Augusta Distillery recently welcomed about 200 visitors, more than double the number of visitors on a typical Saturday afternoon. Many people had booked the hour-long “Please forgive me” tour. The tour begins with a tasting of bourbon pulled straight from the barrel, followed by a guided tour of his 45,000 square foot facility, which is currently undergoing extensive renovations. Most guests choose to add Buckner’s 13 Year Old Single Barrel his bourbon. Since the bourbon was named overall best bourbon at the prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Competition in June, it has been in the hilly village of Augusta, Kentucky, with a population of 1,200 people, about 50 miles upriver from Cincinnati. This particular distillery is almost the only place where you can taste it. What the judges deemed the best bourbon in the world.
“It wasn’t originally a widely distributed product, but it’s now available in some major stores,” said Ryan Edwards, president and co-founder of Augusta Distillery. “No more.”
The San Francisco World Spirits Competition, known as the “Oscars” of spirits awards, is the largest and longest-running competition of its kind. In a double-blind tasting process, a panel of 65 judges awarded Buckner’s 13 Year Old the highest rating, Double Gold. This bourbon then won the award for Best Single Barrel Bourbon over 11 Years, and was subsequently named Best Bourbon Overall, coming out on top in a competition that included 503 applicants. .
“We were all high-fiving and hugging. There were tears in our eyes,” Edwards says. “It was just a great moment to be able to respect the competition we were up against, make a bourbon that tastes great, and be recognized as someone that people like to drink.”
In addition to the World Spirits Competition, this year the American Distillers Association will be competing in the 15-year-old version of Buckner’s Single Barrel (Revolutionary War veteran Captain Philip Buckner founded Augusta as a trading post along the Ohio River in 1786). was nominated for the Best Craft Award. Bourbon and America’s best craft whiskey.
Naturally, this high-profile recognition has sparked a whole new level of interest in the upstart distillery and its products, but Edwards says he hasn’t changed his business plan. Augusta Distillery, founded in 2018 by his five partners (four of whom are married couples), opened a visitor center last year in his circa 1883 building once used for the interior of horse-drawn carriages. . Preparations are underway to install a twin-column still and related equipment with a production capacity of approximately 14,000 barrels per year. The distillery is expected to be operational by February, when construction of the distillery’s first rickhouse is complete.
So how does an upstart distillery in a small river town create a bourbon that stands out among the big names? The answer starts with sourcing. This sourcing is increasingly being adopted by new brands and bourbon drinkers alike. From there, it all boils down to your sense of smell and taste to identify a good bourbon.
For example, to produce the first batch of Buckner’s 13 Year Old, Edwards selected 92 barrels from inventory he had accumulated over several years and continued aging. This production produced approximately 10,000 bottles. “By definition, every barrel is a unicorn, but there is a wide range of tasting profiles that we are looking for,” he says. Buckner’s should be “right down the fairway, where all bourbons should be.” Made from a traditional mash bill of approximately 70 percent corn, 20 percent rye, and 10 percent malted barley, the bourbon drips with classic caramel and vanilla flavors, with hints of peppery spice and hints. Complemented by spiciness, it is accompanied by rich oak and stone fruit notes.
Augusta Distillery recently released the first installment of the Old Root 8 series, the 8 Year Single Barrel, and in November will release the third and final Buckner eponymous work, the Buckner 10 Year Single. We are planning to release the barrel. The plan is for all of the distillery’s products, whether originally sourced from another distillery or ultimately produced and aged at its facility, to be manufactured in Kentucky and maintained for at least eight years. It will be a single barrel bourbon that will be aged, unfiltered and bottled at cask strength.
“We’ve always been a buyer,” said Lance Bates, co-founder and chairman of the board. She and her spouse, Lalani Bates, opened the renovated Beehive Augusta Tavern in her neighborhood. “Because even if you start making it…it takes eight years before it sells.”
But as demand for aged bourbon skyrockets and more new entrants enter the market, these barrels are becoming increasingly difficult to find. “When something hits, you have to be willing to learn about it and buy it right away if it suits your flavor profile and age,” Edwards says. “What we do is any way we can find it. Barrel brokers talk directly to our distillery partners, hear rumors and follow them.”
Competition for barrels is fierce, so these days Edwards often buys barrels in secret. “It literally sells within hours, so whoever says ‘yes’ first wins,” he says. “But once you buy a certain amount of barrels and understand what a mashbill is, how it was produced and where it was stored, you have some confidence that you can handle most of it. You get to have it. You buy it.”
A question arises here. Why would he need to invest more than $30 million to build a production distillery and aging warehouse when he can successfully source and bottle high-quality bourbon? “Everyone is different, but for me, to be truly authentic, every grain has to be glazed,” Edwards says. He and his wife recently converted his circa 1801 former bar and brothel into his 12-room Augusta Guest House.
For Bates, an Augusta native with family roots in the area that go back 200 years, it offered jobs and a place in the picturesque river town that was perhaps best known as the place visited by George Clooney. It is also about attracting tourists. high school. “Our core mission is to create jobs and an economic ecosystem that helps our communities,” he says. “We also believe we can make great bourbon.”