Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Buffalo Trace (Elmer T Lee Collectors Edition)

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Buffalo Trace (Elmer T Lee Collectors Edition)

Tonight, I visited a bottle that’s been on my shelf a little while – A bottle of Buffalo Trace, with a special twist: the Elmer T Lee Collectors Edition.

A few years ago, my sisters found themselves in Kentucky and, while there, took a tour of the Buffalo Trace Distillery.  Neither of my sisters are bourbon afficionados (or even really like it), but knowing I am, brought me back some gifts.  Among them was this bottle.

At the time, it was my understanding, the barrels these bottles were from were still hand picked by Master Distiller Emeritus Elmer T Lee, godfather of the Single Barrel bourbon.  Mr. Lee, who passed away this year at the age of 93, was calling the shots at Buffalo Trace (then still the Stagg Distillery) in 1985 when he pushed for the launch of Blanton’s, birthed the single barrel craze and revolutionized the industry.  Elmer was renowned for his palate and skill, so the thought that he still selected these bottles is enough for me to be enthusiastic.

Of course, I don’t know if he actually did.  What I do know is that at the time my sisters procured the bottle for me, it was only available at the distillery itself and, having sampled it next to a regular bottle of Buffalo Trace, there are some, allbeit subtle, differences.

Dan's Bourbon of the Week: Buffalo Trace (Elmer T Lee Collectors Edition)
Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Buffalo Trace (Elmer T Lee Collectors Edition)

I like Buffalo Trace Bourbon.  As a mass produced bourbon, I have preferred it to most of the others in it’s price range for everything other than pure sipping.  I’ve used it in cooking, in cocktails, in baking, and straight.  It’s not my choice for sitting back with a glass neat or on the rocks, but it certainly is a great product.  This particular bottle is a touch better.

My take: right from the get go, the color is a deep yellow-amber, darker than many others.  The nose opened up with corn, vanilla, and a sort of baking spices that made me think of rum or even fruitcake.  It wasn’t extremely strong in scent, but was pleasant enough.

It sipped a bit on the thin side, with a pop of pepper and spices.  There were tastes of orange peel, and I noted cinnamon, all spice and while I didn’t feel it was thick or had great mouth coat, it didn’t feel empty.

The finish was long and had both the sprite sparkle of cinnamon, but also a nice radiating warmth that lasted for some time.

A quality selection, and a good one to toast to Mr. Lee.

Dan’s scale (1-10): 7.9

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Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year

…and now for the review!

Hopefully everyone had a very Merry Christmas – I certainly did.  Along with a good number of Bourbons and Whiskeys I will be reviewing here very soon, I received a spectacular surprise from my wife: we will be attending the second annual Bourbon Classic in Louisville, Kentucky at the end of January!  It is an awesome event, full of tastings, seminars, speakers, meet and greets and some inspired bourbon-themed and paired dishes by renowned chefs.  I could not be more excited, and am already looking forward to the sights and sounds (as well as the tastes!) and posting all about them here.

For Christmas Eve, before going to visit the family, we cracked open a bottle of the Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year.  I was able to procure two bottles of the Van Winkle family this year, and will be reviewing the other soon enough.  It was a delectable way to start a wondrous holiday indeed.

Dan's Bourbon of the Week: Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year
Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year

Now, while I pride myself on giving the ‘everyman’ review of some under-reviewed bourbons, I certainly have to admit that the ORVW 10, or any other Van Winkle, is not suffering from a lack of exposure or web-content about the product.  More words have been typed (or spoken, sometimes in hushed tones) about “Pappy” this year than all other bourbons combined, I would bet.  But that doesn’t mean I just turn a blind eye to a bottle I obviously respect enough to make it my holiday Bourbon-du-jour!

The bottle is one of my favorites from look alone.  I like the script, the picture, and the old-timeyness of it.  But one does not go to the ends of the earth…or at least the ends of the midwest…for bottle alone!

Savvy bourbonites know, but for recap, the ORVW 10 is a wheated bourbon, using wheat instead of rye.  This is one of the trademarks of many Van Winkle products, most notably the three Pappys.  Distilled and barreled at Buffalo Trace, it shares a mash bill close to or identical with W. L. Weller, another of my favorite bourbons.  And like the W. L. Weller Antique, ORVW 10 weighs in at 107 proof.  Not for the light of heart (but certainly not barrel strength either).  Many have taken to calling the Weller “poor man’s Pappy,” and there is some truth to it, even if the Weller’s flavor profile never quite hits Van Winkle standards.  The ORVW 10 is one of a kind, and certainly didn’t disappoint.  My take:

Nose: On first take, the rip of 107 proof hits strong.  To fully get the nose, I let it sit in the glass for a few minutes, then lifted again.  Sweetness filled my nostrils – Vanilla and toffee, and the rich smell of maple syrup.  There is also a fruitiness to it, like a mulled-cider of fruit and rum.  It certainly got me salivating.

The taste was very sweet too.   The taste of molasses and honey mixes with the aforementioned fruit to create a smooth drink.  Caramel pops up in between. The oak presents itself at the back end, not overwhelming, but ducking in among the other notes.

The finish was not what I expected – rather than the burn, it stayed smooth and short.  Wheat guarantees a lack of harshness.  I’ve read other reviews since that refer to touches of cinnamon and spices, but I have to admit, I did not get that at all.

Overall, ORVW 10 is no joke.  It’s a soft, smooth entry in the Van Winkle line.  While some would elevate it because of the honor of its name, and others punish it for the popularity of the same, I fall right in the middle.  Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year is a good pour.  If you can get it, drink away!

Dan’s Scale (1-10): 8.5

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: W. L. Weller Special Reserve

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: W. L. Weller Special Reserve

Not a fun weekend for the sports lover in me.  On Saturday, my beloved Missouri Tigers – so close to the national championship game – got steamrolled by the running game of Auburn.  I’m not certain, but I thing they may still be counting the yards Auburn racked up.  The season certainly isn’t a loss – the Sugar Bowl awaits – but to be so close and fall short…

Meanwhile, the Detroit Lions continue to fumble away the division lead, this week with a loss to the ‘Iggles‘ in snowy Philadelphia.  A loss which will cost me a bottle of bourbon, due to my wager with my Philly-raised brother-in-law, no less.  Thanks a lot, Lions!

Luckily, in these moments of toil and woe, comfort can be found easily enough in a bottle of bourbon, so this week, I crack open the W. L. Weller Special Reserve for a taste.

Dan's Bourbon of the Week: W. L. Weller Special Reserve
Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: W. L. Weller Special Reserve

The Weller’s have always been popular with the wife and I – first of all, the smooth taste of wheated (rather than rye) bourbons are more my speed.  The Weller family of bourbons have been favorites of our for a while – yet another great member of the Buffalo Trace family.

The nose was a bit strong – more reminiscent of it’s 107 proof cousin than the 90 proof it is. Definite hints of corn and a woodiness not unlike sawdust poked out from the grain-rich alcohol scent.

The taste was wonderfully smooth.  Mouth feel was soft and buttery, but not so much as to be creamy.  Again, wood and charred oak appeared, although not overwhelmingly so.  With ice, I noticed a much stronger sense of caramel and something vaguely nutty, like pecan.

On the finish, a bit of pepper – again, very very smooth.  A medium finish, without a burn but rather refreshing.

This may not have the complexity of a great bourbon, but for the taste (and a remarkable price point), it is a very good one.

Dan scale (1-10): 7.9