WKU Public Radio News Staff
Tue July 16, 2013
Bourbon Pioneer Elmer T. Lee Passes Away at Age 93
The man who introduced the world's first single barrel bourbon has died at the age of 93. Buffalo Trace Master Distiller Emeritus Elmer T. Lee passed away Tuesday morning following a brief illness.
Lee's connection to Kentucky's signature spirit began in 1949, when he started working in the engineering department of the George T. Stagg Distillery in Frankfort. In 1966, Lee was promoted to plant superintendent, and three years after that he became plant manager.
Lee's most lasting contribution to the world of bourbon came in 1984 when he introduced the first-ever single barrel bourbon, called Blanton's. Taking a cue from the scotch industry that gained popularity in the U.S. through single-malt varieties, Lee honed the technique of identifying and cultivating the best bourbon that could be produced in his distillery's warehouses. He took into account where the barrels were located in the warehouse, how often they were rotated, and how long the whiskey aged in the barrels.
In 1986, Buffalo Trace honored Lee by naming a line of single barrel bourbons Elmer T. Lee.
Services for Lee are still pending.