Why is Buffalo Trace Not Part of “the Bourbon Trail”?

Did you know that Buffalo Trace is not part of the Kentucky bourbon trail?

It all came to an end in 2009.

The Kentucky Distillers Association has been around since about 1880. By banding together, the Kentucky distillers could attempt to reduce whiskey taxes and protect the industry. It broke up during Prohibition but reestablished itself afterward to help with repeal. It’s website says that it is a non-profit whose mission is “to protect the trade interests of the industry whenever they may be threatened and to handle common problems in a concerted action.” In 1999, the bourbon industry was growing and the KDA set up the Kentucky Bourbon Trail with the help of its 7 members (Buffalo Trace, Four Roses, Heaven Hill, Jim Beam, Woodford Reserve, Wild Turkey and Makers Mark). If you visited the Bourbon Trail before 2009, you may have a stamp on your Bourbon Trail Passport for Buffalo Trace.

Sazerac bought George T. Stagg distillery in 1992 and became a member of the Kentucky Distillers Association at that point. When Sazerac renamed the distillery Buffalo Trace in 1999, they were one of the founding members of the Bourbon Trail as a tourist attraction. In 2009, Sazerac purchased the Tom Moore distillery. On August 11, 2009, Sazerac applied for patents on “BUFFALO TRACE DISTILLERY ON THE BOURBON TRAIL” and on Oct 12 for patents on “TM SINCE 1879 TOM MOORE DISTILLERY ON THE BOURBON TRAIL”. To protect the KDA’s property rights in its “BOURBONTRAIL Marks”, the KDA filed on December 30, 2009 Notices of Opposition against Sazerac’s applications incorporating the KDA’s “BOURBON TRAIL Marks”. On Dec 31. the CEO of Sazerac wrote a letter to Eric Gregory, the President of the KDA providing Sazerac’s resignation from the KDA and the KDA’s Kentucky Bourbon Trail®.

So there you have it. No more association. Except that the KDA sued Sazerac after they resigned for continued use of the trademark on “Kentucky Bourbon Trail.” When it comes to lawyers it doesn’t matter who set up a campaign, it’s all about who holds the patent.

Most visitors to the Bourbon Trail will go to Buffalo Trace and will tell you that that was their favorite stop on the Trail. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t matter very much to BT that they aren’t due paying members anymore… The KDA does a great job for its members and Sazerac successfully markets itself on its own. The industry itself is incredibly supportive and all the distillers are supportive of one another.

If you get a chance watch the videos on youtube called Kentucky Bourbon Tales. The videos were produced by the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History and was funded by the KDA. Buffalo Trace is finally included in the series after being controversially excluded (for not paying its dues?). Controversy aside, it’s all good documentary footage and worth watching:)bourbon trail