June 17, 2009

Colonel Albert Bacon Blanton

Those who know high-end whiskey are no doubt familiar with Blanton's Single Barrel Bourbon. The details about the man for whom that bourbon is named may be less known. Here's a quick bio.

Col. Albert B. Blanton entered the bourbon industy as a 16 year old in 1897, when he was hired as a clerk in what was then called the O.F.C Distillery in Kentucky. After learning about most of the aspects of bourbon making, Blanton was made the plant manager in 1912, at the same time the distillery changed names to George T. Stagg. A few years later, when Prohibition struck, Blanton kept the distillery alive by bottling bourbon, under Federal license, for medicinal uses. Blanton's was the only Kentucky distillery that did so, and was one of only 4 in the United States given this permission. Blanton was again promoted, this time to president, in 1921.

Near the end of Prohibition, around 1929, the George T. Stagg Distillery was sold off to Schenley Distillers Corporation. Blanton stayed on as plant manager and distiller, and guided the distillery into the more modern age of bourbon production in the 1930's and 1940's. Blanton retired in 1953, and in his honor, the plant was renamed the Albert B. Blanton Distillery.

In 1959, Albert Blanton died. He was one of the very few industy men to be part of bourbon both before and after Prohibition, and most importantly was able to use the traditions of bourbon making that he knew to shape the modern face of the industry. In 1992, Blanton's Single Barrel Bourbon, the first of its type, was introduced by Buffalo Trace Master Distiller Emeritus Elmer T. Lee to celebrate Blanton and his accomplishments.

Also noteworthy, the Albert B. Blanton Distillery became the Ancient Age Distillery in 1962, and in 1992 the physical premises were bought by Sazerac. In 2001, the plant became what we know today as Buffalo Trace. A statute of Blanton stands on the site, and its base reads,

Loved And Respected
Master Distiller And
True Kentucky Gentleman.
He Dedicated 55 Years Of His
Life To The Service Of
His Community And His Company.
That His Inspired Leadership
May Live In The Minds Of Those
With Whom He Lived And Of
Those Who Follow. This Memorial
Is Erected With Gratitude And Honor.

Oh, and Col. Blanton was not in the military - his title of Colonel is a civic distinction that was bestowed upon him by the State of Kentucky.

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