Thursday, December 17, 2020

Buffalo Trace Distillery part 1

Wow, this write up is way overdue considering number of Buffalo Trace distillery bottles (or samples) I have… Which, by a quick count is at 14, though not all bottles are open. I have reviewed Stagg Jr. and Weller full proofs before here: https://www.aerin.or … y:entry200614-130447 and another Weller Here: https://www.aerin.or … y:entry200912-201749, as well as EHT and Hancocks here https://www.aerin.or … y:entry200418-070721… but Buffalo Trace (from now on, shortened to BT when referring to distillery) isn’t about Wellers, Pappy and BTAC only… They got other brands, some of which are in demand, and some… languish on the shelves. Read here… you’ll be surprised by some of these being of the same stills: https://www.buffalot … .com/our-brands.html. They also have 4 mashbills (recipes) that are best illustrated on this picture: … Bill-break-down2.png … in case it doesn’t work they are:

  1. Low Rye — <10% -- Eagle Rare (and others)
  2. Higher Rye — 12-15% — Blanton’s (and others)
  3. Wheated — Pappy/Weller
  4. Rye — Sazerac Rye

BT is also well known for their single cask pick program where they allow retailers to pick a cask that meets a specific product spec and bottle it with a sticker exclusive to that retailer, making the product a single cask vs batch… Or in case of Eagle Rare or Blanton’s (and others) which are already single cask by definition, allowing the picker to find something that they would want on their palate and thus match customer’s interest in a specific flavor profile variation of the product. I should note that cask program tends to have slightly older casks than the regular releases. Still, don’t expect a George T. Stagg in a bottle of Buffalo Trace even if they’re same recipe. Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, Stagg, E.H. Taylor all share the mash bill yet all taste fairly drastically (ish) different from each other and it’s not just their proof that makes the difference. Spoiler alert, the cherry and cola notes seems to be strong trait of most of the BT products.

Buffalo Trace Liquor Express SP
Let’s start with a middle ground staple. This is easy to find, non esoteric, middle-shelf Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon bottle. Except in lawless wastelands, ie Florida, where this is allocated for some unknown reasons. The usual disclaimer about single barrels applies here, as mine happens to be one, but there are no proof changes and I would assume it’s about the same age as some of what’s in the general release. Buffalo Trace says they age for at least 8 years. A good guess is somewhere between 8 and 10 years. A normal batch of Buffalo Trace comes from an average of 25 to 30 barrels though.
The nose is pleasant, but light, cherry pie. Not too weak, yet thinner than what I would have expected from a bourbon. Like standing in a middle of a pie bakery vs sticking your nose into one. The palate is surprisingly spicy, lively and woody, yet it never truly escalates up, but instead does a slide into the aftertaste. My bottle happens to be not overly sweet and is somewhat disjoined from the cherry pie i was expecting from the nose, though I suspect the regular batches are more balanced in that regard. The aftertaste is rather short and is akin to a light wood flavored ride down a playground slide with few bits of ginger prickle that fade into pleasant sweet bourbon numbness. In my Hancock’s review, which happened to be one of the first bourbons I drank @home, I noted that it drinks a lot like a Mai Tai, an easy drinker that just seems to disappear out of my glass without me noticing. Now that I’m more educated and I know that they are different mash bills, I can in many ways equate my experience with Buffalo Trace Bourbon with Hancock’s as two are both single barrels and roughly same age and proof the only real difference being the mash bill. So this bottle is the Hancock’s of BT’s Mash Bill #1. In the end… Do I like Buffalo Trace Bourbon? Yes, yes I do… buuuut it’s let down by its proof and thus thin body flavor profile. The lack of aftertaste is somewhat disappointing too. Fantastic drinking with friends, @work, or in a bar but there’s nothing to truly contemplate over in there after you took some sips. At the price and availability it’s hard not to recommend this as a fantastic standby for casual social drinks or for Old Fashioned cocktails, but I don’t plan to restock this on the shelf once my bottle runs out.
Score: B- (C+ regular release)

Ancient Age
This is the lowliest representative of BT Mashbill #2, shared with Blanton’s and Hancock’s Reserve, among others. The color is yellow amber. Pleasantly tropical nose with a tiny bit of distillate sourness coming through. The palate is just sort of a mess though. Little bitter, little spicy, little woody, little sweet, quite thin at 40% abv and none of it seems to work together. Pleasant and warm aftertaste that’s okay and quite palatable once some bitterness fades the rest snap into place. Okay… I don’t totally hate this and finished my sample. It’s a bottom shelf BT bottle. I wasn’t expecting much, I didn’t get much. Frankly, there’s no point buying this as it has no interesting qualities to itself. It’s no rotgut, but you can do much better than Ancient Age.
Score: D+

Blanton’s (Regular) 2-11-20, 93 proof
Drumroll… and now for a fancier representation of the same mashbill BT #2. Blanton’s! Aside from there existing seemingly 10 different types of Blanton’s bottles, mine happens to be a humble regular version at 93 proof. All Blanton’s releases are single barrel, so usual disclaimer applies as your mileage may vary barrel to barrel. Off the bat, since Ancient Age, above, is the immediate comparison. I’ll guarantee that this one is both older and more interesting. The color is darker comparably. On the nose the sourness is gone and replaced with very pleasant baking spices and rye notes. The palate doesn’t disappoint, rye spice and some wood notes dominate with sweetness taking a step back. Pleasantly balanced and nuanced representation. This does have a tiny bit of bitterness that may disappoint those that like their bourbons sweeter. Aftertaste continues from the palate uninterruptedly into the distance, is about medium-to-long and decently pleasant if you enjoyed the nose and the palate since it differs not from them. Yes, absolutely, stock a bottle, get some in a bar and enjoy it. The hype surrounding Blanton’s is overblown and at the same time mostly deserving. The MSRP is about on point for these and they’re somewhat findable, at least the regular ones are. The bottle and its topper are a conversation starter and you could collect all the different toppers to spell out Blanton’s with the letters under the horse. As aside, mine is a letter ‘B’…. Buuut… I also find that I don’t really go back to my bottle a whole of a lot, so it mostly sits on the shelf. Whether or not it’s my taste preference for some of the sweeter faire or my particular bottle… is unclear. As with many other brands from BT, the Blanton’s Private barrel selection tends to be a few years older and will generally match the flavor preference of the person that picks it, but will be same 93 proof. Whether or not that justifies extra price depends if yours and picker’s palates match. Mine is the regular single barrel, so I can only grade on my subjective preferences.
Score: B

Sazerac Rye, Regular, 90 proof
Yet another BT Mashbill representative, this time it is #4, a rye bill. Outrun of this mostly consists of Sazerac Rye and the two BTAC bottles, so think of it what you will in terms of expectations. The nose is spicy rye bread and little bits of dill but those are subdued. On the palate this somewhat falls apart, rye palate greatness fights with low proof. Crisp and versatile, this isn’t anything I would call ’special’. Tasty and disappointing at the same time. Aftertaste fades into watery notes quite fast. The palate and aftertaste happen to be on the lighter side of the rye spectrum in terms of overall balance compared to say Pikesville Rye. Overall I like it more than Pikesville but that lack of palate and light aftertaste are both suggesting to me that this bottling is primarily aimed at cocktails and I’m sure it will excel at it. Somewhat decently sippable; this is neither disappointing, nor something that I would seek to keep around. Ask for it in your rye cocktail at the bar though. You won’t be disappointed with the result.
Score: C+

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