Our collective patience was recently rewarded.
As we waited (and waited) for the Colonel E.H. Taylor 4 Grain to be released in Kansas, we did not idly twiddle our thumbs. We are currently in the middle of our attempt to cumulatively review the brands comprising Buffalo Trace Mash Bill #1 (Old Charter, E.H. Taylor, Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare).
**UPDATE OCTOBER 2017: And now that it has been named Jim Murray’s top overall whiskey in his 2018 Whisky Bible, it is sure to receive some added hype and scrutiny. **
As a brief review, the Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr., brand perennially releases four bottles: 1) Small Batch; 2) Single Barrel; 3) Barrel Proof; and 4) Straight Rye. As stated above, we previously reviewed the three bourbons. We also included the Rye in one of our previous tasting events.
There are also five limited release bottles: 1) Old Fashioned Sour Mash; 2) Warehouse C Tornado Surviving; 3) Cured Oak; 4) Seasoned Wood; and 5) Four Grain. To our knowledge, the first four were one-time limited releases. And, unfortunately, the Club was unable to acquire any of these bottles.
But, with the recently released Four Grain, our fortune changed.
So, what makes the Four Grain unique?
As its title suggests, the bottle’s uniqueness is due to its mash bill. Most bourbons contain a three-grain mash bill of at least 50% corn and some combination of rye (or wheat) and malted barley. The E.H. Taylor Four Grain includes, in addition to the corn and malted barley, both rye and wheat. This distillate is then aged for 12 years before bottling. Because it is bottled-in-bond, we know that it is 12 years, rather than a blend of whiskies that are at least 12 years old.
Buffalo Trace does not disclose the Four Grain’s mash bill proportions. However, based on what we know about Buffalo Trace’s two mash bills, we can deduce that this is likely made up of 5% malted barley, 10% or less wheat, 10% or less rye, and the remainder corn.
The 12-year age statement is also intriguing. Twelve years is somewhat of a magic number for Buffalo Trace. Its other 12-year age stated bourbons include W.L. Weller 12-year, Van Winkle Lot B, and oftentimes William Larue Weller. This obviously puts the Four Grain in good company.
Now, without any further delay, here is our collective review:
Nose: much more subdued than the previously reviewed E.H. Taylor bottles; musty oak; citrus; dried strawberries.
Palate: a burst of flavor compared to the nose; oaky cinnamon and pepper; caramel, strawberry and blackberry; vanilla.
Finish: not the same tingling sensation as the other E.H. Taylor bottles; lingering caramel and fruit sweetness; medium-long.
Collectively, the review was positive. This bottle brings something different to the table. One reviewer found the fruity sweetness to be the most unique attribute, comparing it to the dried strawberries in breakfast cereal. It really is, overall, quite sweet. This is not unexpected for a Buffalo Trace product, but it is much sweeter than the previously reviewed E.H. Taylor bottles (thus, supporting our deduction that the rye and wheat are 10% or less, resulting in a higher proportion of corn). Additionally, though aged presumably longer than the non-age-stated E.H. Taylor bottles, the oak did not dominate any part of the tasting.
There is a lot of subtle depth present that we were unable to pinpoint. If there is a flaw, it may be that the combined grains prohibit each other from reaching their full potential. An analogy would be the Golden State Warriors at the beginning of this past season. Before the season began, fans expected that the combination of Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry would overwhelm opponents even more than the Warriors previous record-setting season. What was unexpected, but now seemingly inevitable, is that two superstars sharing the floor each have to give up some of the spotlight and learn to yield to one another. The result is that both rarely simultaneously maximize their potential.
Here, the wheat and rye flavors felt as if they each failed to peak. Though enjoyable attributes of both were certainly present, neither took over the game. Each shot about 40% from the field and had about 20 points. Their team won the game, but it was not quite the highlight reel some expected.
In short, we like it. We don’t fully understand it. But, we’re interested in continuing to try.
Buffalo Trace has already announced a 13-year release next year. Maybe the team just needs a little extra time.