November 22, 2016


Steve Siler is a song writer, and founder and director of Music for the Soul, a non-profit music ministry. He is writing this column on behalf of Downtown Frankfort, Inc., a Kentucky Main Street program.

Coffee Craftsman Makes Broadway his New Home

Buffalo Trace Barrels Re-purposed with Delectable Results.

Tony Davis is a fount of energy.  He loves what he does and it shows in the enthusiasm he has for his work and the quality of the business he’s created.  And just what exactly is the business of Kentucky Knows, located at the corner of Broadway and Washington in downtown Frankfort?

Is it a place to get great coffee? Yes.  Is it a place to get great hand–crafted gifts of all sorts made out of Buffalo Trace Bourbon barrels? Yes.  Is it a place to learn about the history of this region of Kentucky?  Again, yes.

You’ve simply got to check out this highly unique establishment for yourself and meet the owner who seems to have an inexhaustible supply of passion and creativity.

I had my first taste of his coffee the day of his grand opening a few Fridays ago.  The aroma told me before the very first sip that I was in for a treat.

“My 100% Arabica beans come to me from Antigua, Guatemala which is the highland region of that area,” says Davis. “As my coffee sleeps inside Buffalo Trace Distillery barrels it is infused with sweet notes of caramelized sugars, spice, vanilla, and notes of chocolate and pecan.”

Davis roasts his beans inside a 64-year-old German gas Probat coffee roaster relying on his natural senses to tell him when the coffee is done. No electronic elements are used. Davis says he uses the “nose, the ear, eye and mouth. All roasting is done 100% artisan, start to finish!!!”

Even though the beans spend time in the barrels, once roasted the result is a delicious non-alcoholic beverage.  “I want to create an enjoyable experience for the entire family with my craft!”

So, what else can you do with Bourbon barrels besides use them to age coffee?  I was amazed to see the array of handcrafted answers David has to that question. Among the items you’ll find in his store are Lazy Susans, coffee scoopers, bottle openers, light fixtures, decorative plaques, easels, wine racks, and cutting boards. On average he goes through about 150 barrels a month.

Davis’ personal favorite are his cutting boards. “They represent the family through and through.” They also represent Kentucky and local history with images ranging from the Buffalo Trace logo, to thoroughbreds, to a likeness of legendary Frankfort distiller Elmer T. Lee.

Davis’ signature Kentucky Knows piece includes a corncob nose with a bottle topper from 1792 on the end, signifying the year Kentucky gained statehood. “The long corncob nose depicts an extra long ear of corn which represents the 51% of corn in Kentucky bourbon.  And the nose is a play on the homonym of nose/knows because Kentucky knows bourbon and horses,” explains Davis.

The playful slogan of the business, “Put the nose/knows in your cup,” originated when Davis started mentoring at-risk kids. It has stuck and underscores the “family” feel of the business. That feel extends to a great idea he has for “fire side chats.”

“I purchased empty lots on each side of the coffee shop. I'm planning to create Fire Side chats inviting the community to come have an experience at my coffee shop.”

These events will feature Barrel Mocha served from a crock pot filled with hot milk and poured over marshmallows and include a “Bring Yours” feature. “Bring Yours will be a night for family and friends to bring their own mug and get their first mug of coffee or Barrel Mocha for free!”

Davis, a proud veteran of the United States Marines, got the spark for the idea that would become Kentucky Knows while visiting the wine country in California. He saw artisans doing creative things with wine barrels and wondered why the same thing couldn’t be done with bourbon barrels.  What he’s done with this idea is nothing short of remarkable, adding something truly special to downtown Frankfort!

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