Thursday, April 4, 2013

Sazerac Company Is A World Unto Itself

Sazerac Company, often synonymous with its main distillery, Buffalo Trace, is one of the largest bourbon and rye producers in the country. Due to its size and independence, it is almost like an entirely separate Kentucky whiskey industry.

This is because Sazerac is not a member of the Kentucky Distillers' Association (KDA). Consequently, its two Kentucky distilleries and other facilities are not part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Tour, which is a KDA enterprise and registered trademark.

Nor is Sazerac a member of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), the national trade association for the American distilled spirits industry. Asked why, Sazerac says it feels it can spend that money better on itself by itself. Sazerac is privately owned, by the Goldring family, and has additional facilities in New Orleans (where it began) and other U.S. cities.

Sazerac is not completely anti-social. It participated side-by-side with many of its KDA counterparts at the Bourbon Classic in Louisville on March 22nd and 23rd. It typically participates in events such as WhiskyFest and WhiskyLive. The company, its distilleries, and its products have won countless awards. The Buffalo Trace Distillery especially is beloved by serious bourbon enthusiasts for its in-depth tours and products such as the Antique Collection, Experimental Collection, Single Oak Project, and White Dog series.

In addition to Buffalo Trace in Frankfort, Sazerac has the Barton 1792 Distillery in Bardstown. Both distilleries welcome visitors. In addition, Buffalo Trace frequently holds concerts and other events. In Owensboro, the company has whiskey maturation warehouses and a bottling house at the site of the old Glenmore Distillery. Although Glenmore does not now offer tours, the company has said it may in the future. Bottling is also done at Frankfort and Bardstown. Sazerac also operates A. Smith Bowman, a micro-distillery in Virginia, that welcomes visitors.

Buffalo Trace is a bourbon as well as a distillery, a very good bourbon. The name Barton 1792 incorporates the names of two of the best known bourbons from the Bardstown distillery, Very Old Barton and Ridgemont Reserve 1972, which are also terrific bourbons.

At Buffalo Trace, Sazerac produces several rye-recipe bourbons, using a separate recipe, for Age International, which owns several brands and shares U.S. sales and marketing responsibilities with Sazerac. The Age brands include Blanton's, Elmer T. Lee, Rock Hill Farms, Hancock Reserve, and Ancient Age.

Sazerac also produces the iconic Van Winkle line in conjunction with Julian P. Van Winkle III and his son, Preston Van Winkle.

Other major brands, if any Sazerac brand can be called major, include W. L. Weller, Old Charter, E. H. Taylor, Eagle Rare, George T. Stagg, and Kentucky Tavern.

And all that is just the beginning. Sazerac makes a staggering number of different whiskey brands, plus vodka, gin, liqueurs, and bitters. It imports and sells Canadian whisky, scotch, and other spirits and wines. Most of its brands are not household names, but cumulatively it's a lot of business. As a private company, they don't release sales statistics, so it's hard to tell how successful they are, but they keep expanding so they must be doing something right.

One of the ways Buffalo Trace is unusual is their marketing. They don't do very much of it, at least in terms of traditional media advertising. They have several web sites, Facebook pages, and other online activities. Most notable is Great Bourbons, a catch-all site that at least covers most of the company's bourbons. The website was recently updated and upgraded. If you're not quite sure who actually makes your favorite American whiskey, check it out.

As long a list as that is, it's not everything. Ten High is missing, so are all of the blends and (surprisingly) all of the ryes. Perhaps there is a 'Great Ryes' site in the works.


Anonymous said...


Great tour(s) at Buffalo Trace Distillery and Barton 1792 Distillery.

Tours and samples are free!

Buffalo Trace Distillery grounds receive extra care and grooming.

Numerous Community Events held at Buffalo Trace.

Rob K said...

Googling around for info on Sazerac Rye I found this page:

It seems to be oriented to retailers.