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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Summer Whiskies: Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Straight Bourbon (2015)

At some point in the Earth's history, September and October became LA's hottest months.  I really think this happened within the last five to ten years because I don't remember this being the case when I lived here from 1996-2003.  Or maybe I didn't notice it.  But now that I am older and crankier, and can sweat standing still in a snowstorm, not only do I notice this extended heat, but I find this whole situation bullshit.

Anyway, the "summer" I'm referring to in the reviews this week follows the whole solstice-to-equinox fascist measurement.  Lucky old sun my ass.

For casual drinking, I tend to drink more bourbon and beer during the summer than I do during the rest of the year.  They tend to wash over the palate, settle in the stomach, and work with my cracked-out thermoregulation system best during hot days.  Last year my go to bourbon was Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel.  This year my go to bourbon was......Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel.  The ETL was at some point in the recent past easier to come by and commonly priced at $30 or less.  Now its allocations (in America) are getting smaller and people are attempting to flip their bottles for twice or thrice its old price.  I have a little secret shop where I can readily find Elmer, though the bottle's price did go up 10% this year.
Named after the father of single barrel bourbons, Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Straight Bourbon is one of the higher-rye bourbons in Buffalo Trace's portfolio, part of the Age International family, along with Ancient Age and Blanton's.  Like Blanton's, Elmer T. Lee is bottled from individual barrels.  But unlike Blanton's (yet just like Eagle Rare) there is no notation of barrel number or any other helpful information.  Just the bottling code if you can find it.  Thus you can't track down another bottle from a barrel you like, so all preferences, recommendations, and reviews are that much more pointless.

So here's a review!
Distillery: Buffalo Trace
Brand: Elmer T. Lee
Region: Kentucky, USA
Type: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Age: unknown
Mashbill: Buffalo Trace #2 (higher-rye; about 15%)
Bottle Code: B1505421:29K
Alcohol by volume: 45%

I didn't intend to do a whole "life of a whiskey bottle" post with this one but I had somewhat different experiences at the top and middle of the bottle.  So, I'll list the notes here, then summarize below.

Nose - It starts with sweet corn, caramel sauce, cotton, and paint. Slightly minty. It doesn't seem to have much stamina in the glass, getting more candied and woody but otherwise fades out at 30 minutes. But at 40 minutes it suddenly gets very pretty and floral, full of limes.
Palate - Peppery with a mild corn & cherry sweetness.  Some rye spices and hazelnut liqueur.  Vanilla simple syrup with mint.  The oak feels more toasted than charred.
Finish - Sweet with cherry soda syrup, vanilla, mint candy, and ripe banana.  Again the oak feels toasted rather than charred.


Nose - Robotussin, black cherry syrup, and cinnamon sticks.  Juicy Fruit gum at first, bubblegum later.  Brown sugar, split lumber, and furniture polish.  After 15 minutes, vanilla shows up.
Palate - So many sweets: brandied cherries, brown sugar, and orange slice candies.  Then some rye-like spice shows up (nutmeg and pepper), and the orange candies become orange peels.  A hints of corn and bitterness.
Finish - Sweet but milder than palate. Long and sticky. Bubblegum, cherries, brown sugar, corn syrup, and orange peel. A spicy zing of cayenne pepper and ginger.

I found the bourbon to be a little quirky but also a little boring at the top of the bottle, nowhere nearly as interesting as my bottle from last year.  So it actually took three months to get to the middle of this bottle.  Now at this point it has brightened up considerably.  It's become much sweeter, but also has minimal vanilla, caramel, and corn.  It also works very well in cocktails and highballs.  Comparing it to its older sib, Blanton's, I'd say it's sweeter but less spicy.  Normally, I don't have a sweet tooth when it comes to whisk(e)y but this one works for me.

So, if you can find it for $40 or less, then I could theoretically recommend this sweet little number.  I've listed the bottle code in the information above, otherwise it's impossible to know what barrel you and I are buying.  Meanwhile, if you see it for $100+ please enjoy the laugh and don't mourn too much for what you've missed.  There are plenty of other bourbons in the sea.

Availability - Scarce
Pricing - all over the damned place, from $30 to $130
Rating - 85