October 31, 2018
Distillery: Buffalo Trace (but I think Ancient Age owns the brand internationally)
Type & Region: Bourbon, Kentucky, USA
Composition: Mash #2 (higher rye mashbill rumored to be 12-15% rye)
Aged: 6-8 years in virgin American white oak
Price: ~$60 MSRP (750mL) if you can even find it
From the Buffalo Trace Website:
“From the time [Albert Bacon Blanton] was made company president in 1921 until his retirement in 1952, his Distillery expanded from 44 to 144 buildings to become the largest Distillery of its day. During that period Colonel Blanton created his very special and limited supply of bourbon – his private reserve – handpicked and stored in what now is known as the famous Warehouse H. Although Colonel Blanton died in the spring of 1959, his legacy lives. Introduced in 1984, Blanton’s namesake bourbon was the first ever Single Barrel Bourbon sold commercially. The Single Barrel Bourbon is the first of its kind.”
Blanton’s is often considered the original single barrel bourbon sold in the modern market (the past 40 years or so). Instead of mash #1, found in products such as Buffalo Trace and George T. Stagg, it uses mashbill #2, a slightly higher rye mash (rumored 12-15%) that is also used in Elmer T. Lee. A lot of effort was put into the beautiful packaging, with the racehorse on the top, the rustic-looking label, and round, almost spherical, bottle that acts as a beautiful centerpiece to any whiskey shelf.
Labeling is also very descriptive, telling you when the contents in the bottle was dumped from the barrel and where it was in the rickhouse (warehouse). This bottle, bottle 183, was dumped on 5/10/2013 from barrel 333, located on rick number 38. This bring us to another unique feature: all the barrels used for Blantons are aged in Buffalo Trace’s warehouse H, built from metal instead of the traditional wood and brick, increasing temperatures inside and speeding-up the interaction between whiskey and wood. Does any of this matter? Keep reading and find out.
Buffalo Trace Lineup of Reviews
The first smell has a nice, somewhat thick smell of caramel, wood, sweet corn, and honey, followed by a moderate cherry sweetness, almost like cherry soda. Notes of apricot are mixed-in as well. That nice sweet and fruity base is supported by light to moderate Wrigley’s gum-like peppermint from the higher rye, and hints of dark tobacco and a little more wood.
Swirling then smelling again unveils vanilla, orange, and a savory and sweet caramel fudge, yet the alcohol remains virtually unchanged. It’s a little bit like the orange-shaped and orange flavored chocolate. Swirling also introduces more lightly roasted wood and corn with a touch of extra peppermint spice. As the glass empties, I smell growing notes of alcohol, wood, and tobacco, turning into musty wood and dried corn when it’s empty.
This smells like a complex bourbon with some extra sweetness. There’s a good mix of fruits and citrus, darker sugars, wood, and spice that you would expect from a bourbon. It’s very enjoyable, but nothing to write home about.
This is a well-balanced bourbon with just a little extra sweetness. It starts with sweet caramel and vanilla reminiscent of cotton candy, malty grains, and moderate alcohol that remind me that it’s there, but hanging out in the back. It has a thinner mouthfeel than I expected, but still provides an interesting brightness to the overall flavor. Giving it a swish in my mouth finally reveals the minty and peppery rye spice from the higher rye mash, with peanuts, more caramel, and creamed corn. The swishing also brings the alcohol to life, but still allows the other flavors to shine.
On my third and final taste, I finally taste light citrus and fruit from the smell that transitions to tea and bubblegum as I swallow. The fruitiness carries over into the aftertaste, which is slightly sweet with citrus, mint, and some wood dryness, as well as a sprinkle of banana. Chewing make the aftertaste linger more, leaving a light orange tang and brightness that quickly fades into wood tannins and peppermint. The wood then evolves into light cocoa and the mouthfeel after eating a slice of rye bread.
The taste overall is quite good, but lacks any punch or wow factor. It’s a slightly sweeter bourbon with a number of nice layers, but doesn’t do anything particularly well. It’s nice to drink but forgettable nonetheless.
This might pair well with citrus-focused foods including tarts and salads, as well as lighter meats such as chicken and fish. I don’t think this would pair well with very dark and roasted foods including chocolate, red meats, and anything heavily spiced.
Blanton’s single barrel is quite good, but I can’t say that aging it in rickhouse H makes it better or different. It’s sweet, fruity, woody, nutty, and spicy, everything you could want in a bourbon. Problem is, it’s just not great enough to meet the hype. Stagg Jr. and E.H. Taylor Small Batch, while made from the lower rye mash, in my opinion are better (and just as hard to find).
For something easier to find that I’ve reviewed, I’d rather drink Old Scout American Whiskey 107. While technically not bourbon, it’s made with bourbon so it’s interchangeable for me. Hype aside, this is a solid bourbon that I would drink again but pass on buying (and I have).