Harlen Wheatley with a bottle of his bourbon. Ned Jilton II photo.
KINGSPORT — Bourbon whiskey, distinctively American, has enjoyed an unprecedented surge in popularity in recent years.
And that has the most award-winning distillery in America looking well into the future to meet demand.
After all, you can perhaps summon another pour from your favorite bartender with a simple gesture.
But where does the bourbon come from?
Quality bourbon, connoisseurs will tell you, comes with age. And expertise.
"You can't just snap your fingers and have bourbon," Harlen Wheatley said Friday, as the 3rd annual Bourbon, Bluegrass and BBQ Festival was about to get under way at The Club at Ridgefields.
Sponsored by B&B Package Store, the event is a fundraiser for Kresge's Krew Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes autism awareness.
It featured the opportunity to sample various bourbons while talking up experts like Wheatley.
Wheatley is master distiller at Buffalo Trace Distillery.
According to the Buffalo Trace website, the distillery has in the past 10 years won more awards than any other distillery in the world, including an unmatched seven "Distillery of the Year" titles.
"Still American family owned and located in Franklin County, Kentucky, the distillery's rich history includes such legendary distillers as E.H. Taylor Jr, George T. Stagg, Albert B. Blanton, Orville Schupp and Elmer T. Lee," a history on the website states. "The distillery sprawls impressively over 130 acres and is home to four centuries of architecture — all still fully operational."
Looking toward the future, and with the growth in demand for bourbon in mind, Buffalo Trace is spending $70 million this year on an expansion, Wheatley said.
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