Colonel E.H. Taylor Seasoned Wood Review - Raw Complex Oak Spice Doesn't Always Add Up

Colonel E.H. Taylor Seasoned Wood
Buffalo Trace Distillery
Taste score: 87
Category: Straight Bourbon, Bottled-in-Bond, NAS

Whisky Cabinet Score:  (Due to lack of availability and high after-market price)

Colonel E.H. Taylor is an excellent brand extension from Buffalo Trace Distillery. Named after the man who helped bring forward the Bottled-in-Bond Act, this brand is nicely done from both a historical perspective and in its execution of whisky making.

The core Taylor releases (Small Batch, Single Barrel, and Rye) share a wonderful yeasty nose, and with a great play on oak flavoring. Taylor Seasoned Wood is a departure from that methodology and more similar to the Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection. It's experimental for various reasons.

First, this is a wheated bourbon. Buffalo Trace is already behind two big wheated brands (Pappy Van Winkle and W.L. Seller), but this is the first in the Taylor line. Wheated bourbons (also known as wheaters) remove the rye from the starting recipe and use wheat instead. It softens the whisky, and for older bourbons, it allows oak-based spice to shine.

While this is a wheated bourbon, it doesn't have the flavor and smoothness of a wheater. The edge of the whisky comes from cured staves. Buffalo Trace explained this process in their press-release:

The barrels in this release underwent a variety of special seasoning processes, including barrels made from staves that were immersed in an enzyme rich bath with water heated to 100 degrees. After spending time in this proprietary solution, these staves were then placed into kilns and dried until they reached an ideal humidity level for crafting into barrels. Other staves were seasoned outdoors for six months, and still others were left outdoors for a full 12 months before being made into barrels and sent to Buffalo Trace Distillery to be filled and aged. All barrel staves were seasoned, dried, and crafted at Independent Stave Company, who consulted on this project with the premiere expert on oak maturation, Dr. James Swan.

Ultimately, this means the flavor extraction from the barrels takes on an interesting twist. While I'm a fan of almost all Taylor products, this one misses the mark. Perhaps I'm still dreaming of the 17 Year Old Cured Oak Taylor product that has long-since sold out. This release doesn't mimic the Cured Oak. It lacks the dark oaky sweet notes of the Cured Oak (to be fair, some have complained this was a weakness of the Cured Oak), and Seasoned Wood overly pushy on oak spice. It needs more caramel notes on the palate to even out the heavy spice. On the positive side, the complexity of flavors are wonderful. Complex whiskies don't always make for great whiskies. This seems to be the issue for me with Seasoned Wood.

Nose: Hard candy, cinnamon spice, vanilla, and hints of dark berries. The nose is familiar to many of the Taylor lines, but it's not too giving. 

Palate: Soft start, with rising caramel notes that are quickly overpowered by the spice. The wood oak spice finish is long, with sprinkling of dark chocolate and blood orange zest. Caramel settles in toward the finish, and the spice twists toward black pepper spice. Wonderful yeastiness comes through as you breath out. It's a little too hot, which on its own isn't a problem, but this hotness is amplified by the spice-notes. The spice is there, but the caramel sweetness is not sufficiently present.

Conclusion: An interesting flavour direction for the Taylor brand, bringing in new dimensions. The oak caramel warmth is wonderful, and a common trait of Colonel E.H. Taylor whisky. The spice finish is fulfilling in that cinnamon, dark chocolate, and blood orange zest range. The finish is really wonderful. While I love many aspects of this drink, I can't get over the harshness of the spice. And that's a rare complaint from me. Ultimately, it's a one-star whisky because of how impossible it's to get, and the uplift in price you're likely to find this at. It's an otherwise great purchase for the Buffalo Trace recommended retail price. 

Disclaimer: Thank you to Buffalo Trace for providing me a sample of this product. It carried no influence over my review. 

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