Buffalo Trace Mash Bill #2: Conclusions and Parting Thoughts

Buffalo Trace Mash Bill #2
Buffalo Trace Mash Bill #2

Buffalo Trace Mash Bill #2. It’s no wallflower. It has something unique to offer for nearly every bourbon drinker.

  • Do you like your bourbon to be easy to drink without having to add water or ice? Hancock’s President’s Reserve and Elmer T. Lee, at your service.
  • Or, are you more in the mood for something higher in proof? Blanton’s Straight from the Barrel has you covered.
  • If you are into single barrel bourbons, then everything above the bottom shelf is in your wheelhouse.
  • Are ornate bottles that double as decanters more your style? Look no further than Rock Hill Farms.

Buffalo Trace Mash Bill #2 – mysterious and elusive, yet a flavor profile that is certainly approachable.

Here, again, is the visual Buffalo Trace Distillery mash bill breakdown from Bourbonr:

Buffalo Trace Mash Bill #2

Links to each of our reviews can be found below:

Buffalo Trace Mash Bill #2: Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star

Ancient Age and Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star

Elmer T. Lee

Elmer T. Lee

Rock Hill Farms

Rock Hill Farms

Hancock's President's Reserve

Hancock’s President’s Reserve

Buffalo Trace Mash Bill #2: Blanton's

Blanton’s Single Barrel, Blanton’s Special Reserve, Blanton’s Gold, and Blanton’s Straight from the Barrel

Here are some of our quick-take observations regarding the mash bill #2 brands:

  • Flavor Profile

Though not as sweet as the mash bill #1 brands, mash bill #2 is still on the sweeter end of the bourbon flavor spectrum. The higher rye content is noticeable in comparison to the mash bill #1 brands, but would be more difficult to detect in comparison with high rye brands outside of the Buffalo Trace family.

The most prominent common flavors between the mash bill #2 brands are honey, cinnamon, vanilla, and a salted/spicy (as in baking spice, not pepper spice) caramel. As the proof gets cranked higher, raisin/fig and orange peel develop. All said, a pleasing profile, indeed.

  • “High Rye” Misnomer

Buffalo Trace Mash Bill #2 is commonly referred to as Buffalo Trace Distillery’s “high rye” mash bill. This is a misnomer.

By all estimations, Buffalo Trace Mash Bill #2 contains approximately 12-15% rye. In what context is that considered high?  Even compared to Buffalo Trace Distillery’s mash bill #1, there is only about a 5% difference in rye. Other distilleries that utilize a high-rye mash use over 30% rye (MGP and Four Roses). Truth be told, if a Buffalo Trace product is going to be described as “high rye,” it should be the Sazerac Rye – a “barely legal” rye (only 51% rye) that tastes more like a high-rye bourbon (meant as a compliment).

So, let’s refrain from referring to Buffalo Trace Mash Bill #2 as “high rye.” It’s just “mash bill #2.”

  • No Age Statements or Bottled-in-Bond

Seriously? Seriously. No Buffalo Trace Mash Bill #2 brand carries an age statement. None. Theories abound as to how long each brand is aged. But, ultimately, it remains unanswered.

It is not as if the question is unanswerable. Most of the brands are single barrel releases (see more below). Determining the age would be simple.

But, by concealing the age statements, it frees the producer to pull barrels whenever they seem ready, without worrying about the public reaction. Just imagine the frenzy that would result in a Blanton’s release that was 12 years old one year, then 8 years old the next. Should they be priced differently? Should Buffalo Trace be expected to explain themselves? All of this is avoided by omitting the age statement. When they’re ready, they’re ready.

But, one step could be to release a brand as bottled-in-bond. That way, it is affirmatively stating that the bourbon is at least 4 years old and offering the consumer a bit more detail. Because most of the brands are single barrels, that would satisfy the requirement for the product to be distilled in one distillation season. We know Buffalo Trace Distillery has bonded warehouses due to the Colonel E.H. Taylor line, so that’s not an impediment. And, Rock Hill Farms is already 100 proof. So, it seems like a clear candidate. Nevertheless, even though Rock Hill Farms likely meets all the requirements, for whatever reason, it remains simply labeled as a “single barrel Kentucky straight bourbon.”

  • Single Barrel Success

Buffalo Trace mash bill #2 is predominately comprised of single barrel bourbons. Ancient Age is the only non-single barrel brand of the bunch. And yet, bottle to bottle, there is a strong consistency in flavor between bottles within each brand. That is not to say that there is some variation. But, such variation is likely only detected by the highly experienced drinker.

As for labeling, Blanton’s takes the lead when it comes to the single barrel designation. It is the only brand of the bunch that identifies the particular warehouse, rick number, barrel number, and dump date. None of the other single barrel brands identify any of these particular details. As a result, it is actually easy to forget that Hancock’s President’s Reserve, Elmer T. Lee, and Rock Hill Farms are all single barrel bourbons.

Why is that? Why not similarly identify this information for the other single barrel brands? What purpose is accomplished by maintaining this mystery? That leads to our next observation…

  • Mysterious Practices and Corporate Interests 

Unlike Buffalo Trace Distillery’s mash bill #1 brands,  there is little transparency regarding the mash bill #2 brands.

Take, for example, the Antique Collection, mash bill #1’s pinnacle achievement. Each case of these bottles comes with an information sheet, which discloses nearly every detail for each bottle.

Other than what people have surmised regarding the mash bill breakdown and what is contained on the Blanton’s labels, the rest is left to rumor and speculation. Information can be gleaned from visiting the distillery or by what trickles down from bourbon insiders. But, as far as what is made available to the public about how old the bottles are and where the barrels are aged, it is difficult to obtain verifiable information.

Additionally, the mystery is not limited to the production side. It also extends to ownership and distribution.

Have you ever noticed, for example, that Rock Hill Farms and Hancock’s President’s Reserve are not included on the Buffalo Trace Distillery website?

Or have you wondered why all of the Blanton’s brands, other than the original single barrel, are only available in international markets or duty free stores?

These questions have answers, but not explanations. Here’s what I mean: There is a reason why most Blanton’s brands are not sold within the United States, but we still don’t understand the rationale. The company that owns the mash bill #2 brands and distribution rights does not own Buffalo Trace Distillery. So, even though the products are produced at Buffalo Trace Distillery, it (more accurately, its owner, Sazerac) doesn’t call the shots for branding and distribution. Chuck Cowdery’s detailed history of this corporate arrangement between Sazerac and Age International provides further details.

This also helps answer a question that is often raised – why doesn’t the Antique Collection feature a mash bill #2 product? The most likely candidate would be Blanton’s Straight from the Barrel, given that it is barrel proof and un-chill filtered. But, the Antique Collection is a Buffalo Trace Distillery/Sazerac creation. So, until Sazerac and Age International strike a deal around a boardroom table, the status quo remains.

  • Availability/Affordability 

This may be the most stark contrast between mash bill #1 and mash bill #2. Here in Kansas, the only readily available mash bill #2 brand is Ancient Age. The next is probably Blanton’s. But, there is a wide gap between first and second place. Ancient Age is ubiquitous (at least in 1.75 plastic handles), while Blanton’s seems to be distributed in small quantities on a quarterly schedule. The price disparity is also stark, with Blanton’s costing 3-4 times as much as Ancient Age.

The next most available brand is probably Elmer T. Lee. But, good luck finding this on a store shelf. If you do, it’s probably because it’s marked up 300% (MSRP is around $32).

Hancock’s President’s Reserve and Rock Hill Farms? Ghosts, at least in Kansas. Hancock’s is more widely available in states like Florida (for between $30-$40), but Rock Hill Farms is difficult to find anywhere. We acquired a bottle here ($60), but it almost seems to have made it to Kansas by mistake.

And forget about the international Blanton’s brands, unless you care to shop online and pay exorbitant shipping costs.

In conclusion, Buffalo Trace Mash Bill #2, known equally for its elusiveness as its deliciousness, provides plenty of intrigue. We don’t know what the future holds for these brands, and whether additional corporate maneuvering could result in further availability or scarcity. What we do know is that if you can acquire as many bottles of these as you are reasonably able, then do it. They are easy on the eyes and the palate, if not the wallet.

Stephen Netherton
Stephen is a regular writer at FlightClubICT.com

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