Review: Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey / by Jason Hambrey

Charred Virgin Oak
~75% Corn, 15% Rye, 10% Malted Barley
Distiller Buffalo Trace (Frankfort, Kentucky)

This was the first whisky I tasted, along with Johnnie Walker Black label, that transported me from being interested in whisky to being fascinated by it. It was a full fledged party in my mouth when I first tasted it, and it was love at first taste.

The whiskey is made in Frankfort, Kentucky, at Buffalo Trace distillery – one of the most renowned distilleries in the world. It is made from a mashbill with corn, rye and malted barley in it, and is aged about 8 years in barrels. It is made in a small batch process, with roughly 40 barrels selected for each blend.  Interestingly enough, you can taste the white dog/new make whisky from which this comes if you can find it – Buffalo Trace Mash #1, which is the base for this whisky, Eagle Rare 10 year old, and even the famous George T. Stagg.

Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: The oak from the nose reminds me of the warehouse I visited at Buffalo trace – dense, moist and almost mossy oak. It is a great nose! Apple juice, vanilla, honey, dried apricot, peach tea, and a slight coca-cola smell as well. The nose smells sweet, and has a lovely dried fruit character to it that is almost floral in nature. There’s even a bit of chocolate milk on the nose. I can also sense the rye spice in my nostrils as I inhale – it’s a dusty rye…not particularly fruity. I would say that it reminds me in large part of markets/bazaars which have nuts and dried fruits stacked up high….those dried fruits play such a big role here. very enjoyable!

Taste: Honey, and light corn entry which develops and builds into a bit of spice which then subsides relatively fast. The taste of honeycombs is so evident in the taste. There’s also a bit of leather, and fruitiness reminiscent of stewed peaches and apricots. It’s pleasantly sweet, without a lot of development at the forefrontof the taste – but as your mouth gets to know the whisky a bit – that’s where it gets interesting. It’s as if it’s a train…it takes a while to get moving, but when it’s moving – it’s certainly hard to stop.

Finish: This is where the whisky takes off, and this is what blew me off my chair the first time I tasted this whisky. Once you’ve swallowed, the heat and spice build up in your mouth and carry on and on, rising in heat for a good ten seconds after you’ve swallowed. The rye comes to the forefront, with the corn dancing all about in the background, filling the crevices of your mouth. Eventually, it fades and dries out with an aftertaste of honeycombs and a bit of white pepper which finally fades to oak vanillins. It coats your mouth, making it water, longing for some more. Absolutely fantastic! How often I have wished that I could cut and paste this finish onto some other of my whiskies….the one drawback is some of the lingering rye once everything has died out – it is a bit too dry for my liking. But eventually the sweet, dried-fruit comes and has the last say.

This is one of my favourite whiskies because of its roarind finish. If that were taken away, it would be lacking some complexity and intrigue. It shows you what a strong finish can do!  Sadly, I find the edges of whisky round out as you keep bottles open, even if you try to preserve them (as I do with wine preserver neutral gas).  I have found this with many whiskies, unfortunately (particularly peated scotches) – and now try to be careful about which and how many bottles I keep open. This is still fantastic – but was better when I had just opened it a bit over a year ago. As I tasted it then and made notes, the scores are based on this – now I would drop it a few points.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Bordering between high and average. I’ll go high, at $39.

Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: B1422707

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

A huge fruity nose, with the dried apricot, rose, prune, dried peach, walnuts, and oak. Nice rye influence. The palate starts sweet with cherry, before the oak, clove, nutmeg, corn, and earthy notes build up towards a pleasantly warming and complex finish. Oak, dried corn, and cherry on the finish. This doesn’t have the finish that I recall, but still a terrific bourbon.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Bordering between high and average. I’ll go high, at $41.