We have now reviewed each Buffalo Trace mash bill #1 brand(with the exception of some limited release bottles in the Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. lineup — Old Fashioned Sour Mash, Seasoned Wood, Cured Oak, Warehouse C Tornado Surviving — samples will be accepted).
Links to each review are below:
So, what did we learn or confirm?
Buffalo Trace’s mash bill #1 recipe (90% corn, 10% or less rye, remainder malted barley) is a crowd pleaser. It is not overly complex. It is not harsh. Unless you are someone who demands a whiskey with heavy spice or smoke, there is something for nearly every bourbon drinker to like. Here, again, is the Bourbonr mash bill breakdown for each Buffalo Trace Distillery brand:
Mash bill #1’s common thread, despite the varying proofs and ages, is a sweet caramel, cinnamon, and cherry flavor. Oak does not dominate even the oldest bottles. The rye spice, though present, also takes a back seat. The corn and sweet flavors imparted by the barrel drive the experience from start to finish.
The mash bill #1 recipe also proves to be quite versatile, with respect to the varying proofs and age. Consider among the other major commercial brands – who else can sustain such success from a recipe that yields a broad range of expressions? A single recipe producing expressions that include barrel strength, single barrel, bottled-in-bond, 15+ year-old; and less than four years old. For their respective categories, each product commands a strong following.The mash bill #1 recipe also proves to be quite versatile, with respect to the varying proofs and age.Click To Tweet
Here are some quick takes on the various bottles we’ve reviewed:
- Dialing up the proof results in a broader flavor kaleidoscope.
This is not necessarily unique to mash bill #1. Generally speaking, higher proof carries more flavor, regardless of mash bill. But, with this particular mash bill, the fuller flavor spectrum is best displayed at over 100 proof. The Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr., Stagg, Jr., and George T. Stagg each offer something more, flavor wise, than their lower proof colleagues. This is where the cinnamon, cherry, and tobacco flavors truly open up.
Interestingly, with the exception of Stagg, Jr., each of the 100+ proof bottles seem to actually drink under-proof. While one would assume this aberration with Stagg, Jr., could be due to it being much younger than the others, Buffalo Trace claims Stagg, Jr. is aged for “nearly a decade.” We have no firm evidence to believe that the Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr., Barrel Proof, by comparison, is any older. Some claim EH Taylor Barrel Proof is simply barrel proof Buffalo Trace, which would put it between 6-8 years old.
Regardless, it is these sorts of variances, within the same mash bill, that make this hobby interesting.
- The recipe holds up well to excessive aging.
When sampling a 15+ year-old bourbon, you would expect the oak notes to play a dominant role. And while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it may be more preferable for the oak to take more complementary role. Here, that is certainly the case. The two 15+ year-old bottles, George T. Stagg and Eagle Rare 17, contained flavors that were clearly imparted by the oak (tobacco, coffee), but also enhanced the familiar mash bill #1 notes (cherry, cinnamon). In both cases, it also brought forth new notes, such as the red-hots in the George T. Stagg and the herbal notes in the Eagle Rare 17.
- The age factor from Buffalo Trace to Eagle Rare to Eagle Rare 17
It is a shame that Eagle Rare 17 is so difficult to find. This is true for many reasons. But one of them is because of the interesting vertical experience from Buffalo Trace (6-8 years) to Eagle Rare (10 years) to Eagle Rare 17. Same mash bill, same proof, and yet the age differences make each stand starkly on their own terms.
- Single Barrel Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare
We were glad that we got some single barrel Buffalo Trace in Kansas this past year. The barrel yielded an enhanced bottle that helped us realize what we first loved about Buffalo Trace, but had forgotten after moving on to other bottles.
The Eagle Rare single barrel was a similar experience. This was more intriguing, given that Eagle Rare’s standard bottle is nearly a single barrel release anyway. Hopefully, Kansas will see some Eagle Rare single barrel picks in the near future.
With both of these single barrels, we only wish Buffalo Trace Distillery would release fact information sheets showing the warehouse locations, rick numbers, and ages. Someone similar to the fact sheets accompanying the Antique Collection would be ideal.
In Kansas (with a few exceptions), and setting aside the Antique Collection bottles, each of the brands are priced fairly. This bang-for-your-buck factor, along with the relative availability, amplify mash bill #1’s prominent position in the marketplace. It is a simple formula, really:
Crowd pleasing flavor profile + affordably priced + reputable brands = success.
In conclusion, for those who have not ventured into Buffalo Trace Distillery’s mash bill #1 expressions, we commend it to you. It offers something for beginner, novice, and experienced bourbon drinkers. For those who have, but not done so with any deliberate informative intent, we likewise encourage you to do so. With the affordability and availability of most of the brands, it is a prime opportunity to challenge yourself to dive deeper into the bourbon drinking experience. You won’t be disappointed.