed a new path to restore the site, which they now call a “Bourbon Pompeii.”

After years of work, one of the fermenters has been rebuilt in a manner similar to what would it would have looked like in the 19th century, and on January 10, it was filled with mash for what the distillery states is the first time in 100 years. As a further tribute to the restored fermenter, Buffalo Trace says it plans to use the recommissioned fermenter to produce Old Fashioned Sour Mash similar to how Taylor would have back when this equipment was first in operation.

Meanwhile, don’t worry, the distillery will still get its additional meeting and event space. “In the future, Buffalo Trace also plans to use the upper levels of the O.F.C. Building as event space as originally planned, offering another unique way to view the sour mash process and experience this unique discovery,” the brand writes. In the interim, anyone interested in checking out this piece of Kentucky distilling history can see the recommissioned fermenter and the rest of the stuff found under that concrete floor as part of the Buffalo Trace’s complimentary “E.H. Taylor Tour.”

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