Tuesday, October 26, 2010 Cloudy in the morning; then heavy rain with high winds, and nearby tornado warnings; 77 degrees dropping to 55 degrees
Since wineries are such a presence at home, we wanted to see how distilleries compared. We drove through the countryside to Buffalo Trace Distillery near Frankfort, KY. The name comes from the path the buffalo took as they moved from the mountains to the plains for the winter. This trace was later used by explorers like Daniel Boone and by pioneers moving "west" across the Appalachian Mountains. Buffalo Trace has been operating continuously since 1797, operating during Prohibition for medicinal purposes.
The process of making Buffalo Trace Straight Bourbon Whiskey begins with Kentucky and Indiana corn (now we know why we saw so many cornfields), selected rye and barley malt, fresh limestone water, and several phases of cooking, fermenting, and distilling. It is stored in oak barrels that have been charred on the inside to enhance the flavor. Then the whiskey is aged in century-old brick warehouses, and the airflow through the windows is used to control the heating, cooling, and humidity during the aging process. The whiskey is aged from 2- 23 years in the same barrel, and much is lost from evaporation through the wood as the years pass, concentrating the color and the alcohol content.
Our guide led us through the warehouses and then into the distillery where we saw the the alternating heating, cooling, and filtering processes, smelling the bourbon at each stage. We learned the proof must be adjusted to distillery standards, if necessary, during quality control and before bottling. We also watched as workers hand-bottled, capped, sealed, labeled, and boxed Blanton's Special Reserve for shipment to France. We were given rejected caps, which portray eight different positions of the jockey and horse during the Kentucky Derby, as souvenirs. The tour ended in tasting room. Straight up bourbon is mighty powerful.
This afternoon we took a tour of the Toyota Manufacturing plant in Georgetown, KY. We rode a tram through the facility as our guide gave non-stop commentary. Within 20 hours, rolls of steel and plastic resins are transformed into completed automobiles ready for a test drive on the test track. Only four hours of inventory are kept at the plant so up to 150 tractor-trailers bring in more components and raw materials every day. The cars and parts are placed on the line in the same sequence as the orders were placed by the dealers. This means a red six-cylinder Camry hybrid may be followed by a green Avalon, next to a white Venza, next to a black four-cylinder Camry, and so on. Imagine keeping all those components in order through out its entire assembly.
Workers are assigned to one of the two eight-hour shifts. They are on teams with one team leader and one team supervisor. Each person works in four different assembly areas every day. This cross-training curtails boredom and repetitive-motion injuries. When a problem occurs in one section of the assembly line, if the problem is not resolved within 54-59 seconds, the whole line is shut down until the problem is resolved. Each line has a daily quota that must be met so workers do not leave until that quota has been filled. Four hundred fifty-four cars was the quota for line two today. Approximately 1,900 cars are produced every day at this plant.
It was amazing to watch the workers putting the cars together one piece at a time---doors, engines, fenders, brakes and struts, headliners, the dash, gas tanks, seats, HVAC, hybrid batteries, rocker panels, windows, etc. (Obviously, not in that order.) We also learned that all of the exterior steel gets four coats of primer, seven coats of paint, and four coats of clear-coat; sanding and cleaning occur between every coat, and the whole process takes just nine hours.
The information came so fast, and the tram moved so quickly it was hard to absorb it all. But I know I'll never look at another Toyota without remembering how quickly and flawlessly they are assembled.
TODAY'S ROUTE: from Georgetown, KY, US 460W to Frankfort, KY, and returning to Georgetown via the same route. Then from Georgetown, I 75S to I 64E to Exit 172, Grayson, KY