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Thursday, August 15, 2013

NOT Single Malt Report: Blanton's Single Barrel Bourbon (a revisit)

In memory of Elmer T. Lee.

A year and a half ago, I posted my first bourbon Report.  That whiskey was Blanton's Single Barrel, and it was the first bourbon I'd ever enjoyed drinking straight.  The tasting occurred in December 2011 when the bottle (kept at my in-laws' house) was first opened.

Zip forward to August 2013, the bottle is still 40% full.  I opened it, poured a glass, and found the bourbon even more delightful than before.  Either my palate had changed or with almost two years in the bottle the bourbon's edges had been smoothened and a new bright character was coming through.

Since that particular barrel was bottled exactly two years ago, here's an official revisit:

Distillery: Buffalo Trace
Brand: Blanton's
Region: Kentucky, USA
Type: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Age: unknown; online guesses range from 6 to 12 years
Mashbill: Buffalo Trace #2 (higher-rye; about 15%)
Bottled: 8/15/2011
Barrel: 18
Warehouse: 14
Rick: 2
Bottle: 137
Alcohol by volume: 46.5%

Neat only!
The color is a dark but rosy gold, almost "maple syrup" as I'd previously described it.  The nose starts with black cherry soda, cinnamon candy, and thick toffee.  Then there's corn syrup, buttered toast, charred oak, apple juice, and cream soda.  Underneath it all is a savory, meaty element that adds a strong new dimension to the nose.  Berries fill the palate: cherries, blackberries, and strawberries.  Soft spices sitting in a mix of black cherry syrup and caramel sauce.  Vanilla beans and brown sugar with mild black pepper.  Then it shifts into another gear in the finish.  Strawberries, orange candies, and creamsicles.  A spicy rye bouquet amid corn sweetness.  A bit of brine and a bit of fudge.

I've sampled about three dozen bourbons since the previous Blanton's report.  Only Stagg (Sr.) and Old Fitz BIB from Stitzel-Weller tops this Blanton's revisit.  For me, the extra spice and fruits put it over Buffalo Trace.  I will buy my own bottle before the year is out to find out if that extra oxidation was necessary in order for the bourbon to hit this sweet spot.  At the same time, if these really are single barrel releases, then no two barrels will taste exactly the same.  But I'm willing to risk it.  This is good stuff.

Availability - Many US liquor retailers
Pricing - $45-$55
Rating - 91


  1. And this is what the older marshall boss in "Justified" pulls out of the drawer on special occasions, so you know it has to be good! Justified - that was one good Robert Parker recommendation!

    Bring a sample and we'll compare it with my bottle opened not 3 months ago, 38/19/12/150, b 12-15-2011. It seems that this bourbon does tend to be on the dry side upon opening and it mellows and sweetens with some air in the bottle.

    1. Oh man, I should probably watch Justified. Mostly because Parker referenced it. ;-) Seriously though, the show (and its writers) do seem to like Bourbon.

      Sadly the bottle is in New York and I just got back to California from Arizona. But I'll be back there for the holidays. If there's any left, I'll bring us back a pair of samples.

  2. Just wondering when you tried Stagg Sr. (sheesh is that we're calling it now) since there doesn't seem to be a review around here? Also water or no water for the Stagg?

    1. I've tried the 2012 and 2013 Stagg Seniors, both without water. The 2012 was pretty awesome. The 2013 wasn't as immediately mindblowing, but I thought it was actually more complex. With it's lower ABV and (probably) different warehouse placement, it's sort of a different beast than the previous one. I intend to have a 2013 Stagg review this year. There will be water added for that report to see how it fares.

  3. I tried one of these and while I did like the horse cap on the bottle, and actually liked the brew inside pretty well, I'd go for a Knob Creek single barrel any day. Significantly more punch. This is similar to Booker's, though I haven't tried side-by-side, however a bit too viscous and smooth (i.e. maybe *too good*) for me, like really really good cough syrup perhaps, or definitely reminds me of Bushmills' 21 minus the chocolate if you're into that sort of "feeling". I liked the Knob Creek flavor the best (120 proof), and the Booker's was most surprising/interesting being 120 proof but being so smooth; the Blantons was a mere 80ish proof and still pretty good but not so interesting/good compared to others in its price range.

    1. I'm looking forward to trying Knob Creek 120. Booker's is pretty good, probably my favorite of Beam's line, though that's not saying much!

      As with this specific bottle, I've found that Blanton's gets much better with lots of air. Top of the bottle, it's okay. But bottom of the bottle, with 30 minutes of breathing time in the glass, and it's a completely different whiskey. I've yet to find another bourbon that does that.

      Of course, all of my commentary can be generally ignored because there can be quite a bit of variation between the single singles.