Tag Archives: Buffalo Trace

Buffalo Trace Distillery Tour

Buffalo Trace Distillery Overview

Buffalo Trace Distillery Warehouse C
Buffalo Trace Distillery Warehouse C
Buffalo Trace Distillery Warehouse W
Buffalo Trace Distillery Warehouse W
Buffalo Trace Distillery Experimental Col EH Taylor Jr Barrel
Buffalo Trace Distillery Experimental Col EH Taylor Jr Barrel
Buffalo Trace Distillery Blanton's Bottling Line
Buffalo Trace Distillery Blanton’s Bottling Line
Buffalo Trace Distillery Blanton's Bottling Line
Buffalo Trace Distillery Blanton’s Bottling Line
Buffalo Trace Distillery Warehouse H
Buffalo Trace Distillery Warehouse H

There are an assortment of tour types available at Buffalo Trace Distillery. The standard tour you’ll get if you walk up to the gift shop is what we experienced. We tried reserving the Hard Hat Tour three weeks out, but it was booked. The Hard Hat tour seems widely praised and sounds like you get the factory production tour that’s typical of most other distilleries.

Other tours are a historical landmark tour, a barrel aging tour, and lastly a ghost tour, which sounds kind of fun. All tours end with a tasting.

The company claims early settlers first distilled on the site in 1775 and whiskey has been produced there since 1787. The name Buffalo Trace is a reference to where buffalo once crossed the Kentucky River. Prior to called Buffalo Trace Distillery, it was the George T Stagg Distillery and before that Old Fire Copper Distillery. Across from the Visitor’s Center is Warehouse C, which has OFC branded in the brick.

Buffalo Trace Distillery has sort of a amusement park feel. We parked our car in a good-sized parking lot that was packed. Lots of people were walking around and there was a special kind of energy in the air. The tour is free and we waited a few moments out front for the group to form. We were then led into a small room off of Warehouse D, I believe. In the room there was makeshift seating of old church pews, park benches, and chairs. The room is decorated with various old-timey equipment. A short history/marketing video is viewed and then we’re led through a door hidden behind a shelf into the warehouse.

The warehouse is like any other warehouse, oddly cool on a hot day, packed with barrels, and that familiar smell of musty old wood, corn, and alcohol. Each barrel head is stamped with various brands, so it’s fun to spot stuff. There were a number labeled with red experimental stickers that was kind of neat to see.

After the warehouse, we were led to the Blanton’s bottling hall where they were bottling up Blanton’s. The room was an interesting low volume production. A handful of people by hand pulled bottles out of their boxes, filled them six at a time, hand corked them, then carefully applied wax to the seal the corks. The process here is they place a cardboard collar on the bottle to catch any dripped wax and apply the wax with sort of mounted pen applicator. Also interesting is, if you didn’t know, each bottle of Blanton’s has one of 8 different corks depicting a horse and jockey running in various poses. There’s no method to corking the bottles, the worker simply grabs one out of a box. From there the bottle continues down the line to be boxed up.

After the bottling room, we were led into the visitor center for our tasting. Offered was Buffalo Trace, White Dog, Eagle Rare, and Bourbon Cream. To cap it off you get a chilled Bourbon Ball. The wife loved the Bourbon Cream and Bourbon Ball.

The gift shop didn’t have anything special and basically offered what they had tasting. I think they said they normally carry Blanton’s but were out, which is a juxtaposition of the silliness of the three tier system with the bottling operation a few feet away. Also in the gift shop was various trinkets and branded merch. I was interested in getting a cool charred barrel stave for collecting those Blanton’s toppers, but they were out. (Wife ordered me one for the following Christmas. She’s a keeper). You can also cheat and buy the toppers in the gift shop.

Bottom Line

Buffalo Trace Distillery grounds are well groomed and it’s cool seeing some of famous warehouses. Such as that Warehouse C where the tornado took the roof off. That damage was turned into a marketing win for a limited run of EH Taylor Jr “Tornado Surviving” Bourbon. Towards the end of the parking lot you can see Warehouse H where Blanton’s is aged. H is metal clad and being metal it gets warmer, which should accelerate aging profiles. Warehouse H was constructed for this reason after prohibition to get some Bourbon aging quickly.

The tour isn’t anything particularly special or informative, but considering Buffalo Trace’s footprint in the Bourbon world, it’s eventually a must see. Plus, it’s hard to beat the price of free. The Buffalo Trace Distillery isn’t on the official Bourbon Trail, so perhaps they’re passing savings from membership fees to visitors. With all of the popular Bourbon brands made/bottled there and judging from the crowd, they don’t need much help attracting visitors.

The tour took about an hour, but it all depends on the group. If you want to hang around the tasting room, browse the gift shop and wander the grounds a bit, plan at least 90 minutes. Next time I want to check out the Hard Hat Tour and Ghost Tour.

Buffalo Trace Distillery
113 Great Buffalo Trace
Frankfort, KY 40601

Tour Date: September 2014

 

Pappy Van Winkle 15 (2014) – Review

Pappy Van Winkle 15 Background

Pappy Van Winkle 15
Pappy Van Winkle 15

So, Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year Old. I’ve been sitting on this bottle about five months. I wasn’t sure if I was going to post a review of this because, really, what’s the point? You’re not going to roll into your local Mega-Mart and find Pappy Van Winkle on the shelf and if for some freak reason you did, you’re not going to reference my or anyone’s review before buying. I’m also not sure how I feel about feeding into the hype where people are searching the seedy secondary market for any bottle of Pappy. I wouldn’t want anyone getting robbed or losing a kidney meeting someone in a Target parking lot.

The other thing is I’m not sure if I can actually review Pappy Van Winkle 15. It took a lot to get this bottle and I’m emotionally invested. How could I resist the pressure of the hype and not like it? On the flip side, what’s in this bottle could never match the hype and craziness surrounding anything Pappy Van Unicorn. Thus, the pendulum can swing the other way into an overly negative reaction.

So, months later I’ve sipped Pappy Van Winkle 15 here and there. I’m about as far removed from the hype before it cycles back up toward the fall Bourbon releases. I’ll give it a shot because I might as well have something to show for my trouble.

Details

15 years old. Bottled at 53.5%. Wheated mash recipe. MSRP $80. 

Aroma

Woody, dusty. Medicinal, band-aids. Coffee grounds. Cherries. Figs. Complex.

Flavor

Oak/cedar up front with caramel, toffee. Bubble gum. Medium to high astringency. Vanilla. Nutty. Cinnamon, cloves. Tobacco.

Overall

In addition to Pappy Van Winkle 15, I got to try glasses of this year’s Pappy Van Winkle 20 and Old Rip Van Winkle 10. I had some chances for the 23-year-old, but passed because it the prices were stupid. I think the 20-year-old is really nice. If you get a chance to try a glass of any, I’d recommend going for the 20. I also enjoyed the 10-year-old with a nice 107-proof punch and a little age vs the more familiar Weller 12 and Old Weller Antique. An no, Poor Man’s Pappy isn’t as good, but it is a decent compromise for normal people.

Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year Old for me was a disappointment. There are phenolics that I don’t like. I’ve had Pappy Van Winkle 15 in the past, and perhaps my memory isn’t as good and/or at the time my Bourbon experience was more limited, but I recall enjoying that more this this 2014 batch. Maybe this year was just an off bottling or maybe it’s just not for me now that I’ve tried a lot of different Bourbons.

So, no it’s not worth chasing. No it’s not worth paying stupid prices. And no it’s not worth losing a kidney in a Target parking lot. Personally, and thankfully, I prefer younger more lively Bourbons, so, while Pappy Van Winkle 15 has some real interesting complexities, I’d still prefer a more conventional good bottle of 8-year-old Bourbon. Plus, personally, I can enjoy a Bourbon more when paying $30 and knowing there are plenty more bottles on the shelf.

If you can find Pappy Van Winkle 15 for at or near the $80 list price without much effort, it’s a good buy. At the very least enjoy a little variety once in a while. Act like a baller and share with your friends. Otherwise, just between you and me, there’s better stuff on the shelves right now.

Recommendation

Sure?

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Charter 101 Bourbon – Review

Old Charter 101 Background

Charter 101
Charter 101

Charter 101 comes from Buffalo Trace Distillery as part of their #1 low rye mash recipe. The Old Charter brand has roots back to 1874, but in more recent history the it was a part of the United Distiller (later reorganized as Diageo) portfolio until the 80’s From there it was sold to Buffalo Trace parent Sazerac.

Old Charter had an 8 year and 10 year expressions, but the 10 year is gone and the 8 year lost its age statement. Old Charter 8 is still available at 80-proof, but the 8 is just a number on the bottle to make loyal customers feel warm and fuzzy. Like the new Old Charter 8, Charter 101 also lacks an age statement.

Details

Bottled at 101-proof.  No age statement. Buffalo Trace #1 mash of less than 10% rye. MSRP – $27.99 (2016 Price)
 

Aroma

Caramel, honey, fruity. Light char. Vanilla. Roasted corn. Grainy, kind of barn yard straw.
 

Flavor

Light, sweet. Pleasant oak char then sawdust. Corn comes through. Fruity with the edge of solvent. Medium-low astringency in the finish with slight bitterness.

Overall

I don’t know the age on Charter 101, and I don’t want to assume based on price, but I’m thinking this is a younger Bourbon. In Charter 101 I’m getting the heavier corn and sawdust flavors that to me age out with more time in the barrel. Not quite my preference, but this is still some pretty easy drinking stuff. Given the 101-proof and reasonable price it certainly is a fine candidate as a mixer.

I get what I think of as Buffalo Trace signatures of fruity with the edge of acetone. Also not much in the way of rye that jives with their low-rye #1 mash recipe. Buffalo Trace Bourbon I think matches up well and tasting these side by side the resemblances are apparent. While actually not generally my preference, I like Buffalo Trace better as it seems a more mature Bourbon for my tastes. Although, it’s about $10 or so more expensive, so there’s that.

To sum it up, Charter 101 is a good Straight Bourbon that might be on the younger side, but carries a nice punch of a proof and an attractive price. It’s not my choice for sipping, but you could do a lot worse. Charter 101 seems a quality budget bottle to keep around for mixers.

Recommendation

Try a Glass – 2.0 out of 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 and Further Research

Charter 101 is a low rye Bourbon, which is a little unique in my classifications. In this price range, you could check out the mentioned sibling Old Charter 8 and Buffalo Trace. Both have the same Buffalo Trace mash recipe. From there, a little high rye recipe could be Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star, Wild Turkey 101, and Old Forester.

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Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof – Review

Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof Background

Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof
Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof

Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof is the big brother in the new-ish Taylor Jr line from Buffalo Trace. Current Bourbon releases also include Colonel EH Taylor Jr Small Batch and Colonel EH Taylor Jr Single Barrel. There’s also a Colonel EH Taylor Jr Rye out there.

There have been three releases of Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof and I’m looking at the last two.

  • Batch 1 – 134.5-proof (67.25%)
  • Batch 2 – 135.4-proof (67.7%)
  • Batch 3 – 129.0-proof (64.5%)
  • Batch 4 – 127.2-proof (63.6%)

I never got a chance to try the first release, but I’ve had plenty of time with the second and have been getting acquainted with the third. There are some differences between the releases, but I’ll get into that in a bit.

So, the idea is we’ve got a barrel proof version of Buffalo Trace’s low rye #1 mash. This should make Bourbon nerds think about George T Stagg, which is also a barrel-proof Bourbon from that recipe. The big difference is Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof is aged likely around 7-8 years while George T Stagg is about double that, typically. We also have Stagg Jr, which promises to be a younger version of the granddaddy GTS, but if you were to ask me, I’d call Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof more of a true “Stagg Jr,” but lets save that comparison for the review.

Details

Bottled at 129.0-proof.  No age statement. Buffalo Trace #1 mash of less than 10% rye. $69.99 (2016 MSRP)

Aroma

Dark fruits, raisin bread, some grapes. Vanilla. Burnt sugars. Charred Oak. Trace of coffee. A little perfume. Add some water: Fruit turns more to pears, apples, cherries. Now getting baking spices of Cinnamon and cloves. Brown sugar. Vanilla seems stronger.

Flavor

Roasted coffee, charred oak, toffee, burnt sugars. Overwhelming at full strength. A little water brings out a bunch of caramel and more sweetness. Finish has wood and some astringency.

Overall

I hate to sound like a hipster and claim the older version of Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof is better, but I do like the second release more than the third. I enjoy both of these releases, especially with a splash of water, but the second release more so. I think the difference is enough to affect my rating, but only in the sense of it’s worth buying, but not worth stocking the bunker.

As far as George T Stagg, there is no comparison, in my opinion, but if you dig Stagg, Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof arguably could be the next best thing. It lacks the complexity and robustness of Stagg, but to me it’s much more enjoyable than Stagg Jr. Retail pricing is only about $10 less than Stagg, which is kind of funny, but the big difference is you actually have a relatively decent chance of finding Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof sitting on a shelf.

On the flip site, another way of looking at Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof could basically be a barrel proof version of Buffalo Trace, which also is #1 Buffalo Trace mash. I’m not sure I’d agree with that, although the resembles is there when adding enough water. Even if the years in barrels are close, I think Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof is aged better than Buffalo Trace, thus worthy a premium.

I enjoy barrel proof Bourbons and this is a good one to have on hand. A little water I think really makes Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof sing.  If you can find some of the second release, I’d say grab that one, but the third release is just fine. If the third release matched up for me like the second, I’d be probably gushing more in this review. I’ll be curious to see what next year brings.

I’ve seen pricing get up to $100+, which is getting to be a questionable value, in my opinion. If you can find it for a little closer to retail, I think it’s a good buy. Compare that to other Barrel Proof offerings from Heaven Hill, Marker’s Mark, and Four Roses, and Buffalo Trace itself, Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof retail is about ball park, I think.

Recommendation

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.)

Buying Options and Further Research

I’m going to stack this up against other barrel/high-proof Bourbon near in price. Four Roses Private Barrel is a great deal, I think, and worth considering for a few dollars less. Also, the new Marker’s Mark Cask Strength is about the same price retail for equal volumes. Booker’s is another option for less, sometimes a lot less, depending on your local pricing. Then we have Stagg Jr, which I’m not a huge fan, but does fit in well price-wise and comparable in flavor. Lastly there’s Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, of which I’m a fan.

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George T Stagg 2014 – Review

George T Stagg Background

George T Stagg 2014
George T Stagg

George T Stagg is of course the flagship release in the annual Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. It’s pretty much right up there with the Pappy Van Winkle line in sought after bottles.

George T Stagg for 2014 comes to us from a long slumber in Buffalo Trace’s Warehouses C, H, I, K, L, P, and Q. So, a wide variety of barrels, although still very constrained number of bottles. The good news, however, is starting with this year’s release there should be more bottles to go around as Buffalo Trace ramped up production of George T Stagg starting in 1997. Of course, demand is disproportionately higher, so it’s likely still a net negative. This batch was distilled in the spring of 1998, which makes it officially 16 years old, but at least 17 summers old.

Details

16 Years Old. 69.05%. Buffalo Trace #1 Mash of less than 10% rye. 

Aroma

Dark fruits of raisin and figs. Old wood, wood polish. A little musty. Dark caramel. Deep, dark, and old. A little water brings out more lighter fruits and spices.

Flavor

Lots of sweetness and alcohol heat up front. Fruity. Thick syrupy. Resiny wood and tannins make for a nice thick mouthfeel. Char lingers in the finish. With a little water I get a bunch more caramel, vanilla, and cinnamon spice up front that the heat may have been hiding along with chocolate and coffee. Still has some heat.

Overall

So, I have no idea why I’m posting this review. Odds are if you’re interested in George T Stagg, you either will buy it on sight or can’t find it. What I may say here probably won’t persuade you and certainly won’t change your chances. But hey, I managed to get a bottle, so lets have some fun.

This is my first go around with George T Stagg. I never got a bottle before, so I don’t have much frame of reference to previous releases. I do know some old Bourbon and barrel proof, so we’ll go from there. George T Stagg is a flavor bomb. It’s big, old, and packs a punch. After a respectable pour uncut from the bottle it probably doesn’t much matter what you drink afterwords. Adding some water brings out a lot more nuanced flavors pulled from at least 16 years in the barrel and dials down the heat.

The downside on George T Stagg is it is an old Bourbon, which may not be everyone’s thing. It’s heavy on barrel character and has some dullness compared to more lively younger Bourbons. Personally I prefer Bourbons in the more conventional 8-11 year, depending how they’re aged. Still, a nice old Bourbon is quite enjoyable as a change of pace and special occasions. It also has some fire with its high proof, but a sensible person can solve that with a splash of water. It’s not the most delicate and nuanced pour out there, but it’s a treat that doesn’t come around often.

I don’t know if George T Stagg is the best thing ever, but it’s very nice, very interesting, and a fun pour.  Considering how rare this is, given the opportunity, my hoarder instincts would push me to buy as much as I could at a relatively reasonable price. If this was plentiful, however, I think I would be content with this bottle and just replace it when it was eventually gone. I don’t see it as a frequent pour, nor something to stock up just in case the world ends. That’s based on price and characteristics of age. I do love barrel proof Bourbons, however, so I’m down with that bold power.

So if you can find George T Stagg anywhere near list price you must buy a bottle. I only ask you actually drink it. In fact, drink it with friends. If you can’t find George T Stagg, there’s a lot of great stuff out there right now on shelves.

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.)

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