Elmer T. Lee is the Master Distiller Emeritus of Buffalo Trace and created the first single barrel bourbon, Blanton’s in 1984 named after his whiskey mentor Col. Albert Blanton under whom he worked for 15 years. Seeing that the premium whisky market in Europe was taking off, Lee figured he could make that happen in the US. His shrewd foresight on where premium whiskey was heading, set off a trend that has in some aspects helped to save the American whiskey industry. If you watch the video of Mr. Lee explaining Buffalo Trace’s bourbon production he mentions his favorite warehouse are I, C and K for the flavors their environments give to the aging bourbon. See my previous review for a bourbon that comes from Warehouse C. He mentions that along with his favorite warehouses at Buffalo trace being I,C and K he prefers to pull the barrels from racks on the middle floors as they consistently give him the flavor profile he looks for in the premium releases. Though he retired from full-time work at the distillery in 1985 Lee still acts as an ambassador for the distillery and the bourbon industry along with still hand selecting barrels for his namesake bourbon and the other single barrel bourbons in the Buffalo Trace line.
Made with a more Rye heavy mash bill it is less sweet than more traditional bourbons. There is no age statement on the bourbon and the claim is that it is ready when Mr. Lee determines it is. I suspect that it’s somewhere less than 8 years as that seems to be the starting point where ages are shown in the labeling and marketing for premium brands though others have claimed 14 or 15 years. Either way it doesn’t really matter, the bourbon is good however old it is. The nose is spicy with leather, oak, orange candy and toffee vanilla notes. Taste is complex with a light background of rye spice and pepper over which notes of familiar bourbon vanilla, caramel with dark fruit and a honey sweetness coming through with time. Finish is warm with pepper spice.
The bottom line is this, go out and get a bottle now. You are going to be hard pressed to find a bourbon as balanced, flavorful and just damn good in this price range. It stands toe to toe with some much pricier whiskey and doesn’t back down. You can find it priced $28.00-$35.00. At that cost it should always have a place in your bar / pantry / closet / boat /secret superhero hideout / car … ok maybe not car. 90 proof – You bet it is recommended.