Chris Stapleton’s Traveller is smooth as Tennessee whiskey, but it’s made in Kentucky – FOX19

FRANKFORT (ENQUIRER) – Chris Stapleton has been able to distill some smooth country blues music over the years. Now he’s teamed with a famed distillery to create a special spirit: Traveller Whiskey.
The eight-time Grammy award-winning country artist collaborated with Buffalo Trace Distillery – maker of Eagle Rare, Weller and Pappy Van Winkle bourbons – on the whiskey, which gets its name from Stapleton’s 2015 album “Traveller,” and is now hitting retailers nationwide (price: $39.99).
Stapleton and Buffalo Trace are a comforting fit. He was born in Lexington, Kentucky, “a stone’s throw from” Buffalo Trace’s location to the northwest in Frankfort, Kentucky, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
Of course, other distillers had approached Stapleton, a writer and singer of songs that flow with whiskey references, including songs he co-wrote such as “Whiskey and You,” “Whiskey Sunrise” and “Tennessee Whiskey,” a classic song he covered.
Previous offers didn’t speak to him or feel like true collaborations, Stapleton told USA TODAY in an interview on Thursday Jan. 18.
As a Kentuckian and a long time fan of Buffalo Trace Distillery and Harlen Wheatley, there isn’t a bottle anywhere I’d rather have my name on. I’m proud of what we’ve made and excited to share it with you. #TravellerWhiskey
📸: @andybarron
When the opportunity came to work with Buffalo Trace master distiller Harlen Wheatley, said Stapleton, “that’s kind of a dream scenario. It’s the company that makes the things that I’m the biggest fan of in the space.”
That connection goes back a decade or so, he says. Audio engineer Vance Powell introduced Stapleton to E.H. Taylor Jr., bourbon whiskey during the making of the “Traveller” album.
“Every record we’ve ever made, a Buffalo Trace product has been in the room somewhere and it’s backstage before the shows, so there’s certainly a knowledge there,” Stapleton said.
The relationship between the distillery and singer-songwriter grew “as we got a little more popular and we were able to make some contacts there, we did do a few barrel picks with them for charity things” including collaborations with Chris and Morgane Stapleton’s Outlaw State of Kind charity on multiple fundraising projects.
Buffalo Trace, in a press release, describes the 90-proof blended whiskey as “characterized by notes of oak, sweet maple, tart currant and leather. Complex aromas of vanilla, aged fruit and buttery shortbread are rounded off by caramel and a touch of oak. The flavor profile also showcases a touch of sweetness, followed by spice, toasted nut and oak flavors, closing with a robust finish.”
Stapleton doesn’t get as nuanced when he talks about it.
“I have kind of a thumbs-up, thumbs-down method whiskey,” he said. “It’s just, ‘I like that’ or ‘I don’t like that.’ And I like this, I think it’s great. I think it’s really smooth and finishes really good.”
Stapleton enlisted some fellow musician friends in the Zoom tastings for the creation of Traveller Whiskey: In addition to Powell, longtime friend and band member bassist J.T. Cure, and Mike Harris, a guitarist, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist with the band Old Crow Medicine Show, joined in.
Buffalo Trace created 50-plus blends for Stapleton and friends to sample, Wheatley told USA TODAY. “The sample that won the show happened to have the number 40,” he said. “On the front (of the bottle), that’s why we call ‘Batch No. 40.’ We spent a lot of time with Chris and his team, and we all agreed and aligned on the whiskey.”
The typical consumer was top of mind, with the goal of a mellow, rich taste without that bold “burn” some whiskeys have. Still, whiskey geeks who sip it straight will like its spicy follow through.
“We wanted to have the word ‘approachable,’ we use it a lot and we want everyone across the country, and hopefully the globe, to be able to enjoy it and not be overpowered by, you know, too strong of a taste profile,” Wheatley said. “But we thought it was really important to have the character on the finish that we have with the tannins and the caramels and things out of the aging process. We want it to be authentic, but easy to drink. And I think that’s what we ended up with.”
Stapleton was truly involved, coming to the distillery for the first day of bottling and helping design the bottle, Wheatley said. “I’ve done record launches and things like that and it’s all very similar to that,” Stapleton says.
In choosing design elements about the label, colors, and type of wood for the cork, Stapleton said, “those things are really important, particularly when you only get one chance to make a first impression. I wanted it to be something that felt authentic to everybody involved.”
Here’s a few factoids about the Traveller Whiskey bottle you can ruminate on while sipping.
“There’s a lot of, kind of, Easter eggs there if you want to dig into the bottle that way,” said Stapleton, who hopes Traveller Whiskey is incorporated into his upcoming spring and summer tour. “I dig stuff like that and, I think, probably people who enjoy whiskey do, too.”
This story was written by our media partners at The Cincinnati Enquirer.
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