FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Longtime Kentucky bourbon maker Elmer T. Lee, who introduced a single-barrel bourbon brand that helped spark the industry's comeback, has died at age 93.
Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort says Lee died Tuesday after a short illness. He held the title of master distiller emeritus at Buffalo Trace.
Lee's most notable contribution to the bourbon industry came in 1984, when he introduced Blanton's, a single-barrel bourbon brand. The introduction sparked a trend toward small-batch bourbons that revived the industry. In 1986, the distillery honored him with his own single-barrel bourbon, Elmer T. Lee.
"Elmer was always ready to offer advice, and was a wealth of information that many of us relied on, myself included," said Mark Brown, president and CEO of Sazerac, the Louisiana-based parent company of Buffalo Trace.
Lee began working in the engineering department of the George T. Stagg Distillery in 1949. He was promoted to plant superintendent in 1966 and became plant manager three years later. The Stagg facility eventually became the Buffalo Trace Distillery.
"We've lost a true legend in the bourbon industry," Jimmy Russell, Wild Turkey master distiller who was friends with Lee for more than 50 years, said in a statement.
Lee retired in 1985 but continued to serve as Buffalo Trace's ambassador.
"We have lost a wonderful friend today, and he will be missed terribly," Brown said in a statement.
His funeral will be at noon EDT Friday at First Christian Church in Frankfort, where visitation will be held from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday.