• "Stills For Sale," advertisement from an 1809 issue of the Kentucky Gazette. Courtesy of Lexington Public Library Kentucky Room.

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    Image 4 of Kentucky gazette (Lexington, Ky. : 1809), July 23, 1819
    • Date
    • 1809
    • Creator
    • Kentucky gazette (Lexington, Ky. : 1809).
    • Rights
    • This digital resource may be freely searched and displayed. Permission must be received for subsequent distribution in print or electronically. Physical rights are retained by the owning repository. Copyright is retained in accordance with U. S. copy... more
      This digital resource may be freely searched and displayed. Permission must be received for subsequent distribution in print or electronically. Physical rights are retained by the owning repository. Copyright is retained in accordance with U. S. copyright laws. Please go to http://kdl.kyvl.org for more information. less
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    • Kentucky Digital Library; Lexington Public Library
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    • http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt73ff3kwx8f_4

  • Selected sheets from Sanborn's surveys of the distilleries and warehouses of KY and TN, 1910. Courtesy of the University of Kentucky Special Collections Library.

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    Sanborn's surveys of the distilleries and warehouses of KY and TN
    • Date
    • 1910
    • Creator
    • Sanborn Map Company.
    • Rights
    • This digital resource may be freely searched and displayed. Permission must be received for subsequent distribution in print or electronically. Physical rights are retained by the owning repository. Copyright is retained in accordance with U. S. copy... more
      This digital resource may be freely searched and displayed. Permission must be received for subsequent distribution in print or electronically. Physical rights are retained by the owning repository. Copyright is retained in accordance with U. S. copyright laws. Please go to http://kdl.kyvl.org for more information. less
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    • http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt7tdz02zw0q_1/

  • Clip from interview with Elmer Lee, who discusses quality of pre-prohibition bourbon. Courtesy of the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Special Collections Library.

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    Interview with Elmer. Lee, 2008
    • Date
    • 2008
    • Creator
    • Elmer T. Lee; interviewee. Thomas Troland; interviewer.
    • Description
    • Elmer T. Lee, retired master distiller of the distillery now known as Buffalo Trace, was born in Frankfort in 1919 and came to work at the distillery in 1949. Before beginning work at Buffalo Trace, he served in World War II and received a degree in ... more
      Elmer T. Lee, retired master distiller of the distillery now known as Buffalo Trace, was born in Frankfort in 1919 and came to work at the distillery in 1949. Before beginning work at Buffalo Trace, he served in World War II and received a degree in engineering from the University of Kentucky. Lee describes his childhood in Kentucky and explains how he began working at the distillery as an engineer and rose to the position of plant manager and, later, master distiller. In this interview, Lee discusses changes to the distillery over time, including changes in ownership, modernization of the production process and changes in the brands produced. Lee describes the addition of single-barrel bourbons to the distillery's products, including his own brand, Elmer T. Lee. He describes the aging and tasting processes and explains how he selects the bourbon for the Elmer T. Lee brand. Lee also describes changes felt by the bourbon industry as a whole, such as the fluctuation of bourbon's popularity in the marketplace and the growth in demand for premium bourbons. In addition, Lee speculates about the future of the bourbon industry. less
    • Rights
    • This digital resource may be freely searched and displayed. Permission must be received for subsequent distribution in print or electronically. Physical rights are retained by the owning repository. Copyright is retained in accordance with U. S. copy... more
      This digital resource may be freely searched and displayed. Permission must be received for subsequent distribution in print or electronically. Physical rights are retained by the owning repository. Copyright is retained in accordance with U. S. copyright laws. Please go to http://kdl.kyvl.org for more information. less
    • Partner
    • Kentucky Digital Library; University of Kentucky
    • Is Part Of
    • http://kdl.kyvl.org/catalog/xt708k74tx0z/

Early colonists brought ales and wines with them to the New World. They continued to import, but also began producing locally. Distillation – the process of boiling a liquid to separate the components – is a process that has been used worldwide since ancient times. Distillation of fermented solutions such as beer, wine or mead results in a product with a higher alcohol content. Distilled alcohol can be stored longer than beers and wines, so producing distilled beverages became a good way for farmers to use excess grain to produce a marketable product. Through the mid-18th century, most spirits were produced by small farmer-distillers. There were no laws to limit production and excess product was easy to store, transport, trade and sell.