...where distraction is the main attraction.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Big Ol' Bourbon: Blanton's Straight From the Barrel, barrel 68

Buffalo Trace has two regular (rye-included) bourbon mashbills, #1 and #2.  Mashbill #1 has approximately 8% rye content -- this is the recipe for the spirit that goes into the barrels that become Eagle Rare, Buffalo Trace, Old Charter, and George T. Stagg.  Mashbill #2 (15% rye) is the DNA for Rock Hill Farms, Elmer T. Lee, Ancient Age, and Blanton's.  What's of interest, and what I didn't know until this year, is that those four bourbons from the preceding paragraph are all owned by a Japanese company called Age International.  So Buffalo Trace distills and produces those bourbons for Age Intl using one recipe, then uses a separate recipe just for their own (aka Sazerac's) brands.  For more information on Age Intl, I recommend Chuck Cowdery's post and its comment section.

As Age International controls the Blanton's brand, they control which bottlings are sold where.  Here in the US, we just get Blanton's Single Barrel.  But overseas, you may find Blanton's Gold Barrel, Single Barrel Gold Edition, Single Barrel Silver Edition, Paris by Day, Paris by Night, and a whole slew of "Straight From the Barrel"s.  Straight From the Barrel is what it sounds like, a single barrel release bottled at what is probably barrel strength.  The ABV numbers on these are always sizable, between 63 and 67%.

I'm a fan of the regular Blanton's Single Barrel (46.5% ABV) and I did two different reviews of one bottle, here (in 2012) and here (in 2013).  So I was very happy to get my whiskey mitts on this sample in my last purchase from Master of Malt.

Distillery: Buffalo Trace
Brand: Blanton's
Brand Owner: Age International
Region: Kentucky, USA
Type: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Age: unknown
Mashbill: Buffalo Trace #2 (higher-rye; about 15%)
Bottled: 9/6/2012
Barrel: 68
Warehouse: H
Rick: 24
Alcohol by volume: 65.85%

The color is a dark orange gold.  The nose is full of buttery oak, salted caramels, and grilled meat.  That is followed by a citronella candle and a cherry lollipop held aloft in salty ocean air.  After some breathing time, notes of pine sap, maple candies, vanilla, and floral perfume emerge.  The palate takes that cherry lollipop, carries it along through the big ethyl heat, and transforms it into a cherry cordial.  More cherry candies, then oak pulp, salt water, and charred beef ashes.  More cherry cordials in the finish, along with cherry pushup ice pops.  Then more salt and a hint of caramel.

The palate is hot and thin which, while preferable in some non-whiskey instances, isn't great here.  The cherry notes are fun but that's the best I can say.  The nose is much more interesting and got better with air.  Since I found the regular Single Barrel much improved with oxidation, I'm airing this one out further and lowering the ABV...

WITH WATER (around 50% ABV)
The nose has calmed down, though is quietly busy with many subtle notes:  Maple, caramel, sawdust, lipstick [Ed. I ate lipstick once, there's nothing more to that story.], rubbing alcohol, root beer, and brownie batter.  The palate is smokier. [Ed. I ate lipstick twice.]  It's less sweet and there's more young rye spirit pushing through. So there's some pepper to go with the salt.  Light floral and caramel notes.  The finish [Ed. Okay, I'm wearing lipstick. Jeez. You happy now?].  The finish has some sugar, but isn't too sweet.  The candy edge has been pushed way back.  There's some basic barrel char, caramel, and the light floral note.

I rarely say this, but adding water improves the experience.  The nose is still the best part, but the rye kick in the mouth is much appreciated.  Still, I like the oxidized version of the lower ABV Single Barrel better.  But as this is a single barrel release, mileage may vary from cask to cask.  Here are some additional online links of interest:

The whiskybase entry for this barrel - the ratings are mixed.
Serge's review of this barrel - he finds different stuff than I, gives a higher score than I, but doesn't really heap praise on it either.
Whisky Obsessive reviews barrel 270 and finds it to be "a bit of a disappointment".
Sku reviews barrel 195 and loves it.
Red White & Bourbon reviews barrel 268 and gives it a B+.

Availability - (current barrels)  In Europe, Asia, and some travel retail locations
Pricing - (current barrels)  Around $90 before shipping, so it'll easily cost over $100 to get it to The States unless you're travelling overseas
Rating - (this barrel)  83 with water, a few points less without


  1. I was going to propose a split of this bottle, as I can pick one up in Europe in a couple weeks. Now I'm not all that keen.

    1. On a positive note, Sku and Red White & Bourbon liked the barrels they'd tried. But this one doesn't inspire much. We can find better, cheaper stuff locally. Plus there must be lots of other goodies in Travel Retail. Or is it all NAS stuff there now?

    2. I was thinking of writing an extensive note on the horrors of travel retail. After not having been in a duty-free shop in two years, the changes are just stunning. Glenfiddich and Bowmore together must have 10 NAS expressions with the most uninspiring names and descriptions, something like Bowmore Sea Moss, Bowmore Krill, Glenfiddich Manager's Special, and such, with no discerning defining characteristics. And of course they all want $80-120 for these vague pleasures and noncommittal promises.

      But I'm talking about stores in Germany that have different stuff than we do. I bought a couple bottles of private label Springbanks in Berlin after tasting one of them - stunning stuff, port cask matured (not finished). I'm considering organizing a split.

    3. Oh man, these stories of the splendicity of the German whisky retailers are driving me nuts! Even the Dutch and Belgian online retailers have tremendous indie selections. Too bad the dollar is still getting whupped by the Euro. You know I'm intrigued by a split.

      Has Duty Free become nothing but a place to sell beta versions of tomorrow's whisky?

    4. This German store is also not what it was 2 years ago. I'm sure Europeans have a fit in a good American whisky store as well - it's just different selection and pricing system for 30% of the stock. I haven't seen a single bottle of rye whisky. They would give their first-born Springbank for a $60 lot of Laphroaig CS. But besides those one-off private label bottles there were 30-odd nice Signatories and a good selection of reasonable Springbanks - do you know anything of the 1997 vintage, batch #1 & #2? About 60 euros if I'm not mistaken. Also a solid Glenfarclas lineup.

    5. Did some digging on the Springbank 1997, batches 1 & 2 (both officially 10yo) --

      Batch 1, 55.2% ABV:
      LAWS -- 5 of the guys reviewed it, all B- to B+, averaged out to a B, almost a B+. Three out of five of them get a peppery zing. Good finish. Some sherry.
      Maniacs -- 9 reviews averaged to 86. Everyone is between 83 and 89.
      Serge -- 89 points. SGP: 463. Very positive review. Nose is wild, farmy, vegetal, mineral (magical words for some of us). Says the sherry is discreet.
      Whiskybase -- the crowd averaged it 87.25 with 59 votes

      Batch 2, 54.9% ABV
      Maniacs -- 13 reviews averaged out to 81, widely ranging between 73 and 90 points.
      Serge -- 88 points, SGP: 453. Fruits, flowers, and earth in the nose. Smoky and nutty on the palate. Says it's similar to the (2008 version) of the 10 but with much more power.
      Whiskybase -- 62 votes averages out to 85.25. Reviews are all over place but a few of them mention butter on the nose, as did Serge actually. Also multiple nuts (marzipan) and caramel references.

      Batch 1 appears to be harder to find online than 2, as a result 1 might be selling for more EUR/GBP

    6. The lowest online price I've seen for Batch 1 is 80 euros. Batch 2's prices are all over the place; TWE is selling it for 100GBP(!) while some shop in Italy has it for 65 euros.

  2. my review