whiskey comparison

Elmer T Lee vs John J Bowman Single Barrel Bourbon

John J Bowman Single Barrel Bourbon is an interesting bourbon in Sazerac’s portfolio. It’s a single barrel bourbon that uses either Buffalo Trace mash #1 or #2 (couldn’t find the exact one), ships it to Virginia, distills it a 3rd time, then ages it in Virginia. Since it’s a quasi-Buffalo Trace single barrel bourbon, it’s sort-of-kind-of like EH Taylor Single Barrel, Elmer T Lee, Blanton’s, and Rock Hill Farms, which should get you feeling a little tingly inside.


I mention all of this because I’m curious how a single barrel Buffalo Trace bourbon compares to John J Bowman Single Barrel Bourbon. I have some Elmer T Lee left and figure it’s a good time to compare two Sazerac single barrel bourbons from similar mashbills side by side. Bowman still mostly flies under the radar (I’m 100% ruining it aren’t I?) while Elmer T Lee is in sky-high demand, so let’s find out which one is better in this Elmer T Lee vs John J Bowman Single Barrel bourbon comparison.


With single barrel bourbons, one thing to always note is that there’s going to be variation and your results may differ. 



The below table outlines key facts and figures for each bourbon.

How do they Compare?

elmer t lee vs john bowman single barrel traits table site

And the winner is...

elmer t lee vs john bowman single barrel winner

John Bowman Single Barrel Bourbon is far superior to Elmer T Lee, smelling and tasting like the more developed and expensive bourbon. Elmer T Lee is noticeably thinner, lighter, and less interesting. With less of everything else, Elmer T Lee is more fennel and licorice-forward, reminding me a little of MGP rye, while Bowman Single Barrel has so much more toasted sugar sweetness, fruit, oak, and spice wrapped around similar fennel and licorice, providing a more complete experience. Sure, the 5% ABV difference probably matters, but it shouldn’t matter this much. And to be frank, the radar chart doesn’t fully capture the differences.


I’m surprised at the result, although let’s be honest – many bourbons this insanely overhyped (cough…Elmer T Lee…cough cough) aren’t nearly as good as the price should indicate. Yeah, I’ll still probably chase the occasional bottle, but based solely on the drinking experience, this particular barrel of John J Bowman Single Barrel is the champ, and Elmer T Lee didn’t stand a chance once the fight started. At least for me, this reinforces that you should consider trying Bowman Single Barrel Bourbon if you haven’t already. You probably won’t be disappointed.

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