In the eyes of many, Buffalo Trace Distillery can do no wrong.
Buffalo Trace Distillery is the producer* of, arguably, the most sought-after bourbons in the world: the wheated bourbons bearing the Pappy Van Winkle name. That wheated mashbill is also behind Buffalo Trace Distillery’s Weller lineup, which follows Pappy’s high demand, and often scarcity and extravagant prices. Buffalo Trace Distillery also produces* the likes of Blanton’s, Elmer T. Lee and Hancock Presidential Select, which too are highly scarce and sought after. Products like Eagle Rare, Col. E.H. Taylor, Stagg Jr. and even standard Buffalo Trace – which each share the same mash bill – are positioned as standard Buffalo Trace Distillery offerings, but have become scarce and difficult to find.
Scarcity produces an allocated distribution system, which means product is not always available on demand.
Yes, all “Pappy”, the BTAC lineup, Weller, Blanton’s, Elmer T. Lee, Stagg Jr., Eagle Rare, and even standard Buffalo Trace, is now allocated. To many, that may be stating the obvious. To others, I hope it highlights how fortunate it is that we can help bring another single barrel offering by Buffalo Trace Distillery to the Wichita market.
This Buffalo Trace Single Barrel pick will be the third barrel we have helped pick with Tom’s Wine & Spirits, following the Knob Creek Bourbon and Knob Creek Rye picks earlier this year. And while we have had a hand in picking other barrels with other stores, this is the first Buffalo Trace barrel that we are able to put our official stamp of approval on.
Much like our Knob Creek experiences (Knob Creek Bourbon and Knob Creek Rye), Buffalo Trace and the distributor provided three samples – #042, #154 and #249. Each sample is 90 proof (45%), which is identical to the bottling proof.
Before we got into the samples, we thought we would give a standard batched bottle of Buffalo Trace a try, so we could adjust our palates to what the standard profile might look like. Our notes generally followed those of our review of last year.
Buffalo Trace (standard bottle) (90 Proof):
Nose: Sweet brown sugar; light citrus; a little wet cardboard that just hints at an aged oak flavor; ethanol.
Palate: The ethanol dissipates, but the brown sugar and some honey remain. The wet cardboard is also muted.
Finish: Quite short. Some oily texture remains, but the sweet taste quickly disappears.
Overall: This is a bottle that we can’t complain about, especially at its $25 price range. This is a solid standard offering.
Buffalo Trace Single Barrel Sample #042 (90 Proof):
Nose: Sweeter than the standard bottling; dust; apple and pear; brown sugar; softer on the nose than the standard bottle.
Palate: The palate carries through the sweet flavors of the nose, but the sweetness increases significantly. This has a ton of brown sugars and white sugars. There is almost a sweet baked goods feel to it, like a sugared pie dough.
Finish: Continued sweet white sugar throughout, but shorter than we would like.
Overall: This is certainly a sweeter version of the already sweet Buffalo Trace profile. We enjoyed it, but were hoping for something with a bit more complexity. Nothing wrong here at all – a good variation of a standard Buffalo Trace.
Buffalo Trace Single Barrel Sample # 154 (90 Proof):
Nose: This nose is terrific. It has rich, sweet, enveloping butterscotch sweetness that reminds us of bourbons of years ago; caramel, vanilla; red fruits and red apple. This makes us very excited for what is to come.
Palate: A little bit of heat up front, followed by some candied cinnamon. The butterscotch notes are largely gone. And so was our interest in this barrel. This palate could possible be a bit weaker than even a standard bottle.
Finish: The finish is long, with pepper and spice, brown sugar and sweetness. However, it was another let down compared to the nose.
Overall: If we could bottle up the nose on this alone, we would do so in a heartbeat. But overall, the experience left us preferring Sample #042 more.
Buffalo Trace Single Barrel Sample #249 (90 Proof)
Nose: Caramel corn; butterscotch; a little touch of heat that compliments the sweetness; red fruits. Balanced while being more complex than a standard bottle or Sample #042. Rich in flavors without the often associated pungent ethanol.
Palate: A fairly traditional Buffalo Trace profile, but amped up fruitiness on the front palate, and more rich baking spice/cinnamon on the back of the palate. This is delicious.
Finish: Another long finish, with a nice waxy coating; baking spices and cocoa lingers.
Overall: This is an awesome example of what Buffalo Trace can be in single barrel form, without having to vary dramatically from a standard profile. The nose, palate and finish compliment one another, while providing different flavors along the way.
We quickly ruled out Sample #154, although we were saddened that we couldn’t steal its nose for either of the other samples. While the nose was wonderful, the remaining experience left us very disappointed. The flavors really didn’t play well together, at least compared to our other samples.
It then came down to Sample #042 and Sample #249. We probably pondered our conclusion on this one longer than we should have. Sample #042 was different, and I personally was trying to find that added “something” it was lacking. It was good. It was very sweet. But it was just missing “something.”
Sample #249 wasn’t missing anything. Sure, we loved the nose on #154, but I can’t say that even adding that nose would have improved this pour. As we stated above, this is what a Buffalo Trace single barrel should be all about. The nose, palate and finish compliment one another, while providing different flavors along the way, and without having to vary dramatically from a standard profile. It was our winner.
Look forward to trying this Buffalo Trace Single Barrel pick in the fall of 2018!
Scott is a co-founder of Flight Club and a frequent writer and reviewer on the Club’s blog.