So…I put a lot of thought into deciding what my first post should be, and rather than one of those typical boring “first post” posts, I thought I would just jump right in with a tasting and review of one of my favorite bourbons. Now, I’m usually very indecisive and as such, you will rarely hear me use the word “favorite.” But if I was stuck drinking nothing but Buffalo Trace for the rest of my life, I wouldn’t complain.
According to the company, the Buffalo Trace Distillery is the oldest continuously-operating distillery in the United States. The distillery was one of the few allowed to continue producing whiskey for “medicinal purposes” during the Prohibition Era. The Buffalo Trace Distillery is owned by the Sazerac Company, and produces some of the finest American Whiskey out there. Blanton’s, Eagle Rare, W.L. Weller, and the ever-coveted line of Pappy Van Winkle bourbons, just to name a few, are all produced here. Buffalo Trace has two primary mash bills that the bulk of their bourbons come from. While the company doesn’t publish this, my best guess is that Mash Bill #1 (Yes, that’s really what they named it.) contains around 10% rye, while Mash Bill #2 has a slightly higher rye content…maybe around 15%. The distillery’s namesake, Buffalo Trace, is a product of Mash Bill #1. Buffalo Trace is aged in areas of the distillery’s warehouses that they believe produce the best spirit. After aging, as few as 25 barrels are selected by a taste panel to be blended and then bottled.
To make this a little more interesting, for both you and me, I picked up two “Single Barrel Select” bottles of Buffalo Trace from a couple of local stores and did a side by side tasting of the two. I believe both were $21-22, and they were both bottled at 45% abv (90 proof) just like the standard Buffalo Trace. As with any single barrel whiskey, there is a certain amount of variation between barrels. There were some very clear distinctions between these two, and both had slightly different profiles than the typical blended Buffalo Trace that I’m used to.
First bottle, purchased from Belmont Beverage:
Appearance: Light golden amber
Nose: Light dry fruit with a little citrus, slightly floral, a touch of vanilla with a woody tobacco spice and a hint of mint. Surprisingly high rye presence
Taste: Sweet corn, strong rye spice that gives way to oak and toffee woodiness
Finish: Moderate length with the rye spiciness taking over
Comments: Definitely a drier, spicier bourbon than the everyday Buffalo Trace. Surprisingly higher rye presence. If I didn’t know better I would have guessed there was more rye in the mash bill.
Second bottle, purchased from Cap N’ Cork:
Appearance: Light golden amber. Almost identical, maybe a touch lighter
Nose: Much sweeter. Burnt sugar, maple sugar, vanilla. Not quite as much citrus. Smoother, more rounded aroma
Taste: Warmer, heavier body. More of a rounded sweet woodiness. Vanilla and maple sugar are most present. Not nearly as much rye presence
Finish: Moderately long and smooth. Slightly sweet burnt sugar sticks around for a while
Comments: A stark contrast to the single barrel select from Belmont Beverage. Definitely sweeter, but still not overly sweet, and not at all syrupy or thick. Smoother, more rounded experience overall.
Two different single barrel bottlings of the same whiskey, very different profiles. If someone had told me the two glasses were filled with two entirely different bourbons, I would not question it. As with the standard Buffalo Trace, it’s hard to believe that I’m drinking $20.00 bourbon.
Buffalo Trace would be a great bourbon for beginners just starting to explore the whiskey world. I consider it a quality daily drinker, and certainly one of the best whiskeys out there in this price range. I would encourage anyone out there to give it a try, and if you already have, try exploring some of the other offerings from the distillery.