HISTORIC DAY: Buffalo Trace Rolls Out 8th Million Barrel since Prohibition

Buffalo Trace Distillery 8th Million Barrel Ceremony. Photo: Seth Thompson

Today marked a very special occasion at Buffalo Trace Distillery – rolling out the 8,000,000th barrel of whiskey since Prohibition.

As Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley put it, “Through floods, The Depression, recessions, one thing has remained constant – us making whiskey.” Dangit, if that doesn’t get your blood fired up, I’m not sure what else we can do for you.

And unlike previous milestones which took an average of 12 years to achieve, the eighth millionth barrel comes just four years after the seventh millionth barrel (filled in 2018), due to the $1.2 billion expansion efforts at the Distillery over the last several years. On hand to mark the occasion was Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, Kentucky Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer and Buffalo Trace Distillery officials, including third generation team member Freddie Johnson whose family has been involved in every millionth barrel since 1942.

“Over the past few years, we’ve doubled our fermenters, added more grain cookers and more barrel warehouses, all in an effort to make more bourbon,” said Harlen Wheatley, master distiller. “We’ve filled a record number of barrels every year, as evidenced by how fast we moved from the seventh millionth barrel to the eighth millionth barrel. Now that we have our new still house starting up, we’ll be able to double the output of our whiskey production, so we’re going to be reaching 9 million barrels before you know it!”

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear added, “I am thrilled to celebrate this incredible milestone with Buffalo Trace Distillery. This company has more than 200 years of history in our state, providing quality jobs for Kentuckians and producing our world-famous bourbon. Thank you to the leaders at Buffalo Trace for their continued commitment to the commonwealth and our people. Here’s to 200 more years of success in our state.”

KY Governor Andy Beshear speaking at Buffalo Trace Distillery. Courtesy

As Governor Beshear spoke today at a ceremony at Buffalo Trace Distillery, the attendees looked on as third generation Buffalo Trace team member Freddie Johnson carried on his father’s legacy by rolling the eighth millionth barrel into Warehouse V, the world’s smallest bonded barrel warehouse. Joining Freddie on the ceremonial barrel roll was his teenage grandson, marking four generations from the Johnson family to have a hand in the milestone barrels filled at Buffalo Trace. Johnson’s late father Jimmy Johnson, a former warehouse supervisor, played a key role in each millionth barrel produced at Buffalo Trace since Prohibition.

L to R: Osiris Johnson (Freddie’s Grandson), Freddie Johnson, BTD President Mark Brown. Courtesy

“Reflecting back on the history of this Distillery, the progress we’ve made over the past few decades is astounding, but even more impressive is the dedication and longevity of so many of our team members. We have many second and third generation team members here, and several members of our workforce who have been here 20, 30, some even closing in on 40 years with us!” said Mark Brown, president and chief executive officer, Buffalo Trace Distillery. “It’s this commitment to their craft that not only sets us apart but positions us perfectly for future growth as we continue our focus on producing more award-winning bourbon for future generations to enjoy.”

Buffalo Trace President, Mark Brown, signing 8Mth barrel. Courtesy

Buffalo Trace’s seventh millionth barrel of bourbon, barreled in April of 2018, has been removed from Warehouse V and put away to continue aging in one of Buffalo Trace’s larger warehouses. After a few more years, it will be ready to bottle and will be offered to various nonprofit organizations for fundraising efforts. Information about how to apply for a bottle will be announced at that time.