eh taylor barrel proof 2020 review

EH Taylor Barrel Proof Bourbon 2020

EH Taylor Barrel Proof 2020

Distillery: Buffalo Trace

Type & Region: Bourbon, Kentucky, USA

Alcohol: 65.15%

Composition: Buffalo Trace mash #1, speculated to be 10-12% rye

Aged: NAS

Color: 1.4/2.0 on the color scale (tawny)

Price: $80, usually very marked-up

From the Buffalo Trace website:

“Crafted from hand-selected barrels, this bourbon is bottled directly from the barrel; uncut and unfiltered at more than 125 proof. It reflects the way whiskey was produced in the days before Prohibition, when Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr. was the owner of Buffalo Trace Distillery. Drawn from barrels aged in warehouses constructed over a century ago under Taylor’s watchful eye, the taste is smooth, yet powerful and uncompromising, just like its namesake.”

Company Website

eh taylor barrel proof 2020 overview

EH Taylor Barrel Proof, this one the 2020 release, is one of two annual EH Taylor releases from Buffalo Trace. While the other release changes every year and I believe are always 100 proof, EH Taylor Barrel Proof is always released at cask strength / barrel proof, with the ABV changing every year. Just like Stagg Jr, not only does the ABV of each release vary, but to my understanding the scents and flavors can vary as well. Stagg Jr is already one of my favorite Buffalo Trace bourbons, so let’s find out if another cask strength Buffalo Trace bourbon joins the club in this EH Taylor Barrel Proof bourbon review.

eh taylor barrel proof 2020 smell

I can tell you already that my first sniff is not what I expected. It’s this very dark, earthy, and vegetal caramel, dense candied citrus, cherry syrup, apricot, ripe pineapple, roasted vanilla, licorice, caraway seed, musty wood, oak char, tons of thyme, rosemary, and dill, and SO MUCH HEAT. Think of this like a thick top layer of caramel, vegetal, and earthy notes, then underneath is another dense layer of citrus and dark fruits\ with a little sourness. EH Taylor Barrel Proof smells like it has 20-30% rye in the mash, not the rumored 10%. This is a beast, so I strongly suggest that you let this rest for at least 40 minutes in the glass to let the heat fade a little and allow the fruit to open up and balance out the strong vegetal and earthy scents that attack immediately. I can already say that this smells nothing like Stagg Jr, and it’s even more brutish.

 

Swirling and letting it rest for another 5 minutes makes everything smell more interesting. I’m talking dark honey, cherry, dried apricot, citrus, fuji apples, raisins, dates, rosemary, thyme, roasted vanilla, and ripe apricot funk with a brooding musty oak background and something a little fungal like dried mushrooms and pine. It has a pronounced roasted oakiness, mustiness, earthiness, and dark fruitiness that adds a lot of low end I don’t find in most other Buffalo Trace bourbons. With a lot of air time, it has evolved into a very rich, deep, nuanced, complex, and brutish bourbon that still beats me into submission, making Stagg Jr look gentle in comparison. It’s all so much to process – a constant battle between vegetal, sweet, fruity, earthy, herbal, and heat.

eh taylor barrel proof 2020 taste & aftertaste

The first sip is a tidal wave of viscous and oily caramel, vanilla, apple, apricot, oak, cinnamon, light roasted coffee, cinnamon, thyme, rosemary, dill, and alcohol. This is intense, flavorful, and oh so hot. The dense earthy and vegetal notes are reminiscent of 25-30% rye bourbons packed in with the same viscosity and oiliness of George T Stagg. It’s densely fruity as well, but the sweet, earthy, and vegetal notes lead the charge, as does the heat. The 65.15% ABV is borderline overpowering and needs a lot of time to air-out, but also adds a lot of oomph for me to process along with the viscous flavors.

 

After “chewing”, I taste a blast of intense, viscous, and dark honey, apple, apricot, dried dark berries, dates, oak, thyme, rosemary, caraway seed, cinnamon, nutmeg, cocoa powder, and vanilla. The apple, citrus, date, and peach lend more fruity depth and character to the very vegetal and earthy flavors, while the roasted oak adds to the overarching darkness. I still can’t get over how much thyme, rosemary, and caraway seed are here; and the flavors are so viscous, oily, and hot that it makes every single sip a lot to process. It’s amazing and insane. EH Taylor Barrel Proof is truly an explosion of flavor and oils that coat every inch of my mouth. It’s overwhelms and beats me up, and I admit that I like it.

 

The finish is packed with viscous oils, honey, dried citrus, oak tannins, rosemary, thyme, and licorice. As sweet as it is, it’s also very earthy, oaky, and dry, leaving enduring dry and oily sensations. With “chewing” it’s vegetal and sweet from honey, rosemary, thyme, oak tannins, dried citrus, and a little licorice with a long lingering alcohol tingle and oiliness. Over time it fades into this sweet, savory, and citrusy date note that lingers for ages and makes my mouth water a lot. The finish is excellent and intriguing. 

Place on the Whiskey Shelf

Top Shelf

Adequately evaluating EH Taylor Barrel Proof is challenging because it’s overstuffed with personality, depth, and near overpowering intensity in a way that’s unique even for Buffalo Trace. I jump back and forth between loving it and appreciating all the strength and nuance it has to offer, finding it kind of odd in how earthy and vegetal it is, and battling all that heat. This is like experiencing a huge battle between the forces of earthy, vegetal, and herbal, and the forces of sweet and fruity, where the tide of battle is constantly shifting and enjoyable yet overwhelming. This is the drink version of the Battle of Helms Deep (from Lord of the Rings)…it’s epic.


EH Taylor Barrel Proof is the most vegetal and earthy Buffalo Trace whiskey I’ve had, making it clearly distinct from Stagg Jr or George T Stagg. Unfortunately, the massive and often overpowering heat takes enough away from everything else that’s excellent, preventing this from being “Top Shelf+”, especially when Stagg Jrs and Elijah Craig Barrel Proofs at the same or greater ABV are so much less hot. I’ve experienced a lot of internal conflict with this rating because it is worthy of “Top Shelf+” in so many ways, but I can’t quite get there. In the end, EH Taylor Barrel Proof Bourbon is a domineering bourbon with a nuanced side that will satiate and occasionally bully any high proof bourbon lover. I’m still trying to unravel its many layers. I’m not sure if I prefer this to Stagg Jr, but I’ll report back on that. 

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