I think that I have about the best job in the world.  As publisher of the Slippery Rock Gazette, I have the opportunity to publish stories that interest me (chiefly about natural stone and the human story that leads to innovation) and share them with you, our readers.  

As president of Braxton-Bragg, I spend my time looking for tools of superior usefulness and value to offer to our customers. To top it all off, I get to live in the beautiful state of Tennessee!

So, you may be wondering what this all has to do with Buffalo Trace distillery, and why are we writing about whiskey? Well, about four years ago I read an article that stated that bourbon was “America’s Whiskey.” Since I was not sure what that meant, I asked a friend who is a whiskey connoisseur to tell me about bourbon. He set up a bourbon tasting and, to me, they all tasted pretty good. I asked him two questions. First, I asked him what was the “best” bourbon and he said that I could not afford it and it wasn’t made anymore, anyway. I then asked him what was the “best value for money” and he quickly replied Buffalo Trace. 

A couple of years later while driving through Kentucky, admiring the use of stone to create dry stack stone fence rows, I saw a sign for Buffalo Trace. I have now made two visits to the distillery, taking advantage of both the “hard hat tour” and the shorter tour. The distillery is beautiful with a stone mansion, and a great deal of stone used in the warehouses and production buildings. I think that one of the reasons that people like stone is the sense of solid permanence that you get when you step in a stone building that was made more than a hundred years ago.  While I was aware of permanence and tradition of bourbon making, I was intrigued by the challenges faced by the people of Buffalo Trace and their approach to innovation within a very traditional industry.  

For example, you would have to think that prohibition would be a fairly insurmountable challenge for a distillery, but Buffalo Trace “retooled” to create pint bottles of bourbon for “medicinal purposes” that was available by prescription only. The distillery stayed open during the dark days of prohibition, and jobs were saved.

Recently whiskey sales have fallen off in the United States, so Buffalo Trace is making a cream bourbon – made with real cream, not chemicals! They are also making an organic vodka made with white Illinois organically-grown corn. Now, that is my idea of a green job! The human spirit will innovate to overcome adversity, and that is the real story behind Buffalo Trace (and the stone bourbon warehouse smells really good). If you find yourself passing through central Kentucky, take the time to stop in; I think you will enjoy it.

Thanks for reading,

Rich Hassert

Email responses to: publisher@slipperyrockgazette.net