Tag Archive: Buffalo Trace


Buffalo Trace: Blanton’s: Single Barrel Gold Edition (USA: Bourbon Single Cask: 51.5% ABV)

Visual: Visual: Deep, slightly bronzed, gold. Slow, thin streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Rye crackers. Peppery. Alcohol tingle evident. Warm orange creme. Subtle menthol. Warm custard. Red grapes. Water makes smoother and brings out more rye crackers.

Body: Warming. Honey. Peppery. Very mild aniseed. Peach syrup. Slightly astringent. Water adds apricot. Red grapes. Fatty butter.

Finish: Dry oak. Juicy grapes. Custard. Wholemeal crackers. Drying. Peppery. Water adds menthol. Vanilla. Slight savoury cream touch.

Conclusion: This is so rewarding, so recognisably bourbon but with tons of elements I would not normally associate with the style and the mix makes it stand out as something special.

At its base it is a slightly rye crackers tasted peppery thing. So I am guessing that there is a moderate amount of rye in the mash bill – but I could be wrong. Along with that there is some of the traditional bourbon style vanilla backing it but less so than you would imagine. It is slightly drying and astringent from the alcohol weight when taken neat, but not especially so, especially considering the over 50% abv.

Above that is a honey sweetness, along with a slight strange more custard like sweetness that seems to be there in place of the more traditional vanilla in most areas. This is still in the ballpark of bourbon expectations, it just feels like higher abv and care taken in its selection has given it a weightier, bigger expression of which the custard replacing the vanilla is the most obvious element.

What makes it really stand out is a slight sweet peach syrup note, and a sweet grapes touch – in a red grapes style that I really would not have expected considering that, with this being bourbon, it will have been aged in virgin oak, and so I cannot attribute to subtle use of sherry oak ageing like I normally would. Even more there is subtle green grapes and menthol touches that are wonderful and unexpected extra flourishes over the bourbon base. These elements are noticeable neat, but become super evident with a touch of water smoothing out the more astringent alcohol notes.

These all combine to give it a subtle, but impressive variety of flavour, while still delivering the expected bourbon notes very well as a base that everything else works from. It is covering a complex range, but without sacrificing what bourbon is known for best and that combination makes it probably the best bourbon I have tried. Very impressive.

Background: I’ve missed a chance to pick up some Blantons a few times before, it has a great reputation as a single cask bourbon and always vanished while I was umming and ahhing in on if I should grab a bottle. So this time when some came into Independent Spirit I grabbed a bottle right away, the Gold Edition in fact. There is a lot of information on the, very pretty indeed, bottle – everything from barrel number, rack number, warehouse and date dumped. Most of it doesn’t tell me anything as I don’t know where those places are, but it is a nice touch. Really brings out the individuality of this single barrel expression. There wasn’t a new Miracle Sound release for 2021, so for music I picked up his earlier album – Level 6 – and went with that as backing music.

Buffalo Trace: Thomas H Handy Sazerac Rye (USA: Straight Rye Whiskey: 64.5% ABV)

Visual: Bright orange gold. Fast thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Very peppery and rye crackers touched. Stewed apple touches. Vanilla. Sour dough.

Body: Honey. Peppery. Rye spiciness. Quickly becomes tingling. Pumpkin and pumpkin spice. Oily. Water adds a strawberry touch. Slight grapes. Lots of oily charring. Orange cream touch.

Finish: Dried mango. Oily character. Smoke touch. Tobacco. Chewy. Pumpkin. Water adds tropical fruit.

Conclusion: Another very, very strong whiskey, but this handles the abv so much better than the George T Stagg before it. There is still the spice and the rye, even more so with this being a straight rye, but it manages to make room for more evident fruit notes to round it out. The mix of the spice and fruit manages to come together in a lovely synergy of pumpkin and pumpkin spice among the heavier charring and peppery notes.

Even though it does work as a whiskey neat, I will say a drop of water, and just a drop is needed, and really brings out the character. This big oily charring character comes out, with the oiliness really helping to balance the charred style, and under this thick heavy character you find more subtle notes poking their way through.

It is dark, oily, and while stealing the word dank from beer notes would be the wrong term, it calls a similar set of imagery to mind. The oiliness can however express itself as oily grape notes or even occasionally adding an oily strawberry character into the mix.

Later on an orange cream note comes out – while this is not part of the Van Winkle mash bill set it seems that orange character is still hard to avoid. Not that I am complaining. While this is very impressive, the abv of this still numbs things for me. I just don’t have a system that can handle this abv and still notice the subtleties that this may hold even with a drop or so of water to help break it up. However, even taking it as is, I’m feeling so many hints around the dark, spicy core that I feel that people who can handle the abv will appreciate more. If it wasn’t for the nature of the tasting, I would have experimented with water more but I wasn’t confident I could use the available water and not drown it.

Another utterly fascinating one, still not 100% for me as that abv is punishing but there is so much going on I very much enjoyed its massive weight of character despite that.

Background: One more time – So, it has been about a year and half since Independent Spirit did one of their whisky tastings. For some reason I can’t quite put my finger on right now, probably something small and unimportant. So they opened with this – a six USA whiskey, predominately bourbon, rare as hell set of a tasting. Joking aside, I was nervous about going, due to, well covid and not wanting to be a virus spreader, but it was held in the well ventilated, covered back area of Wolf Saloon, which had a decent amount of room as well, so I thought I would give it a go as part of my attempt to return to being social in this new world. Of the six whiskeys I had already done notes on two, and this was the sixth and final whisky of the evening. This, a straight rye, was the first non bourbon of the evening and with its huge abv the second that I had to add water to in order to manage to appreciated. Chris from Independent Spirit did give a lovely amount of info on the naming background of each whiskey, but I will admit due to alcohol I have forgot most of the fine details. Thomas H Handy was the creator of a famous rye cocktail in New Orleans called the Sazerac and this is named after him basically.

Buffalo Trace: George T Stagg (USA: Bourbon Whiskey: 65.2% ABV)

Visual: A darker bronzed gold, with more orange gold hints. Thin slow puckering comes from the spirit.

Nose: Heavy. Rye crackers. Wisp of smoke. Dry. Dry treacle. Touch. Chilli seed. Paprika. Burnt brown sugar.

Body: Thick, Oily. Gets fiery quickly. Strawberry touch. Very drying. Water adds a tiny touch more of the strawberry, Quite oily. Almost a hop oil feel but not flavour. Brown bread.

Finish: Oily. Charred touch. Spicy. Chilli seeds. Nutmeg. Mulled spice. Touch of greenery. A touch of water adds tannins and fatty notes.

Conclusion: Unsurprisingly for the abv, this is freaking massive. It has a fiery touch, which, again is not unexpected, but there is a lot more than that. When you sip it rapidly evaporates, drying and desiccating your mouth, and leaves behind a real chilli seed spicy tingling character that fires up that now sensitive tongue.

Neat it is so very harsh, with a treacle character that still comes across as very dry and spicy. So, for the first time in this tasting session’s notes I added water, and boy did it make it a lot more manageable. Now it has an oily thick feel that allows it to very mildly sooth your mouth to manage the heavy spice and burning, and so you can finally appreciate that wide spice expression more fully.

With this just a drop of water this still has really heavy, dark and charred notes, but no longer harshly so. It has as more neutral, savoury bready character at the base to work from, oiliness for the grip and the spice doing the main show. There is even an almost smoke touch, but not in a traditional peaty way, just an edge note from the spice. There are now even hints of softer notes at the edges, nothing I could quite get a grip on though. Possibly they would develop with more water, or if I had a better handle on the high abv but as it was they were just hints of more that may be there but I could not really describe.

It is formidable and challenging. In a way it feels like the Islay of bourbons. Not in direct flavour, peat or Island character but in that it has those challenging, heavy flavours that take time to get used to and are definitely an acquired taste.

More intriguing than enjoyable for me, but I can see the appeal for others.

Background: So, it has been about a year and half since Independent Spirit did one of their whisky tastings. For some reason I can’t quite put my finger on right now, probably something small and unimportant. So they opened with this – a six USA whiskey, predominately bourbon, rare as hell set of a tasting. Joking aside, I was nervous about going, due to, well covid and not wanting to be a virus spreader, but it was held in the well ventilated, covered back area of Wolf Saloon, which had a decent amount of room as well, so I thought I would give it a go as part of my attempt to return to being social in this new world. Of the six whiskeys I had already done notes on two, and this was the fifth whisky of the evening. While not a straight rye, this apparently has a moderate amount of rye to it, making it the first bourbon to have a different mash load of the evening – with the various Van Winkles and the Weller all starting from the same mash load out. While most of the bourbons I had neat as bourbon often doesn’t take water well, this was the first one where I had to add a drop as it was too massive for me neat. Chris from Independent Spirit did give a lovely amount of info on the naming background of each whiskey, but I will admit due to alcohol I have forgot most of the fine details. Basically George T Stagg was a big name, so the whiskey is named after him.

Buffalo Trace: Old Rip Van Winkle: 10 Year (USA: Bourbon Whiskey: 53.5% ABV)

Visual: Bright orange gold, in an almost lucozade style in the light. Fast thick steaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Touch of smoke. Lots of varied breakfast cereals. Shreddies. Maize cereals. Moderate rye crackers and peppery character. Brown bread. Crushed leaves. Brown sugar. Thick and slightly musty.

Body: Thick and warming. Oily. Vanilla. Dry oak. Treacle touch. Heavy. Buttery. Fudge. Brown bread. Orange cream.

Finish; Tannins and astringent. Peppery. Toffee and vanilla. Dry fudge. Buttery and slightly fatty.

Conclusion: This is heavy. Now the alcohol is doing a lot of the work in making it so, with a more dry character up front, but then allowing the fattier, oilier notes to come through after. There is a lot about the mouthfeel and texture that it doing the heavy lifting here to make seem very different to the other Van Winkles.

It is still slightly peppery, but initially it has none of those orange notes I usually associate with the Van Winkles. Instead, behind the fatty character is a mix of brown bread and lots of breakfast cereals into a sturdy toffee and fudge character. Still quite dry in how it is delivered, thick of body and very heavy.

Like this it is very much about the feel for me rather than the flavour. The oils, the thickness, the fatty character that is all what makes it interesting. The flavours are not unusual, but that feel really works what can be done with the abv.

Finally, late on after some time to air, the orange cream notes do finally make an appearance. It seems no amount of abv can fully hide this Van Winkle note for too long.

Not a favourite of mine, but a stand out for being different from the usual Van Winkle fare.

Background: So, writing this for the second time, it has been about a year and half since Independent Spirit did one of their whisky tastings. For some reason I can’t quite put my finger on right now, probably something small and unimportant. So they opened with this – a six USA whiskey, predominately bourbon, rare as hell set of a tasting. Joking aside, I was nervous about going, due to, well covid and not wanting to be a virus spreader, but it was held in the well ventilated, covered back area of Wolf Saloon, which had a decent amount of room as well, so I thought I would give it a go as part of my attempt to return to being social in this new world. Of the six whiskeys I had already done notes on two, and this was the third whisky of the evening and the only Van Winkle of the set I had not tried yet. Chris from Independent Spirit did give a lovely amount of info the background of each whiskey, but I will admit due to alcohol I have forgot most of the fine details. This is a wheated bourbon, and each of the Van Winkles use the same mash load. After trying this I had Pappy Van Winkle 15 again for the first time in years – this time I found a softness of mushy cooked apples and pear notes, and some tropical fruit I had not found before, making it a smoother thing than I remembered before.

Buffalo Trace: W L Weller Special Reserve (USA: Bourbon Whiskey: 45% ABV)

Visual: Very bright gold, almost lucozade bright. Very fast thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Peppery spice. Rye crackers. Orange sorbet. Honey. Cream. Light milk.

Body: Honey. Honey nut cornflakes. Wheaty thickness. Lightly peppery. Smooth, but with a grip. Toffee to toffee liqueur. Cream. Orange cream. Oily. Sap. Apple notes over time.

Finish: Slight sulphur. Honey nut cornflakes. Touch of smoke. Wheat flakes. Peppery. Vanilla. Charred oak. Toffee liqueur. Grapes. Menthol and sap mix.

Conclusion: The first impressions I got from this was of a lot of spice – mainly a mix of peppery character and a touch of rye crackers. Which is more what I would have expected from a rye heavy whisky than a wheated bourbon like this. It reminds me of the Van Winkle range (for a reason that turned out not to be a coincidence as I note in the background below), even having that slight orange note to it.

That spice I mentioned is there for the whole whiskey, but it is far from the whole story. It is smooth, yet with a slightly fluffy grip that in some ways reminds me of the soft grip you get from a weissebier. I would say it makes sense but I have not encountered this in any other wheated bourbon, so I think it is just a coincidence.

Flavour wise it has a soft toffee to toffee liqueur set of notes underneath, a gentle slightly milky feel and sweeter flavours under the spice front notes. The ahem wheaty feel and pepper character makes it never completely smooth, but the toffee cream touch to the core does make it a lot smoother than most of its similar contemporaries and calls to the impressions of a far smoother whiskey.

Now, as discussed in the background, it has a lot of reason for tasting kind of similar to the Van Winkles, especially in that orange touch, but it has a lot of differences apart from that smoother character. It has a slight menthol touch that makes it fresh, and lots of honey assisting the sweetness. While it starts spice and rye, the longer you take to sip it the smoother and smoother it will get, with more vanilla, honey and finally even apple coming out for a more soothing end to the dram.

It is basically a smoother, slightly more toffee take on the Van Winkle style, but that description doesn’t do it justice. There are touches from grapes, to that creamy note. I actually mildly prefer it to a good chunk of the Winkle range. It is not as forthright, but smoother and with that character of its own that makes it distinctive.

Background: I’m going to be copy pasting the bulk of this over the next few notes, so apologies if it becomes repetitive but a lot of the info will be the same – So, it has been about a year and half since Independent Spirit did one of their whisky tastings. For some reason I can’t quite put my finger on right now, probably something small and unimportant. So they opened with this – a six USA whiskey, predominately bourbon, rare as hell set of a tasting. Joking aside, I was nervous about going, due to, well covid and not wanting to be a virus spreader, but it was held in the well ventilated, covered back area of Wolf Saloon, which had a decent amount of room as well, so I thought I would give it a go as part of my attempt to return to being social in this new world. Of the six whiskeys I had already done notes on two, and this was the first and allegedly easiest to find whisky of the evening. Well I guess it is easier, just that does not mean easy. Chris from Independent Spirit did give a lovely amount of info the background of each whiskey, but I will admit due to alcohol I have forgot most of the fine details. This is a wheated bourbon, and uses the same mash load as the three Van Winkles that came after it. Apparently the main difference is that each barrel is sampled and select ones chosen for the Van Winkle range, the rest for this cheaper but still expensive on the aftermarket bottling.

Pappy Van Winkle: Family Reserve 20 Year (American Bourbon: 20 Year: 45.2% ABV)

Visual: A dark burnished bronzed gold.

Viscosity: A slow intermittent descending sheet.

Nose: Black pepper. Honeycomb. Rye bread. Light charcoal touches. Chives.

Body: Pepper. Strong oak. Maple syrup and pancakes., Slight orange liquore. Rye bread. Water makes sweeter with more maple syrup and the addition of slight custard.

Finish: Dry. Oaken and pepper filled. Rye bread. Water adds treacle and makes the finish last even longer. Vanilla touches come out also.

Conclusion: After the previous tour of the Van Winkle bourbon I was surprised by how smooth this was in comparison to the younger versions. In comparison to being the important words as it is still quite potent.  The alcohol burn however has been traded in, unfortunately to be replaced by a very high oaken presence. You really can tastes the extra years in the oak.

This does seem to limit the room the spice and orange flavour has compared to the younger version. It is a pity but the trade off does give a very easy sipping Bourbon. The person serving me described it as quite peppery and that is definitely true. The peppery element is instrumental to giving it that impressively long finish instead of just a burning alcohol touch.

For its smoothness it seems less lively on its flavours, with the pepper and rye (Again, its odd as I’m fairly sure rye isn’t used in making this) being the main elements alongside the oak. Unusually for a bourbon water really helps by pushing forth a maple syrup like sweetness that offsets the oak and gives the orange flavour more room to play. It also brings out a bit of the traditional Bourbon vanilla sweetness.

For my money this expression is just a bit too oak emphasised to be great, but I will give it respect for the smoothness it brings. I would say the most distinguished of the range is still the 15 year for its bit of extra play in the flavour.

Not bad at all. I don’t think Bourbon quite suits ageing this much but it is a very nice experiment to try.

Background; Drunk at the Rummer hotel. I’ve been slowly working my work up the ages of the van winkle range and reached this, the 20 year. A quite remarkable age for bourbon to be aged, but what Van Winkle seem to consider their baseline expression. The bartender recommended having with ice to counteract the warm flavours but my dislike of ice in spirits overruled that.

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