The Blanton's Straight from the Barrel review
Company: Buffalo Trace
Classification: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Breakdown: Buffalo Trace mash bill #2 (10–15% rye)
Price: c. £85
Before Blanton’s there wasn’t a single barrel bourbon on the market. Just let that sink in for a second. Then let it sink in for a few more seconds because it’s big. Huge. Sure single barrels existed, if you happened to own a distillery, know Booker Noe and could pop along and get one, or just had enough money to buy a whole barrel yourself. However, for the general consumer, before 1984 you could not just pop out and buy an off the shelf single barrel.
Lee (Elmer T. Lee to give him his full name) is the man we have to thank for this. In fact, we have a lot more than just this one bourbon to thank him for. Why? Well listen closely…
At some point in the 70’s the world suffered a huge bump to the head and went mad. Stark raving mad.
No one was buying bourbon. Hard to believe in these times, but it had become an ‘old mans drink’ and the new trendy hip kids of the 70’s were no longer interested in their Grandads brown liquor. They were all about the ‘clear’ spirits like Vodka and Gin. Bourbon was fading fast and in trouble.
Then along comes Mr Lee. Well we say he came along, the truth is he had been working in the industry for Buffalo Trace since 1949 (so long ago in fact, it was still called George T. Stagg back then). It was a case of cometh the hour, cometh the man.
One barrel. Such a simple idea, so simple that no one else thought of it. Instead of trying to compete with the clear liquid market and the trendy vodkas (light whiskey anyone?) Lee did the exact opposite. He doubled down on what makes bourbon so good in the first place - its flavour. He didn’t want to compete with vodka and hope people started mixing with bourbon instead. No, he wanted people to experience the taste and complexity of the bourbon, and for it to knock their socks off on it’s own.
Now fast forward 30 plus years, and you can’t swing a cat in a liquor store without hitting a single barrel (or getting paint thrown on you by PETA for cat abuse). The industry changed and started believing in the product again on its own merits. The rest, as they say, is history and we now have the vast and varied bourbon choices available to us today.
So next time you have a glass of your favourite bourbon, spare a thought for Elmer T. Lee, and pour an extra one in his honour.
For this review we drank it neat in a Glencairn glass as usual.
What we got – Full of oak and barrel char, dark fruits, raisins, and a real fireside toasty warmth.. It is like Bonfire night in a glass. Could possibly be the finest Blanton’s nose of them all (Mav). Again Mr Pie finds it all a bit too much due too the high alcohol percentage
What they say we should get - Caramel popcorn, almost like a toasted nuts aroma. Cloves and sharp rye spices
What we got – Starts off delicately before it bursts into flavour. Very warm with mountains of oak, toffee and chewy caramel. Full of rich spice notes particularly black pepper. High viscosity and treacle like liquid perfection
What they say we should get - Viscous and oily. Baked apples, cherry syrup, pie crust, and a faint citrus lead to a powerful rye back highlighted by clove, tobacco and a smokey char
What we got – Loooooong, the liquid is all over the tongue and back of your throat and it simply doesn’t want to disappear. This is a damn good finish with those spicy notes lasting long into the night .
What they say we should get - Long, nice dry finish
Bloody hell this is good. It’s like a party in your mouth and only really awesome people are invited.
Let’s stop this Blanton’s thing now. It worked earlier but it’s a lot of effort.
So what else can we say about it? Well how about the fact that until now Mav had been a disbeliever in how good Blanton’s actually was? Mr Pie had long been waving the flag for them and signing their praises, but Mav wasn’t convinced. This was the one that made a believer out of him though.
Blanton’s make a lot of single barrels, this one is the first (for Mav at least) that got that unique balance right between sweet and spice, between the corn and the rye. This is the one. From the first sniff to the first sip and then that super long finish it just oozes class. It’s complex, it’s beautiful, it’s rich, and it sticks around for so long that you can take your time in between each sip and just savour it.
If this doesn’t make you want to go out and find a bottle (although we know it’s not easy due to being an international markets only offering) then we don’t know what will. Maybe if we offer to refund you if you don’t like it*
8 out of 10 - Mav
8 out of 10 – Mr. Pie
*We won’t actually do this.