My reporting at Buffalo Trace for an upcoming story led me to the lab, where I encountered this beautiful piece of furniture: the tasting table. It’s here that the distillery maintains the flavor profiles of its products. Each day, a glass of whatever brands are being tested is placed on the table as the gold standard, along with samples drawn from distinct barrels. The day I was there, the glasses were filled with Eagle Rare and Hancock’s Reserve. During the day, members of Buffalo Trace’s tasting panel, 19 employees from throughout the distillery, stop by and taste from the various glasses arranged on the world’s greatest lazy Susan. If a sample doesn’t measure up, they turn that bottle sideways.
Employees make their way onto the tasting panel by first agreeing to stop by consistently, and then, after a period of developing their palates, passing a blind taste test given by lead chemist Chris Fletcher. He uses black tasting glasses, noting that “so much of what we taste is with our eyes.” Try that at your next cocktail party!
Before I left, I had the opportunity to take a spin and taste one of the samples of Hancock’s Reserve, below. I did not turn the bottle sideways.
Photos by Chad Carlton