October 4, 2018
Distillery: Buffalo Trace
Type & Region: Moonshine / White Dog, Kentucky, USA
Composition: Mash #1, speculated to be 75% corn, 10% rye, 15% barley
Aged: 0 years, completely unaged
Price: $18-20 MSRP (375mL)
From the Buffalo Trace website:
“In Kentucky, buffalo carved a pathway followed by America’s first explorers. Those brave pioneers distilled whiskey using traditional methods and drank it right off the still. They called it White Dog. This raw distillate was clear, un-aged and had a hint of sweet corn. Later distillers discovered this spirit was perfect for aging – creating what we know today as fine Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. We’re still making whiskey on the spot where ancient buffalo once crossed the Kentucky River and following centuries of time-honored distilling tradition. Enjoy this White Dog the way Americans did more than 200 years ago.”
Buffalo Trace White Dog Mash #1 is not whiskey. I’m doing this review / article because it’s the precursor and foundation to whiskey, specifically bourbon. In this case, the precursor to well-known bourbons such as Buffalo Trace, EH Taylor, and George T. Stagg. White Dog Mash #1 gives you a chance to taste bourbon in its infancy. At 62.5% alcohol, you can directly compare this to Buffalo Trace’s cask strength bourbons to see how years in virgin American white oak barrels transforms the look, smell, and taste. If you really want to understand whiskey, you have to understand what goes into it.
White dog / moonshine is not for everyone. Some people detest it because it’s so intense, calling it lighter fluid or rocket fuel. People also have the misconception that white dog is a crazy backwater alcohol that will make you go blind. While true if made illegally or improperly (like in someone’s back yard), white dog / moonshine from reputable distillers is fine, just like the rest of their products. I personally really enjoy drinking this. I like the raw intensity and the sheer lack of subtlety. It’s just fun to drink.
Buffalo Trace Lineup of Reviews
This smells very much like what you’d expect from mashed and distilled corn without barrel aging: full of buttery corn. The prominent sweet corn and butter smell is like lightly salted and buttered popcorn from the movie theater. Yes, it is actually a little salty. Underneath that, there is crushed fresh corn and a lightly floral scent reminiscent of fresh flowers and pollen. The 62.5% alcohol, though slightly shiny and metallic, is nicely subdued, letting the buttery popcorn notes run free. The alcohol smells similar to how it would in bourbon.
Things get very interesting once the glass is empty. There are light, but noticeable scents of dried corn, sugar, black pepper, pine, mint bubble gum, and clove that intermingle in the glass and in my nose. It’s more complex than I ever would have expected. The alcohol may be covering up all these delicate scents and they only emerge once it’s gone.
I can smell some of the same traits that I would in bourbon, but there’s still a lot missing such as caramel, honey, maple syrup, citrus, fruits, nuts, and charred wood.
No surprise, but this tastes like lightly buttered corn with little kernels of alcohol that explode into my mouth, leaving a tingly sensation. It’s definitely hot, but never unmanageable. It’s a little sweet, buttery, and oily from the corn, but also slightly bitter, medicinal, and grassy from the rye. A subsequent sip also reveals a gentle poke of ground black pepper.
The aftertaste begins slightly bitter and malty sweet, followed by light grass, and finishing with a warming sensation in my mouth and throat as the alcohol and oils coat everything. Dryness lingers long after the liquid is gone.
Because it is not aged, it is devoid of wood and oxygen-influenced flavors such as caramel, nuts, chocolate, fruit, citrus, and well…wood. While not every bourbon will have each of those traits, this moonshine does not have any of them.
I really enjoy how this tastes. It’s a contradiction of refreshing and potent that I go back to time and time again. With something unaged like this, there’s no hiding the underlying grains and process that go into creating the liquor. No barrel aging, additives, or other funny business can save a bad foundation. Given how good Mash #1 is, it’s easy to see why people love Buffalo Trace products.
Let’s be clear, I really enjoy drinking this, but I have to give Buffalo Trace White Dog Mash #1 an “Incomplete”. Why? Because it’s not yet whiskey. The point is to provide insight into pre-whiskey to help you better understand why bourbon has some of the flavors that it does and to smell / taste how barrel aging transforms it into something different. Just like every whiskey is different, every white dog / moonshine will also be different.
I personally enjoy drinking this and have bought a few bottles over the years for my own consumption. It carries over to how much I like bourbons such as Stagg Jr. So, if you’re interested in giving moonshine a try, I highly recommend this as a place to start. It’s a little hot, a little rowdy, and a whole lot of fun to drink.