Buffalo Trace Restarts Col. E.H. Taylor Jr’s 1883 Fermentation Tank for the 1st Time in a Century
Nearly a century after his death in 1922, Col. E.H. Taylor Jr. is still making bourbon headlines. It’s pretty incredible when you think about the influence this man has had on the distilled spirits and more specifically the bourbon industry. He’s often referred to as “the father of the modern bourbon industry” and he was personally involved in the passing the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897 – an act that preceded the Pure Food and Drug Act by nine years.
Back in 2016 as the bourbon boom was in full swing and Buffalo Trace Distillery the home of Col. Taylor’s original O.F.C. (Old Fire Copper) Distillery was busy expanding its guest experience and event space. While renovations began, those renovations turned to excavation when they discovered that hidden under 50 plus years of concrete and dirt was the foundation of original 1869 distillery, the expanded 1873 distillery and many parts of the 1883 O.F.C. Distillery.
After two years of excavation Buffalo Trace opened to the public what is now commonly referred to as Bourbon Pompeii. Part of that discovery was the unearthing of eight fermentation tanks. The renovated brick and copper lined tank is 17′ x 11′ x 4′ deep and holds 3,200 gallons of mash. The mash will ferment in this tank for five to seven days. In comparison, the fermentation tanks that Buffalo Trace normally uses are stainless steel and they hold about 92,000 gallons of mash.
“This site was buried in concrete and forgotten. And as we were uncovering everything and finding all of these stages of ruins and artifacts, it was like our very own Pompeii, right in the heart of Kentucky, a Bourbon Pompeii,” said Nicolas Laracuente, Distillery Archaeologist.
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Once uncovered, the distillery decided to bring one of the fermenters back online. The top of Fermenter No. 7 has been lined with some of the cleaned-up bricks that were uncovered during the excavation, and was relined with copper like it would have been during Taylor’s day. After adding piping to connect the fermenter with the distillery’s micro-still, the fermenter was tested earlier this month and then filled with a sour mash for the first time in 100 years on the morning of Jan. 10th, 2019.
What Bourbon is being Made from this Fermentation Tank?
As a testament to Taylor’s legacy at Buffalo Trace, the distillery plans to use the fermenter to produce Old Fashioned Sour Mash, similar to how Taylor did nearly 150 years ago. The distillery applied for a patent on this sour mash process and received patent pending status in 2017.
The O.F.C. Building, including the recommissioned fermenter and other distillery remnants can be seen on the distillery’s Col. E.H. Taylor Jr. Tour. The tour, which allows visitors to get up close with the now active fermenter, also makes stops at the Old Taylor House and Warehouse C.
See You in Four to Six Years?
The E.H. Taylor, Jr. Collection Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey does not include an age statement. Not surprisingly, all of the E.H. Taylor Jr. bourbon coming out of the distillery today is Bottled-in-Bond. I would expect to see a Spring edition of this small batch or single barrel Col. E.H. Taylor Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey in four to six years but it will probably age longer.
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