Category Archives: Bourbon Reviews

Reviews of Bourbon defined as U.S. barrel aged whiskey made of at least 51% corn.

Elmer T Lee Single Barrel Bourbon – Review

Elmer T Lee BottleBuffalo Trace makes a number of products with their #2 Bourbon mash. This mash is a little higher rye content than their #1, but the rye actually isn’t too assertive. #2 mash is thought to be around 13-15% rye and the #1 is somewhere just south of 10%, so not a huge flavor difference. It seems just a little more spice than the other branch of products. These Bourbons are said to age around 8-10 years, but have different flavor profiles. Difference between these drinks basically are the warehouse location and barrel selection. You would think with the same distillate, they would be pretty similar, but they’re surprisingly distinct. Unique, but basically members of the same family.

Elmer T Lee is my first stop on the #2 mash train future stops include Blanton’s, Rock Hill Farms, Hancock’s President’s Reserve, and Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star.

Elmer T Lee Background

Lee started with the company in 1949 as a maintenance engineer. The year after he retired, Buffalo Trace launched this Bourbon in 1986. Lee agreed they could use his name as long as he could personally selected the barrels. That sounds like a nice retirement. Lee continued to do so into his 90’s and there appears to be a plan in place to continue his legacy. He passed away last year at 93.

Lee’s favorite warehouses at Buffalo Trace are I and K and that’s where we generally get Elmer T Lee. This compares to Blanton’s, which come from Albert Blanton’s favorite Warehouse H, for example. Lee’s favorite drink is Elmer T Lee with 7 UP on ice, but here we’ll drink it neat.

Details

No age statement, but said to be aged 8-10 years. Rumored to use Buffalo Trace Mash #2 which is thought to be about 13-15% rye. It’s bottled at 45%. MSRP – $34.99 (2016 Price)

Aroma

Fruity with apple cider and honey. Caramel. Vanilla. Woody oak. I got a little bread/biscuit.

Flavor

Toasted oak, caramel. Rich vanilla. Some dark sugars – toffee maybe with brown sugar. Nice rye spice. Sweetness is there, but balanced. Finish I get more toasted oak and vanilla with some mild alcohol. Alcohol seems is on the edge of being solvent-like. Pretty nice overall.

Overall

This is great. I go back and forth a bit with Elmer T Lee and Blanton’s. Seems more flavorful, but Blanton’s seems more refined and lack the hint of fusel alcohol I get here. Right now I’d give Blanton’s an edge, but that could change with my mood. Very well done with some character, but no rough edges. As you pour glass after glass, the bourbon reveals a smiling Elmer T Lee from the inside. If I were in this bottle, I’d be smiling too. A great bourbon.

My price on this was $34, which seems a great deal for such a great whiskey. For the price, buy some and grab an extra to enjoy after that’s gone.

Elmer T Lee Rating

Buy Again – 4.0/5.0 Rating

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

Comments, corrections, suggestions?

Elmer T Lee Reference Links

Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon 2003 – Review

Evan Williams Single Barrel Background

Evan Williams Single Barrel 2003Info on Evan Williams Single Barrel according to Heaven Hill’s Evan Williams site: “Each year our Master Distillers Parker and Craig Beam select barrels that meet their exacting standards. It’s a bourbon that is vintage dated, meaning each bottle is marked with the vintage date it was put into oak and the year it was bottled.”

The Evan Williams Single Barrel 2004 bottling has been released and is making its way through retail inventory. I haven’t seen it yet in Michigan, but I’m not exactly asking to pull down bottles to check. Since the new release is here, thought I should give the 2003 bottle some attention.

Details

Barreled: 2/28/03, Bottled: 10/26/13, Barrel: #989. Rumored to use Heaven Hill’s low mash 78% corn, 10% rye, 12% barley. 43.3%. Paid $30.

Nose

Caramel and vanilla. Corn, honey sweetness, oak, char. Perfume. Toffee, brown sugar. Fruity.

Flavor

Apples, oak, a little buttery. Cinnamon. Sweet. Light smokiness in the finish. Low to medium rye spiciness in the finish. Some alcohol warming.

Overview

There’s balance here. Seems dark sugars and vanilla with a good dose of oak. Hint of smoke is interesting in the finish. Everything seems held in check and nothing really jumps out. Just a well put together Bourbon. When you factor in the price, there’s even more to like.

Evan Williams Single Barrel Recommendation

Buy Again – 4.0/5 Rating

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

Evan Williams Single Barrel Links

Evan Williams Single Barrel
Drink Insider
Sour Mash Manifesto

Breckenridge Bourbon – Review

Breckenridge Bourbon Background

Breckenridge BourbonAs the name suggests this Breckenridge Bourbon is made at 9600 feet in Breckenridge, CO. The situation is murky about the source of the whiskey, whether it’s distilled by Breckenridge, sourced elsewhere, or a blend of the two. Or if the status has changed at some point. At one point they did blend in older whiskey, but apparently those days are over. Owner Bryan Nolt is quoted about this Bourbon: “Yes, we make the Bourbon in the bottle ourselves. Depending on the bottle, there could be some from a barrel distilled off-site to our specifications with our exact mash bill, yeast strain, and technique.” So, they distill it themselves, except when they don’t. What we do know is they promote the altitude of their operation and point out their local water source is supplied by snow melt.

The water source is interesting to me. Colorado’s water is generally pretty hard vs the moderate to soft water in Kentucky. Neither have much mineral, in particularly iron, so that’s a good thing, but the chemistry is still different. Water chemistry should affect flavors and pH. Colorado has good water for making beer, but what about cutting for whiskey?

Details

56% Corn, 38% Rye, 6% Barley. Bottled at 43%. Aged 2-6 years. $42.50 Shelf Price. (2016)

Aroma

Floral. Honey. Cinnamon. Apples. Caramel. Maybe a little vegetal, cream corn. Spicy. Charred Oak

Flavor

Spicy oak. Nice sweetness balanced with spiciness and a little astringent dryness. Flavorful. Soft mouthfeel. Creamy. Pretty smooth. Kind of a salty. It’s pleasant. Caramel and vanilla. Mildly warming. Finish kind of fades into medium spiciness and a little acrid note.

Overall

Breckenridge Bourbon is pretty nice drinker with a lot of flavor. Goes down easy. A couple times the finish turns me off a bit for some reason. Sweetness is balanced out by the ample rye spice and charred oak. It’s fairly refreshing drink. Seems bright and lively. Flavorful.

I enjoyed it, but not $43 enjoyed it. It’s not bad, but I can think of a few other high-rye Bourbons I’d rather drink for the price such as Four Roses Single Barrel. Nice, but just seems pricy for this whiskey experience.

Half of selling whiskey these days seem to be about storytelling and they’ve got a good story. I’m, however, unconvinced the snowmelt water and altitude adds to the product in the bottle, but it’s still a nice story. The water profile I think does reveal itself with a softer mouthfeel and a little saltiness. If you dig their story, give it a go, but otherwise you probably won’t miss much.

Breckenridge Bourbon Recommendation

Try a Glass – 2.5/5 Rating

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations. )

Buying Options

I like to offer some options for similar Bourbons around this price. Feel free to investigate other reviews for further research.

Some other high rye Bourbons worth checking out include Four Roses Small Batch, Ridgemont Reserve, Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7 Year, Four Roses Single Barrel, Basil Hayden, and Bulleit 10 Year.

Breckenridge Bourbon Reference Links

Breckenridge Bourbon master distiller Jordan Via Interview 
Breckenridge Bourbon master distiller Jordan Via Interview
Breckenridge Bourbon owner Bryan Nolt (Comments)
Sku’s Recent Eats on Breakenridge Bourbon

Four Roses Single Barrel – Review

Four Roses Single Barrel Background

Four Roses Single BarrelFour Roses Single Barrel is distilled at the Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg, KY. They brew two separate grain bills, one with a 35% rye and the other a 25% rye. Although one is lower percentage rye, Four Rose’s recipe are still much higher than typical Bourbons.

Back in the day when Seagram was making a lot of Bourbon they had many different yeasts used in different distilleries. Four Roses Distillery was one of these distilleries. The goal was to bring a level of consistency between distilleries utilizing different yeast profiles. As the Bourbon industry declined, Seagrams shut down distilleries and some of those yeasts made their way into production at the Four Roses Distillery,

Today five of those yeasts remain in production, which with the two mashes give Four Roses 10 distinct recipes. These recipes allow Four Roses to achieve a higher level of consistency, like with Four Roses Yellow Label, and also a distinctly different product like in Four Roses Small Batch.  Another interesting option is to get a barrel-proof version of each of the 10 recipes through a Four Roses Private Selection.

Reviewed here, Four Roses Single Barrel is a standard release that always uses the same recipe. The specific recipe used is OBSV, which is their 35% high-rye mash and their V yeast strain.

Details

Warehouse GW Batch 55-3R. OBSV recipe of 60% corn 35% rye, and 5% malted barley. Their V yeast strain is said to provide a fruity character. Bottled at 50%. No age statement. $42 Shelf Price. (2016)

Aroma

Oak. Fruity cherry, pears. Caramel. Sweetness. Maybe some honey. Vanilla and Cinnamon. Adding a little water seems to bring out the fruitiness and sweetness.

Flavor

Spicy, cherry fruit tartness, A little drying astringency in the finish. Toasty, maybe a some licorice. Oak seems fairly assertive. Sweetness seems to turn on as you sip. Spiciness and alcohol dance on the tongue and holds on through the finish. A little sweeter it seems with water. The oak seems to scale back. Spice is still prominent.

Overall

I’m a Four Roses fan, so I love the Four Roses Single Barrel. One thing that’s great about Four Roses is they give you a lot of info about the Bourbon in the bottle. If you want to have some fun, you can try barrels from different warehouses and tiers. Four Roses code their warehouses by letter and direction. So, this bottle came from the west side of Warehouse G (GW). Four Rose’s warehouses are also single story warehouses, which is very unique, and they stack the barrels six high. This barrel is a center cut barrel on the 3rd tier and the R or 18th barrel in the row.

Endless fun.

Anyway, Four Roses touts the word mellow, which in no way should be confused with “smooth.” Smooth, to me, is toothless and boring. Mellow is dangerously easy to drink and Four Roses Single Barrel has that. I love the big minty rye spice, fruitiness of the yeast, and mildly chocolate/coffee roast flavors from the charred barrels.

Some days it’s a toss up whether I like Four Roses Single Barrel or Four Roses Small Batch better. They’re both similarly good, but still significantly unique. For me, the Four Roses Small Batch is $10 cheaper, so I think that’s a good place to start and maybe a bottle to pull down more regularly.

Four Roses Single Barrel Recommendation

Buy Again – 4.5/5.0 Rating

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

Buying Options

I like to offer some options for similar Bourbons around this price. Feel free to investigate other reviews for further research.

The most obvious is the mentioned Four Roses Small Batch. Bulleit is an interesting option since up until recently it was distilled at Four Roses. Rumor is it’s a younger version of the five high rye recipes. Ridgemont Reserve, Breckenridge, Basil Hayden, and  Bulleit 10 Year are more high rye Bourbons worth checking out.

Four Roses Single Barrel Links & Reviews