After retiring from working as a liquor store manager for 34 years in Philadelphia, Fred Mozenter decided to follow his passion for bourbon and move to Kentucky.
Mozenter got into the liquor business after an uncle who worked as a state auditor got him the job.
“Liquor stores are run by the state in Pennsylvania,” Mozenter said. “I had to take a civil service test before I could start working.”
In retirement, Mozenter gets a pension and medical coverage from the state.
While working at the liquor store, Mozenter began to develop a taste for bourbon.
“In trying all the different bourbons, I came to the conclusion that the best and smoothest bourbons came from Buffalo Trace,” Mozenter said.
Mozenter officially retired in September of 2008 and that October he made a trip to Kentucky to visit distilleries and decided to look around for a job at one of them.
That Dec. 15, he started at Buffalo Trace as a tour guide. He and his wife Debra have been in Frankfort ever since.
“I’ve never felt more comfortable living anywhere than living here,” he said.
FRANK.: How did you get into bourbon?
Mozenter: It was around 2002 when I started getting into bourbon.
Fred Noe, Jim Beam’s great-grandson, came up to a tasting at a store in Pennsylvania. We started talking and became friends. From then, I was drinking more bourbons, and premium bourbons, and broadening knowledge.
In the store I was working at, it didn’t have a bourbon section and I built the bourbon section up. That’s when I first got into Buffalo Trace. In trying all the different bourbons, I came to the conclusion that the best and smoothest bourbons came from Buffalo Trace.
I have kept a relationship with Fred Noe. He invites me to his open house during the Bourbon Festival in Bardstown.
FRANK.: What do you like about working at the distillery?
Mozenter: I like meeting the different people who come from all over the world. A lot of people don’t know anything about bourbon, I love educating them on bourbon and showing them the distillery.
You get interesting, fun people from all over. I gave a tour to an elderly couple from Italy. They didn’t even drink bourbon.
FRANK.: What else do you do at the distillery?
Mozenter: I’m on the tasting panel. I’ve been doing that for about four years.
It’s fun. We have to spit it out of course. Everything is at 40 proof. We make sure the taste profile matches what’s already been bottled.
We sample all of the single barrel and small batch bourbons. The only thing we don’t taste is the younger bourbons.
We can taste anywhere from 50-100 samples on a given day.
FRANK.: Do you have a favorite tour that you like to give?
Mozenter: It’s in between the Hard Hat, E.H. Taylor and the Bourbon Barrel tours. Those are my favorites. The Hard Hat tour goes through the distillery. I like the E.H. Taylor Tour because of the “Bourbon Pompeii” site. The Barrel Tour is neat because you see the barrels being emptied and bottled.
FRANK.: What kinds of changes have you seen over the past 10 years working at the distillery?
Mozenter: The biggest change has been the growth in the bourbon industry and how the demand and interest has sky rocketed. It seems like each month gets busier. The amount of bourbon coming through and the number of people coming through and how the distillery itself is expanding — those are the biggest changes I’ve seen.
FRANK.: How does it make you feel to get to share your passion for bourbon with other people?
Mozenter: I feel good. Buffalo Trace feels like my place. I feel like I’m showing my place around. I’ve done these tours for 10 years now and I still enjoy it like I did in the beginning. When people come up and thank me and tell me they learned something — that makes me feel good.
FRANK.: What are your hopes for the future of bourbon?
Mozenter: My hope is that Buffalo Trace becomes the most popular bourbon in the world.
FRANK.: What’s your favorite product that Buffalo Trace produces?
Mozenter: Eagle Rare is my favorite. Elmer T. Lee is my favorite top bourbon here. There’s a lot of bourbons here I like.
FRANK.: Outside of the distillery, what do you like to do?
Mozenter: I like to volunteer for Special Olympics. I announce and keep scores for tournaments. And, I’m a member of three different bourbon clubs.