Thursday, 19 May 2011

Buffalo Trace Longform Review

Buffalo Trace (owned by Sazerac Co) is probably the most exciting and hyped distillery in Kentucky. They do cool crazy stuff like the Single Oak Project and other experimental releases all the time, and their yearly Buffalo Trace Antique Collection of 3 Bourbons and 2 Ryes are consistently some of the best reviewed whiskies in the world. They also put out the Pappy Van Winkle line (more on this in the future), which is probably the most hyped American whiskey line among people vaguely in the know. Their marketing is pretty clever -- premium bourbon is a niche they (and Maker's) practically invented, since they came up with Blanton's, the "first single barrel bourbon." Their main product is the Ancient Age line of cheap-os, and their flagship bourbon is named after the distillery.

(They have a hooey reason why the distillery and bourbon are called Buffalo Trace - something about Buffalo trails or whatever. I think it's because buffalo pee is funny to drink.)

When I first tried Buffalo Trace years ago, as a person who drank only cheap bourbon, Maker's, and sometimes Knob Creek, I hated it. It's much more of a traditional bourbon than Maker's, with some peppery char throughout. The nose is surpisingly light for a 90 proof whiskey (or maybe just right, 90 proof isn't a lot), with strong floral and citrus notes, along with a little vanilla and, oddly (I might be wrong here) raisins or grappa. There's definitely some grappa in the taste, which flips the switch into ginger and ethanol. The taste definitely has a decent amount of char burnt in, along with the also-expected and tasty oak flavor.

The finish is notable for how I don't really care for it AND how essential it is for a bourbon neophyte to try, since I think experience the BT finish is essential in figuring out what the proper, basic bourbon flavor should be, especially up here in the cold north, absent cheaper old-school bourbons. It's of a medium length (not huge and forever-seeming like Booker's, but not almost-non-existent like Maker's or Jim Beam White Label). The fruit and floral flavors continue, and give way to an alcohol-y, almost aspertame sweetness, all the while buoyed in a lot of wood. Given a little time to rest, the finish becomes delicious -- limes and oak and pine, yum.

Like I mentioned before, Buffalo Trace might not be as appreciated by bourbon beginners, who will be overcome by the spicy and peppery tastes and miss out on the floral and citrus flavors that are carried throughout. I found the balance difficult to rate, since the bourbon's tastes are executed consistently all the way through -- citrus and char from first smell to last dregs of finish -- but I'm not entirely a fan of the tastes that are executed. The presentation is pretty nice, with a cool buffalo on the bottle, and the marketing is lovely, but I traditionally prefer the higher-end Buffalo Trace products. Quality skyrockets right above this product, with the Eagle Rare being quite tasty (and often available here) and higher-end stuff (like Hancock's Reserve and the BTAC, all unfortunately not yet available here) being either my regular pours or some of the best whiskey I've ever tried.

Value-wise, in the States, at $20 it's hard to beat. When base BT is $20 and Eagle Rare is $30, it's tough to decide if the upgrade is worth it. Here in Toronto, at $40 vs. Eagle Rare's $50, I would have to side with the Eagle Rare as the better value.

1 comment:

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