Blanton's Original Single Barrel Bourbon
Buffalo Trace Distillery
Taste score: 90
Category: American Straight Bourbon, NAS
Whisky Cabinet Score: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ *
When I first came across the bottle of Blanton's Original, I was in Las Vegas and early in my whisky writing career. The bartender took me through a long list of bourbons before ending the night with the last of his Blanton's. Many years later, I found myself at the lab of Buffalo Trace Distillery on a media tour with an incredible insight to how each barrel of Blanton's is selected.
During media tour, we were brought through the rarely accessed lab facility. You can see the lab on Mind of a Chef, season when, and watch David Chang get drunk on Pappy Van Winkle. The lab and quality control facilities of Buffalo Trace Distillery are packed with advanced equipment analysis on a parts-per-billion metric. Each batch of whisky is scanned, identified, and compared to previous batches, ensuring a consistent flavor.
When you move past all of the equipment, though, the true heart of the operation shows itself. Round tables with cask samples of whisky, a clipboard sign-in sheet, and a simple system to decide whether a whisky fits the profile. The human element in whisky can’t be ignored, and even though the spectral-analytical-whatever technology gets it right 99% of the time, the human palate is the last step in the process. If the sample doesn’t fit with the Blanton’s Original profile, the bottle gets turned around, and that whisky will never see a Blanton’s bottle (it’ll be blended with something else).
Blanton's Original is a single barrel whisky from Buffalo Trace Distillery. Each might taste a little different, but all are intended to fit a flavour profile. If you ever visit the distillery (you should, it's beautiful!), the bottling line is part of the tour. Several people individually fill, label, cap, and wax-seal these beautiful bottles of bourbon. It doesn’t say hand-crafted on the bottle, but the individually handwritten labels are indication enough.
Blanton's would not have been made possible without Elmer T. Lee; a legend among bourbon enthusiasts. He started his career at (then) George T. Stagg Distillery in the engineering department just after World War II. After a long and successful career in the bourbon market, he retired in 1985. Just before his retirement, he released Blanton's Single Barrel (1984) in honor of Colonel Albert B. Blanton. As a single barrel release, it was unique for its time. Almost all bourbons are a mixture of hundreds of barrels. Elmer T. Lee remained involved with Buffalo Trace up to his death in 2013. He was 93 years old.
Blanton's comes in a few varieties now. The Special Reserve release is proofed for easy sipping (40% ABV), while the cask strength version is intended for whisky enthusiasts that want a harder whisky. Both are good bourbons, but it's the original that threads that needle wonderfully between flavor and proof levels.
Nose: Brown sugar, butter, cinnamon spice, ice tea. Reminds me of the crust of a baked apple pie, with loads of sprinkled cinnamon and sweet buttery notes. Touch of cherries.
Palate: Hit of vanilla, spread of caramel, and buzzing peppery spice. The finish is spicy, sweet, and fatty. On the top layer, this is a simple and delicious whisky, but it falls into a deeper profile of flavors that I quite enjoy. The finish is quite lovely but short.
Conclusion: A wonderful package of a great bourbon, in an excellent bottle, made by a legend in the industry.
*Whisky Cabinet Rating Explained:
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ Not recommended
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ Good whisky, but not a ‘must-have’
★ ★ ☆ ☆ Your great regular rotation whisky that'll come and go
★ ★ ★ ☆ Excellent, a near must-have
★ ★ ★ ★ Extraordinary, memorable, and original