Monday, December 21, 2020

Buffalo Trace Distillery part 2

Continuing where I left off with the Part 1 of this series. https://www.aerin.or … y:entry201217-223821 here are more bottles from the Buffalo Trace Distillery, this time a fancier faire.

Eagle Rare California Food Mart SP
Ah, the venerable Eagle Rare. One of the few remaining, affordable, 10 year old, age-stated Kentucky Bourbons. Until a few years ago, a single barrel release, with every bottle from one barrel. These days it’s a small-batch release but always at 90 proof. This is also a BT’s mash bill #1, low rye, representative. Single cask store-specific selections are not super rare and tend to be on-par-or-better than the regular releases. As usual, your mileage may vary with single casks. Since I happen to have two examples, a regular and a store pick, I will be trying the two side by side. With the single barrel pick, nose is Manhattan-like, typical BT cherry with some bitter aromatics. The palate is quite tasty, it is lacking any unpleasant corn funk notes, subtle in its complexities, has no wood bitterness, though has plenty of wood spices. All that is well balanced vs cherries and some reasonable sweetness without being too sugary. This does remind me of a good Manhattan cocktail, albeit on the lighter side. Tasting the regular release, it is a solid bourbon representative, but I’m not getting that Manhattan profile from it as it lacks punchy cherry note that the store pick sample I have provides.
Score: B (C+ for regular)

Afterthoughts on Eagle Rare vs Buffalo Trace:
While I don’t see myself going back to regular Eagle Rare often, single barrel picks may be well worth considering, depending on store and picker’s preferences. I also recall having a bottle of regular Eagle @work and strongly disliking it. I’m wondering in retrospect if it happened to have been a bad batch in that particular bottle. As it is, the regular release is good but nothing too interesting to chase after and it happens to be essentially a slightly older sibling to Buffalo Trace bourbon covered in the previous part. Between the two, it is a tough call on what I prefer myself if I had to choose, with slight preference towards Eagle Rare for somewhat more interesting mid-palate and aftertaste vs the other one. For budget and cocktail mixing considerations Buffalo Trace would come ahead though.

Weller Special Reserve 90 proof
Well well well, what have we got here… a Weller? (Terrible pun, I know). This is the lowest-priced of the Weller range at MSRP $25 or so, good luck finding it at that price on the shelf though. The best I’ve seen was at $40 due to extremely high desirability of all things Weller. This bottling label famously shares the same wheated mash bill as legendary Pappy Van Winkle line. By definition, bourbon mash bill must contain at least 51% corn with the rest being some ratio between wheat, rye and barley. Wheated mash bills have wheat contents as 2nd highest grain percentage in the mix, after corn. As with most BT products, single casks of this exists, but mine is a regular small batch release. I’d expect these barrels to be somewhere in a 6-10 years range. Is the hype justified? Let’s dig in!
The nose is a combination of fresh wheat bread and light rye spices, cloves, nutmeg with wisps of toasted wood or light caramel. If anything the nose reminds of Buffalo Trace with more wheat notes and less rye spice. The palate is once again reminding me of a good french bun with some spices on it. Oddly, I’m getting images of a good Banh Mi sandwich with 5 spice pork when sipping. Nicely warm and pleasant back and aftertaste is where it mostly falls apart due to low age and proof of the wheater. Wheated whiskeys tend to be lighter on the palate and generally need higher proof and more aging than their typical corn-rye bourbon counterparts to compensate with more layers of flavor from aging or concentration. A relatively young Special Reserve being only 90 proof doesn’t quite have either. That being said if you happen to see it under $40 it is worth taking that bottle home and making your own mind up as it will not be any money wasted here. I like it a smidgeon more than Buffalo Trace Bourbon due to better balance, but the Special Reserve is nothing ’special’. Very drinkable but un-engaging pour. An excellent introduction to lighter bourbons for someone new or for @work drinking, especially anywhere near MSRP.
Score: B-

Buffalo Trace Kosher Recipe 2020 (94 proof)
Supposedly wheated BT mash bill. Read more here: https://www.buffalot … r-whiskey-wheat.html. I’ll be brief on this as my sample is very small though I’d like to include this for completeness. When I initially tried it blindly I was sure it was Weller Special Reserve (SR). After tasting from a proper glass, this one seems to be more rye-forward and kinda reminds me of a cross between Sazerac and Weller SR. This tastes like a lighter rye whiskey, closer to High West Double Rye I have. Which is highly unlikely with the wheated mash bill. So it’s possible that there was some mix up but I won’t be able to make a true judgement without revisiting this with a bigger sample. If that was truly the Kosher Wheated Recipe from BT, then it’s a decent drink for the price and limited release FOMO. Probably worth grabbing a bottle if you see one at MSRP. Do not pay secondary prices for it.
Score: B- (Provisional)

Rock Hill Farms
Another sample, generously given. This time a representative of BT Mash Bill #2, bottled at 100 proof and a single barrel as per spec. The usual disclaimer on single casks included. When I’ve first tried this blind, I guessed it was a BiB something from E.H. Taylor. Second try, I was certain it was some sort of a Weller (wheated). Turns out, it was neither. As with most BT products that are single cask, finding this in a wild is a daunting task so good luck seekers. The nose is fairly typical to BT cherry, this time with cigar bits. There are also cedar wood and men’s cologne to add woody vanilla notes. The palate takes a different turn from the nose and is on the mellower side of things. Where nose promises lots of wood and punchy flavors, palate delivers some initial rye firmness and immediately switches into balanced and almost gentle cascades of flavors typical BT profile that end in an almost wheated mash bill-like aftertaste that lasts for a while. Not overly sweet, the rye in there supports instead of dominating… This is certainly much more interesting that Hancock’s I’ve had but having enough of a punch to be ‘heard’. Being from different warehouse this is neither Hancock’s nor Blanton’s but its own thing. I keep on having urges to somehow describe this as a mix of the interesting parts of both EHT and Weller that freely stands on its own. Absolutely get a bottle of it if you see it anywhere under $100 (MSRP is $60) as it’s solid drinking. I actually really enjoyed this and about the only downsides here are availability and secondary pricing insanity due to high demand.
Score: A-

Stagg Jr Batch 14, 130.2 proof
I’ve reviewed Stagg Jr before, so this will be super brief. Stagg Jr is good. If you see bottle under $100 (MSRP is ~$70) get it! Batch 14 introduces more eucalyptus notes and tones back cherries but is still fantastic.
Score: A-

George T. Stagg (GTS) 2020, 130.4 proof
Drumroll please… The main event has arrived. To be fair, I have only a tiny 1 oz sample but what the heck, I’ll try. Good luck finding a bottle of GTS anywhere under $500 :(. Oh, the secondary prices are insane.
Nose is BT spices and wood dialed to 11 and is fantastic. Proof matches Batch 14 Jr almost exactly, while being nearly twice as old. There’s some vanilla cherry cola in the nose compares to Jr Batch 14 so this is more reminiscent of Jr Batch 13 for me. The taste is laden with rye spice, wood, and vanilla sugar in a balance that rarely achieved in younger bourbons. The BT palate is there and tiny bits of woody bitterness cycle around to the prominence in the back. The aftertaste has gently fading spices but of medium length and not all that outstanding as it descends into a charry bitterness at the very end. The alcohol burn is felt through and distracts from the greatness, leaving my palate nearly numb afterwards. To be honest, I’ve expected more out of the pedigree and hype that surrounds GTS. Is it good? Yes. Would I drink it? Absolutely! Will I pay secondary for it? Absolutely NOT! As with any ultra-expensive alcohol, the value is in the eye and the palate of the beholder.
Score: A-

William Larue Weller 2018, 125.7 proof
Aged 12 years 6 months, this is a 15-months-later addendum to this review. A small sample provided by friend Charu. It doesn’t qualify for its own review spot. So a good place to stick is here. This smells like a leather shoe rack, dry, dusty leathery whiff with a side of shoe polish. A pleasant version of it at least. This also reminds me heavily of a pine resin that my grandfather used for soldering the smell has that pine resin+soldering iron smoke to some extent. The palate… oh wow… Somewhat sweet with corn that’s been smothered in cherry syrup, dry and dusty with baking spice and wood. It’s really super good. More wood and cherries on the aftertaste. Overall: This stuff is good. Real good! Value: Don’t pay secondary for it kids; you’re just feeding the scalpers. It is extremely worth it at MSRP though.
Score: A

Scoring Breakdown: https://www.aerin.or … age=scores_breakdown