Buffalo Trace Distillery - Freddie Johnson and Buffalo Trace Donate $12k to Colored Soldiers Monument in Frankfort, Kentucky

In 2019 Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky rebranded its root beer to Freddie’s Root Beer to pay homage to their VIP tour guide extraordinaire Freddie Johnson.

If you have ever taken a tour at Buffalo Trace Distillery you know each tour wraps up with the best part of the visit – free samples. Sampling typically includes Buffalo Trace’s Wheatley Vodka (yes, Buffalo Trace makes a vodka), Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Eagle Rare Bourbon and Buffalo Trace Bourbon Cream and Freddie’s Root Beer. It’s recommended you pour the bourbon cream into the root beer to create your own root beer float.

To help put this in perspective you can think of this like a four course meal while that final bourbon cream and root beer mix plays the role of dessert. For the atypical bourbon tourist in the group this dessert phase is often the best part of the visit.

In addition to the root beer Buffalo Trace extended Freddie’s Old Fashioned Soda product line in 2020 by introducing Freddie’s Ginger Ale and Freddie’s Ginger Beer.

Freddie Johnson is Distillery VIP Visitor Lead at Buffalo Trace. According to Public Relations Associate Manager Kristie Woolridge, “[Freddie] is one of the Distillery’s most popular and highly sought after tour guides”.

Freddie is a 2018 inductee into the prestigious Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame. To help put this honor into perspective other Bourbon Hall of Fame inductees include Master Distiller Parker Beam of Heaven Hill Distillery, Bill Samuels, Jr. of Maker’s Mark Distillery and the first Master Distiller at George T. Stagg Distillery. And connecting the dots, the distillery formerly known as the George T. Stagg Distillery is now known as Buffalo Trace Distillery.

Soon after the re-branding to Freddie’s Old Fashioned Soda the distillery announced that $1 from every case sold would go to support one of Freddie’s volunteer missions at Green Hill Cemetery. And that leads us to the unveiling of the first check to the cemetery.

Freddie’s Local Roots Grow Deep at Green Hill Cemetery

Buffalo Trace Distillery - Grandparents of Freddie Johnson, George and Melissa Wilson
Many of Freddie Johnson’s family members are buried at Green Hill Cemetery including his grandparents George and Melissa Wilson.

Freddie is a third generation employee at Buffalo Trace Distillery. His grandfather and father both worked at the national landmark distillery. His family roots connect him to nearby Green Hill Cemetery, a cemetery that in addition to being the final resting place for many of his family members is also home to Kentucky’s only monument honoring the nearly 25,000 Black Kentuckians who served in the United States Colored Troops during the American Civil War. The 10′ tall monument includes the names of 142 colored soldiers including the name of Benjamin ‘Benny’ Johnson, one of Freddie’s relatives. (Click images to enlarge.)

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Freddie is a volunteer on the board for the Green Hill Cemetery and is helping to raise funds to renovate the circa 1865 cemetery. A walk around the cemetery reveals lots of uneven land. Freddie says when they first began cleaning up the cemetery they started to fill in the low spots with fresh dirt. After consulting with Archaeologist Nick Laracuente they were instructed to stop filling in the holes because it was likely that each of those divots represented a gravesite where the old wooden casket had rotted away over time and the ground naturally sank to fill the voids. They are now raising funds to help to have the entire cemetery mapped out before continuing with any renovations.

The Green Hill Cemetery, which is operated by a board of volunteers has been in need of more funding for years. Johnson announced at the check unveiling ceremony that he was thrilled to be able to utilize the soda proceeds to restore the cemetery.

“This cemetery holds a lot of important historical significance for the local community as well as for the state of Kentucky,” Johnson said. “We are so thankful for this partnership and excited to put these funds to work to give this cemetery the restoration it needs, and give the families of loved ones buried here the final resting place their family members deserve.

“We are really excited about all this. It’s just in its infancy. They say, there is a saying, it’s in the bible, and it’s under Joel 2:28. It says, ‘Old men dream dreams, young men see visions.’ I’m kind of like a hybrid. I’m an old fart but I still have a vision that one day, when we’re no longer on this earth, we can see this is a place that when people come to Frankfort they will come visit Green Hill Cemetery as a part of their journey. So we are saying, don’t make one spot in Frankfort your destination, just make it part of your journey through this part of Kentucky and appreciate the heritage along with what we are trying to do.

“I cannot thank you enough; I cannot thank the members of the Buffalo Trace team, I cannot thank the Board enough for all that you’ve done. I see folks here that I’ve known for year.

“The deal is, it’s not about us, it’s about what we are giving back. And I thank you for helping us to be able to give back and I hope that the message is one that is appreciated as much as we appreciate their contribution.”

The check, totaling $11,872, will be used towards the refurbishment of the Cemetery.

Freddie’s Root Beer, Ginger Ale and Ginger Beer are made with all natural ingredients, no preservatives or high fructose corn syrup or any additives. Sodas can be purchased at the Buffalo Trace Distillery Gift Shop, in select retail locations and online.

Related Stories 
“Hey Daddy-o” Did You Know a Portion of Freddie’s Soda Sales Supports an African American Civil War Memorial? (Includes 4 Cocktail Recipes Using Freddie’s Sodas)
Buffalo Trace Distillery’s Freddie’s Old Fashioned Soda Lineup Expands to 3

How to Contribute to Green Hill Cemetery Restoration Project?

Anyone who wishes to make an individual contribution to the Green Hill Cemetery restoration project can do so.

Checks can be made out to: Social Good Fund
Memo: Freddie’s Historical Site Restoration Project
Social Good Fund, 12651- 5473 San Pablo Ave., Richmond, CA 94805-4021

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