Book Review: Buffalo, Barrels, & Bourbon

, | November 4, 2022

Editor’s Note: This book was provided to us as a review sample by its publisher. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

The history of bourbon is a subject well-covered. Every distillery has its story, but how many do we truly know the origins of?

F. Paul Pacult, America’s Foremost Spirits Authority according to Forbes, has released his latest book on Buffalo Trace. Buffalo, Barrels, & Bourbon: The Story of How Buffalo Trace Distillery Became the World’s Most Awarded Distillery is a detailed history book packaged in 200 pages.

When I say “detailed,” I mean detailed! Buffalo, Barrels, & Bourbon reads like a Ken Burns documentary, but I would rather watch the documentary. The body of the text is overly dense without giving the reader much time to digest. With breaks few and far in between, the long paragraphs make it hard to keep place while also inducing dry eye. If the dates or chronology get too confusing, do not fret— Pacult provides a timeline after the appendix.

The historic research is top notch, with a proper index to back it up. Pacult starts with the exact spot Buffalo Trace Distillery is located and takes us far back to almost 12,000 years. Buffalo Trace gets its name from the migrating American Bison that left natural trails between the Illinois prairies and salt licks in Kentucky. However, do not expect Buffalo, Barrels, & Bourbon to be a glorified love letter to Buffalo Trace— the good, the bad, and the ugly history all come through in genuine portrayal.

Buffalo, Barrels, & Bourbon review

Buffalo, Barrels, & Bourbon (image via Courtney Kristjana/The Whiskey Wash)

Buffalo Trace produces some of the nation’s most beloved whiskeys. The book paints portraits of the men behind them—the Lees, the Swigerts, the Taylors, the Staggs, the Blantons, and the Van Winkles. One of the bigger issues with Buffalo, Barrels, & Bourbon is the lack of images to connect to the text. It would help to see a family tree, photos of the distilleries past and present, and how the bottles have transformed throughout the centuries. The eleven photos currently used are printed too dark, which takes away the awe, especially when looking at the Buffalo Trace Campus.

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One thing about Buffalo, Barrels, & Bourbon, is you cannot deny the time and effort Pacult spent to tell the complex story of Buffalo Trace’s development. Although the material is cumbersome, it is fascinating. I would not suggest giving this to your newcomer bourbon enthusiast, but rather the ultimate Buffalo Trace fan. General history fans would also enjoy the book for something different. The best part of Buffalo, Barrels, & Bourbon is getting to drink the different Buffalo Trace offering while reading along.


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Courtney Kristjana

Courtney Kristjana is a leading whiskey taster in the country. She left a career in Gerontology after an article on Heather Greene inspired her to follow her passion for whiskey. She is studying to become a Master of Scotch and someday hopes she is nominated for the Keepers of the...