buffalo trace

Colonel E.H. Taylor Four Grain Bourbon Review

EHT Four Grain

The newest limited edition bourbon from Buffalo Trace is Colonel E.H. Taylor Four Grain.   It’s a 12-year-old bottled-in-bond bourbon made from corn, wheat, rye, and malted barley.  Most bourbon is made with three grains consisting mostly of corn with a flavoring grain and a very small percentage of barley.  That flavoring grain is typically rye, though some producers use wheat.  This bourbon isn’t the first to feature four grains in its mash bill, but it could go on to become one of the most noteworthy.

“We wanted to extract everything we like from both the rye and the wheat mashbills we currently use and combine them to see how they react,” said Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley in the press release.  “Not surprisingly, it added complexity to the finished product.”

I’m a big fan of the Colonel E.H. Taylor line, from its Small Batch and Single Barrel releases to the recent limited edition Cured Oak.  Last year’s Seasoned Wood was nice enough, but I sadly wasn’t able to get my hands on a bottle.  That’s the problem with limited releases these days.  One thing that might help here is that Buffalo Trace has also announced a bottling of Four Grain to be released next year.  I hope that’s a sign that this whiskey may become a semi-regular addition to the Taylor lineup.  So, how’s the whiskey?

The nose is rounded and sweet, with an initial wave of spiced caramel and vanilla alongside hints of orange jam and herbs.  The entry is initially sweet, with notes of caramel and vanilla.  A small amount of spice comes through.  I’m assuming that’s the rye grain at work.  I also pick up some wonderful candied fruit buried somewhere in the mix.  Some sweet oak adds a touch of astringency on the backend.  The finish is long, sweet and spicy.  Interestingly, a small sip of water afterwards leaves the mouth a bit dry.

All in all, Four Grain is a solid bourbon, but not a particularly memorable one.  I thought a four grain mash bill would lead to a really complex bourbon, and in that regard my expectations weren’t quite met.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice.  The flavors in the bottle play well together, but it left me wanting a little bit more.  That said, I’d gladly pay retail ($69.99) for a bottle, but not a penny more.  8/10

Thanks to Buffalo Trace for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Blanton’s Bourbon Review (Acquistapace’s Barrel 39)

Earlier this year I was thrilled to have been asked to help with some barrel selections for Aquistapace’s Covington Supermarket.  Adam Acquistapace and I tasted our way through some barrel samples for private bottlings of Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare and Blanton’s.  In the case of Blanton’s, we ended up choosing two barrels.  The first barrel was delivered a couple of months ago and flew off the shelves before I had a chance to review it.

Adam Acquistapace pouring some samples.

Luckily, Adam has stocked his newly opened store in Mandeville with the second barrel.  Since the store opened this past week, I thought I’d go ahead and post some tasting notes for it.  Like all Blanton’s releases, this whisky was matured in Buffalo Trace’s Warehouse H.  This particular barrel (no. 39) rested on Rick No. 14.

Onto the bourbon…

The nose is full of big butterscotch notes, along with hints of maraschino cherries, wood spice, and vanilla bean.  Taste-wise, there’s an initial light hit of spice followed by big waves of light brown sugar and butterscotch.  Some red fruit develops in the midpalate alongside spiced corn and sweet oak.  The medium-long finish leaves behind a sweet caramel followed by slightly astringent oak and a touch of mint.

A pour of Buffalo Trace bourbon from a barrel sample. For each private barrel, Buffalo Trace Distillery sends a sample from three different barrels for you to choose.

This was my favorite of the two Blanton’s barrels we picked.  I love the way the fruit, butterscotch and spice compliment each other here.  Acquistapace’s is selling these for $51.99 each. Great price if you ask me. At the rate folks are buying this bourbon, I don’t expect this to be on shelves long after Thanksgiving weekend.

Thanks to Adam for asking me to help him with these barrel selections.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

2016 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection Review

Photo courtesy of Buffalo Trace

Autumn used to mean a crispness in the air… leaves turning colors…  Now, it’s associated with the release limited edition whiskies.  One of the big dogs is the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection.  Five whiskies are released each year at various ages and proofs.  This year’s releases are priced at $90 (good luck finding at bottle anywhere near that price).  Let’s break down the collection:

Sazerac 18

Barrels for this were laid down in the spring of 1998, when I was graduating high school.  Yikes!  This is the first release in years that doesn’t come from a vatted tank.  Damn close to previous bottlings. Compared to the vatted releases, the new 2016 feels slightly fresher in the nose. It doesn’t have as sharp the rye spice. It’s still as rich as ever: Freshly grated ginger, coffee cake, cinnamon sugar, clove and allspice. On the palate, the aged rye grain provides a bit of zest and slight sharpness to an otherwise rich whiskey. Notes of Christmas cake, cinnamon, dark brown sugar dominate alongside the sharp rye. On the backend, the long maturation starts to show its hand with some tannins and a bit of oak spice. The finish is not as long as I’d like, but nice. Some semi-sweet/spicy nutmeg and candied ginger lead to a dry finish. I agree with Whisky Advocate’s John Hansell in that this new bottling isn’t as dry as previous releases, and comes across as a tad sweeter. To me, the oak really starts to show itself on the back palate. This is one whiskey that’s hard not to like. When it comes to well-aged rye whiskies, Sazerac 18 is still king. 9/10

Eagle Rare 17

Aged 17 years, Eagle Rare 17 is the oldest bourbon in the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. I tend to describe Eagle Rare 17 as an elegant sipper, and this year’s release lives up to that description. Old leather jacket, tobacco, and slightly burnt caramel lead the nose, with a touch of oak and spice just underneath. On the palate, dried fruits and dark caramel provide some sweetness, which is tempered by baking spices and slightly drying oak tannins. There’s a little vanilla to be had with some airtime. The finish is long, spicy and dry. This year’s bottling doesn’t come across as oak-heavy as last year’s, but make no mistake: oak is still a major player here.  8.5/10

George Stagg

The 2015 edition of George T. Stagg was my favorite whiskey last year. How does this one compare? For starters, it comes in at a whopping 72.05% abv, or 144.1 proof. The semisweet nose carries concentrated aromas of dark cherries, espresso, vanilla bean and cola. Taste-wise, we’re talking chocolate covered cherries, cigar box, dark brown sugar and a sort of sweet oak. Those oak tannins take hold, and the whiskey becomes a bit dry leading into the long, semi-sweet/dry finish. Oak is a more dominant note here compared to last year’s release, but the whiskey not as disappointing as other reviewers have made it out to be. An oak-heavy George Stagg still carries itself with more high esteem than say, Orphan Barrel’s Forged Oak or Rhetoric.  8/10

William Larue Weller

William Larue Weller is always a hot seller amongst bourbon collectors. It comes in at 12 years and 7 months old, which many consider a “sweet spot” in terms of aging. This year’s release is 135.4 proof. Weller is always a solid release. The fact that it shares the same wheated recipe as the Van Winkle bourbons makes this one almost as impossible to find. The nose is rich and robust, with sweet caramel, dark fruits, toasted oak and vanilla. On the palate, juicy dark fruits mingle with brown sugar, vanilla, and some allspice. A touch of oak shows up on the backend, adding a hint of cinnamon. The finish is sweet and long, urging you to take another sip. This one’s a keeper!  8.5/10

Thomas H. Handy

Thomas H. Handy is the odd man out in the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. Whereas the other whiskies are 12, 15, 17 and 18 years old, Handy comes in at a mere six years of age. It’s basically the barrel proof version of Buffalo Trace’s Sazerac Rye whiskey. I have a bottle of the 2013 release open at the house, and I enjoy it from time to time. This year’s release comes across as young. Those sharp rye and dill aromas are in charge here. Some light caramel and cloves round out the nose. It smells young-ish. It tastes like it smells, unfortunately. An initial sweet caramel candy note kicks off the palate, followed by dill, toasted rye bread, and cinnamon. The finish is a touch fiery, and leaves a pleasing sweet and spicy flavor. I hate to say this, but I’m not a fan of this year’s Handy. It just feels young and disjointed. Ten times out of ten I’ll reach for Heaven Hill’s Pikesville Rye at almost half the retail price of this. My 2013 bottling of Thomas H. Handy blows this one out of the water.  6.5/10

My favorite of the bunch is still Sazerac 18.  Buffalo Trace did a fantastic job with this release, along with Weller and Eagle Rare.  George Stagg isn’t as good as last year’s phenomenal release, but it doesn’t mean it’s bad.  This year’s slightly oak-heavy release still comes with a recommendation.