A somewhat momentous date tomorrow: as of October 1, the Tom Moore Distillery, formerly known as the Barton distillery, is open for tours.
For the longest time, Barton was the Tibet of distilleries, tucked away down a quiet, thickly tree-lined street in Bardstown. They didn't give any tours, even guys like me didn't get in very often. You had to have a reason. Barton sold Ten High, Very Old Barton (that's six years very old), and some other similar "value" brands -- don't knock it, VOB is some damned good bourbon for the price -- mostly in Kentucky. They had their business, they did it, and outside of kicking up their heels a bit at the barrel relay races at the Kentucky Bourbon Festival, they kept a real low profile.
1792 put a crack in the armor. That's their premium bourbon that has done right nicely for them. When it did well, and "Barton" started getting some respect, the folks at Constellation Inc. (the world's largest wine company, the importer of Corona for the U.S.) started to realize that they could be getting in on some of the wild adoration popping up for bourbon distillers. So after a bit of sprucing up -- not too much; you can still see deer in the edges of the woods around the warehouses -- they decided to let you in to see what they do.
"There’s no flash here," master distiller Greg Davis told me (that's him in the picture). "You’ll see a true operation. If you’re a gearhead, you’re gonna go off on this. That’s one of the great things: it is designed to produce bourbon. It's not about touring, not about making things pretty. This is how it’s done, period." That's okay, Greg, there's a place for nuts and bolts, too.
If you're looking to take a tour, they're by reservation only, at 9:30 AM and 1:30 PM. Call Pam Gover (502-348-3774) at least a day in advance to make your reservation. And be sure to ask them what's aging in the bottom three floors of the warehouse; kind of a surprise, there.