Tag Archives: buffalo trace distillery

Old Weller Antique 107 Review

Distiller: Buffalo Trace. ABV: 53.5%. No age statement. Mashbill: undisclosed (wheated). Price: $25 (in theory).

Old Weller Antique is part of Buffalo Trace’s knockout line of (formerly) affordable wheated bourbons, which also includes the Weller Special Reserve and the Weller 12. All three use wheat as the flavoring grain rather than rye, and all three used to be accessible at very fair prices. As recently as Spring 2015, you could find the top-of-the-line Weller 12 on shelves in CA for under $30, and the other two were $5-10 cheaper.

Alas, some weisenheimer at GQ or Maxim or some equally august publication had to go and deem the Weller 12 “the next best thing to Pappy van Winkle,” based on the fact that the Weller line shares a distillery, mashbill, and warehouse with the infamous “best bourbon in the world.”

In weeks, anything with the name “Weller” on the bottle vanished from shelves everywhere. When the Wellers showed up again, they were marked up by 25-50%. Then more. I nearly hit the floor when I saw a bottle of Weller 12 at a store in Glendale, CA, for $149.99. I asked the seller if anyone bought it at that price. “They do,” he said. “Matter of fact, I just sold a case.”

So let’s get to the juice.

The nose on the Old Weller Antique is big and bold sweetness with lots of fruit, caramel and vanilla. On the palate, it has a chewy texture of sweet caramel apples drizzled with fresh honey.  Then comes a spicy punch of cinnamon–a fist wrapped in a lace glove of floral notes. Cinnamon and heat linger on the medium finish.

It’s got a bite the Weller 12 doesn’t–no surprise since it’s 107 proof, versus the Weller 12’s 90, plus it’s about five years younger. Don’t pay through the nose for it, and if you find it, keep it classy and don’t buy more than two bottles–nobody likes a hoarder.

But at a fair price, this remains one of the beat deals around. Cheers, friends! – JTR & BO

Caribou Crossing Canadian Whisky Review

Producer: Sazerac/Buffalo Trace. Distiller: undisclosed. ABV: 40%. Age: NAS. Mashbill: undisclosed (blend). Price: $45-50.

A salute to our friends up North tonight with the Caribou Crossing — billed as Canada’s first single-barrel whisky since the 19th century.

I jumped on this when it popped up at K&L Wines Hollywood a few months back as a way to start expanding my palate for Canadian whisky. Until then, I’d had little, and only truly enjoyed the Lot 40 Rye. (I know some of you will say Green Apple Jolly Ranchers, but I love it.) The Caribou Crossing came recommended by Canadian Whisky guru Davin de Kergommeaux, and got a respectful writeup from Mark Bylok in his fine book The Whisky Cabinet. Good start.

How is it? A very light but enjoyable dram — though not the revelation the Lot 40 was. Nose: Rye, plum, fruitcake, malted milk. Marzipan. Maybe a touch of jasmine. Plus a whiff of neutral grain spirit for the first few drams — uh oh — though this faded with a week or two and 1/3 of the bottle gone. Palate: orange marmalade, with alternating stewed fruits and preserves. Mouthfeel is where it falls down. At 40% ABV, it’s awfully light. The Lot 40 is 40% too, but a flavor bomb. The Caribou Crossing is much shyer. Finish: very little to speak of, just a hint of almond oil and pencil shavings.

As a Sazerac/Buffalo Trace product meant to raise Canadian whisky’s profile in the US — hand-picked from 200,000+ barrels of Canadian juice that Saz/BT has laid up — why play into the American prejudices about Canadian whisky by releasing it at such a low proof?

I’d be quite curious to try a more potent future release along these lines. As for the Caribou Crossing, I’m glad I tried it. But I’m getting another Lot 40 next. – BO

Col. E.H. Taylor Small Batch Bourbon

Distiller: Buffalo Trace. 50% ABV. Age: 4+ years. Mashbill: BT’s Mash Bill no. 1 – exact proportions undisclosed, but 10% or less rye. Price: $40-45.

If anybody’s hit the sweet spot between tradition and innovation, it’s Buffalo Trace. There’s their fine standard offering, old standbys like Blanton’s, and their enormously ambitious and wide-ranging Experimental Collection — an effort to systematize and track the effects of everything from what floor in the warehouse the whiskey was aged in to what part of the tree the barrel was made from.

Along these we have BT’s Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. series, honoring a man who was an innovator of his time and helped pass the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897.

The Col. Taylor Rye is big, bold, and one of my favorites in the category. The Small Batch Bourbon is big and bold too, but for me, less successful.

The nose has the standard BT Mashbill no. 1 profile of baked goods and dark oak, but there’s an odd unintegrated note there too: anise? It’s 50% ABV, but feels even hotter on the tongue — harsh where I want it to be rich. The palate brings notes of shoe polish and wood varnish to the caramel and oak.

This is a confrontational bourbon, not a masterpiece of integration like Blanton’s or BT’s Rock Hill Farms. Not a daily drinker for me, and not for the faint of heart. But on a night when I’m looking for a challenge, it can still hit the spot. – BO

Buy Col. E.H. Taylor Whiskey online at Mash + Grape

Colonel E.H. Taylor Straight Rye Review

Distiller: Buffalo Trace. 50% ABV.  Mashbill: rye and barley (proportions undisclosed, but at least 51% rye, likely higher, and no corn). Price: $60-70.

The Colonel E.H. Taylor Rye is part of the Buffalo Trace lineup honoring whiskey legend Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr., great-nephew to President Zachary Taylor and proponent of the bottled-in-bond act.

It’s fascinating to taste this side-by-side with one of the many fine LDI ryes out there: think Willett 8-year-old rye or Bulleit’s standard-issue rye. Massive contrast. While the LDIs jump out of the glass with candied lemon, burnt orange, maybe mint and chamomile, and always a ton of sweetness, the Taylor’s a different story.

The Taylor is darker on the nose, enigmatic, subtler…fresh-baked squaw bread. Then you taste it: bam. Dark coppery funk. Molasses stuck to a cast-iron skillet. Family resemblance to the wild and divisive Taylor Small Batch Bourbon, but this is my favorite of the two.

Plenty of great LDI-distilled ryes out there. This BT original is something all its own. – BO

Buy Col. E.H. Taylor Whiskey online at Mash + Grape

Rock Hill Farms Single Barrel Bourbon Review

Distiller: Buffalo Trace. 50%. Mash bill 2 – like Blanton’s and ETL – meaning relatively high rye of 12-15%. NAS but estimated 8-10 years.

Wow. Went to my local planning to grab the Elmer T. Lee and somehow this called to me instead. So glad it did. Rock Hill Farms single barrel from Buffalo Trace. Think of it as Blanton’s Plus.

Corn sweetness, baking spice, rich, mouth-coating, and with a kick. A few drops of water and it comes alive even more. Blanton’s was one of the first bourbons for me, as for many others, that woke me up to what American whiskey was all about.

While I’ll never turn down a Blanton’s – and that little horse makes me happy all by itself – this is a step up in terms of depth and richness. Hats off, Buffalo Trace! – BO

Walking Stick Single Barrel Bourbon Review

Producer: Sazerac. Distiller: Barton 1792. ABV: 45%. No age statement. Mashbill: undisclosed. Price: $25-35.

The mystery single barrel from Sazerac! Little-known and little-discussed, apart from the fine folks at Breaking Bourbon. Apparently Barton 1792 juice. Young but flavorful — meaty, somehow — and crazily reminiscent of something I can’t place. (Tried this at the ancestral Oakstave estate, so I couldn’t do side-by-sides to pin it down.)

Pleasing corn-dominated nose and palate but fairly dry. Begging for a bit more density/higher proof. Not bad at all. Curious to revisit it.

Cheers, friends! – BO