Historic Frankfort, Kentucky

Frankfort Kentucky, which is located about halfway between Louisville and Lexington, was founded in 1786 and established as the state capitol (as a compromise between the two surrounding cities) in 1792. The city’s oldest neighborhood, which was laid out shortly after the founding, still contains about 40 registered historic buildings. While a number are of interest (and a few are open to the public, the city’s two most memorable buildings are the Old State Capitol (from 1830 to 1910) and its currently replacement (from 1910). Although both were designed in Classical styles, the new building was supposedly (but, apparently very loosely) modeled after Paris’s incredible Hotel des Invalides, with its ornate dome and grand rotunda.

 

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Capitol Hill was surrounded by parks and was home to the stately Governor’s mansion and a floral clock,

Floral Clock

Among the city’s other historic landmarks are:

  • Buffalo Trace Distillery, one of the state’s original bourbon distilleries which has been operating since 1787 (see below for an overview of a tour of the distillery); and
  • Frankfort Cemetery, which contains the graves of 17 Kentucky governors, veterans of all wars since 1812 (with each commemorated on a black granite wall) and the graves of Daniel and Rebecca Boone.

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Somewhat less historic, but equally impressive, is the state’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a sundial on whose face are etched the names of all Kentucky residents who died in the war. The most interesting features is the way that the shadow from the staff falls on each name once a year—on the date the soldier died. And behind the sundial, where shadows never fall, the names of all soldiers who were missing in action.

Vietnam Memorial 01

Buffalo Trace Distillery

Buffalo Trace, established in 1789, is the longest continuously operating distillery in the country, continuing even through Prohibition where it was authorized to produce “medicinal” ethanol alcohol. (And, incidentally, since 66 percent of all Federal government revenue came from alcohol taxes prior to Prohibition, the elimination of this big source, forced the government to create a new revenue resource—i.e., the income tax.)

Buffalo Trace currently makes 18 different types of bourbon, with different combinations of wheat, corn, rye and malted barley. One, that is made with 100 percent rye has a particularly spicy taste and another with another with 100 percent corn has a sweeter taste. Different bourbons also have different amounts of aging, from three to 23 years.

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The tour begins with an animated and video production that provides an overview of the fermentation and distillation process. It then proceeds to the 100+ year-old aging, steam-heated (for use in the winter) warehouse where we learned that all its barrels receive the maximum Level 4 toast (called alligator for the resulting texture of the wood). It is in this aging process that the bourbon gets between 50 and 70 percent of its taste (the rest coming from the combination of grains) and 100 percent of its color.

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From the warehouse, we toured to the bottling room, where everything is hand-bottled and labeled. The tour ended were all bourbon tours end, in the tasting room. We began with a chance to taste “White Dog” the 120+ proof alcohol that emerges from the second distillation process (before it is reduced (with the addition of distilled water) and barreled. Then on to four year-old Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon, the 10-year Eagle Rare single-barrel and finally, Bourbon Cream cordial (Buffalo Trace’s bourbon-based response to Bailey’s Irish Cream).

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