Wafts of bourbon mash fill the air, noticeable even some distance away from the distillery. What you can’t see or smell in full effect from the road, is the extent of careful attention and commitment to the grounds.
As you pass through the stone walls engraved “Buffalo Trace Distillery,” you will find an astonishing array of gardens and plants. This summer, Buffalo Trace Distillery bottled its 6,000,000th barrel — so it only seems fitting to acknowledge the probably 6,000,000 plants that grace their grounds and our community. The hidden gems of Buffalo Trace are the Stony Point gardens, tucked high on a hill where they overlook the distillery.
The Stony Point botanical garden was inspired by Colonel Albert B. Blanton’s love of plants and the natural world. Blanton lived at the Stony Point property of Buffalo Trace while devoting his career to producing fine whiskey and preserving the Buffalo Trace Distillery. The design process was very interesting and full of history. As part of the process, I had the honor of meeting and interviewing Elmer T. Lee, who introduced single barrel bourbon in 1984, along with Maxine Wiley, Blanton’s secretary.
Both reminisced about the grounds and how spectacular the flowers were during those times and I imagine they would be quite proud of the way it looks now. The design entailed the entire Stony Point Buffalo Trace property and the first phase installation included all hardscapes and gardens in the rose and mum garden, a rock garden, a shade garden under a historic beech tree and several single tree plantings along the drive.
Blanton’s rose and mum garden stone terraces were still intact, along with the remains of a water feature. Several David Austin variety roses, mums and rose companion plants (lavender, foxglove, catmint, daisies and more old-fashioned plants) were used as well as the existing row of boxwood. Since then, many rose species succumbed to rose rosette disease and have been replaced with alternate plants.
The colors of Buffalo Trace Distillery are rust orange, and all plantings are yellow, orange and red with some purple to cool it down. New paver paths with circle details replaced the broken stone paths and large-scale cedar arbors were added to the rose and mum garden for structure. The old water feature was carefully excavated and brought back to life with the existing limestone boulders, which had beautiful water markings.
Additional paths and limestone slab steps in the rock garden were painstakingly added in consideration of working around the existing terrain and boulders, which were to remain. In the rock garden section, several native cultivars and unique species are planted, and all are labeled. As with most projects, drainage was an issue, so a medium sized rain garden was installed to capture the runoff from the long blacktop driveway.
While we completed the initial design, the entire area blossomed and was expanded by the Buffalo Trace crews under the direction of the homeplace manager. It is these caretakers who add to and edit the gardens on a daily basis. Homeplace Manager Dennis Walsh is always on the lookout for unique and interesting plants to incorporate as the gardens continuously evolve.
The Phase II design project was installed by the Buffalo Trace crews and contains a variety of shrubs, perennials and annuals. These plantings weave between and work among the historic Stony Point mansion, a log cabin and other original structures. The daylily collection grows each year, with over 100 varieties around the grounds and clubhouse.
A favorite is the arbor that connects the original concrete planters, often used for backdrops in prom or other special occasion photographs. A pavilion at Stony Point is in the works and the gardens are ever expanding and always changing. The site overlooks the distillery, surrounded by beautiful Stony Point plantings.
Why are the grounds always so immaculate? Buffalo Trace has 12 positions for the entire grounds and two people in the Stony Point garden zone daily — seven days a week. Buffalo Trace gardens are free, just like their tours and open to the public.
You’ll find interesting plant combinations, vivid colors, cool barrel containers, textures and master craftsmanship throughout the entire property. Do be sure to take a stroll through Stony Point, especially in the summer when it is full of annual color.
It is no question that Buffalo Trace contributes so much to our community through its history, craft and the visitors it brings each year, but it also contributes to Franklin County’s beauty in an immense way.