Ghosts, Spirits & Pappy Van Winkle

I don’t believe in ghosts. Well, maybe a better way to put it is I’m “skeptical.” My wife, on the other hand, is not only a believer, she is a ghost magnet! She has plenty of creepy stories of events that have taken place in her life, some of them weird enough to almost convince me. Not sure why I’m not a believer, after all, I used to call my mother, “the witch.” Not because she was mean, but because she always seemed to have a creepy intuition about things. I’ve even had an unexplained experience or two myself. I clearly remember waking up in my bed one night and seeing a woman, in a long white gown, standing at the foot of my bed. I thought it was my wife and immediately went back to sleep. I asked her about it the next day and she said she didn’t know what I was talking about. Hmmm. I chocked it up to my imagination.

Good and evil? Spirits…well, I can buy that, after all, I was a preacher for 10 years. Ghosts? Well, I know my wife and daughter have enjoyed a ghost tour or two before, so when I found out that Buffalo Trace Distillery has a ghost tour, I thought, “Why not?” Buffalo Trace is located in Frankfort, Kentucky, about 50 miles from our house. I have been there once before while out riding my motorcycle. I had not taken any tours though; in fact, I have visited almost all the local distilleries on my bike, but have yet to take any official tours. Buffalo Trace is very generous with their tours. They are all free. Did you catch that? Free, no charge. They leave every hour on the hour and last about…an hour. Some of the tours, such as the ghost tour and hardhat tour, require a reservation, but still no charge.  So, at the last minute, I sent a message to the distillery asking if their tour had room for 3 more for Saturday night. They responded back promptly that, while the tour was full, they would put on a second tour. Pretty nice to accommodate us like that, especially since it is free.

Our tour was scheduled for around 8:15. We got there a little early and snooped around. There were about 15 of us that gathered for the tour. After some preliminary introduction, we were told that Buffalo Trace Distillery was featured on Ghost Hunters. I had read this and watched some of the video. Apparently, the team was so convinced they would find the placed haunted that they had reached out to the distillery for months, asking to come.

Some of the building were undergoing renovation, so we were not able to see them, however our tour began in Warehouse C, and really, the whole tour could have been conducted there, because those old barn style “rackhouses,” are about as creepy as it gets…particularly in the dark. DSC_0196They remind me of the barn I grew up with. I lived on a small farm that was home to a three story barn. The bottom floor was much like an exposed basement. It was where the cattle came in to feed. We had troughs for them with boards that would slide over to “lock” their head in the stall if necessary. You might do this to give them a shot or tag an ear, etc. The one time I remember most was when we locked a cow’s head in the stall so my dad could cut it’s horns off. He took these big clippers that looked like bolt cutters, clamped on to old Betsy’s horns and, “whack!” off they came. And so did the blood. Sprayed everywhere, like it came from a squirt gun. Stained the stalls. It was always fun to take visiting kids into that barn and show them the blood stains!

I didn’t see any blood stains in the rick house, but I did see a lot of barrels of aging bourbon, about 20,000 or so in this 4-5 story warehouse. According to the tour guide, any barrel that said “Weller,” could be Pappy Van Winkle. Another guest and I lagged behind on the way out the door and, in a hushed tone, conspired as to how we could carry one of those barrels out without anyone noticing!DSC_0188


The guide, who was a self-professed chicken when it comes to ghosts and the dark, told a few stories about odd things that have happened to her while giving the tour. She said that on one occasion, as they walked into the rackhouse, all the lights went out, one by one, in order as they walked. She said that one of their duties is to ascend the ever-narrowing staircases in the rackhouse and shut off all the lights before they leave. She told us that she did not relish this particular job, but performed it and that one time, after she had left the building, she looked up…and all the lights had come back on! She looked at the building and said, “Nope. Not going back in!” Do you blame her?DSC_0193DSC_0194

We also toured Stony Point Mansion, where one time owner, Albert Blanton lived and supposedly still hangs out, if you get my drift. Along with Albert, a young girl who fell in a well and died, also likes to wander the halls, move chairs, open doors and play other pranks on the visitors. The home is now used for administrative offices. We were told the woman who works in this office will no longer work there alone at night.

While in the mansion, we were taken to the basement, where the lights were all turned off, and we experienced a moment of “quiet time.” While there, we were told that several people had taken photos of the windows and later discovered a “figure” in the photos. All of my photos were benign and void of spooks. My wife did take this one photo that, if you wanted to stretch your imagination and ignore the lighting, I suppose you could have some fun with. The closer you zoom the photo, the more it looks like a skeletal figure.IMG_0631 - Version 2

All in all, it was great fun. Nothing spooky happened on our tour. No chills, no visions, no slamming doors or cold drafts. At the end of the tour, we were all treated to tastings in the tasting room. You had your choice of two of the following: a new Vodka they just released, White Corn Mash (125 proof!), Buffalo Trace bourbon and Eagle Rare. I chose the last two, finding the 10 year old Eagle Rare a bit smoother with a little more body as well. We were also offered their wonderful Bourbon Cream mixed with root beer, making a root beer float of sorts. I’m already a big fan of the Bourbon cream. It is fantastic in coffee, both hot and iced. And remember, all of this was…wait for it….wait for it….”free!”

My hat’s off to Buffalo Trace Distillery for adding a little fun to the distillery tour by offering this twist. We will probably go again later in the year, when it gets dark earlier in the night. I think my daughter figures that the more we go, the more likely something creepy will happen…and the better the chances that I will have to eat my words!



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