Review – Buffalo Trace Bourbon
Quite what the Buffalo thought of it when a distillery was built on the site where they migrate across the Kentucky river I suppose we will never know, but for over 200 years the Buffalo Trace distillery has been producing whiskey in honour of these fine creatures. Produced from corn, rye and barley which are first milled then ‘cooked’ for approximately 45 minutes before being cooled ready for fermentation. The cooled mash is then mixed with a little set-back from the still and left to ferment for 3-5 days before undergoing a double distillation, first in a column still then in a pot still to produce ‘white dog’ which is then barrelled for ageing. The staves used to produce the distilleries barrels are aged for at least 6 months prior to being used and the finished barrels are given a moderately heavy char before being used. The bourbon is aged for at least 8 years, and no more than 50 barrels are used to blend each batch ready for bottling.
Nose: The dominance of the oak notes are first noticed, and immediate impressions are that this bourbon will be far too woody to satisfy the sweet caramel-seeking palate. Bitter cinder toffee further enhances the heavy notes of this bourbon but perseverance is rewarded as it becomes possible to tease out aromas of lime peel, banana, dried orange peel and a mysterious herbal background which brings forth images of Benedictine of all things. Whilst definitely a grower, the nose on this whiskey is in fact rather enjoyable.
Neat: Much lighter than the nose would originally have led you to suspect, but this is certainly a bourbon that is proud of its cask influence which has contributed plenty of depth and spice, drawing out much of the sweetness the process. Tannic, and a little ‘closed’ sipped neat, the unaccustomed palate may well not find this an easily approachable whiskey. With a slightly waxy mouthfeel adding to the complexity, and hints of dark spiced cherry lurking in the background, this is a bourbon with much going on, even if it wouldn’t be high on my list of sippers.
Mixing: This is a very solid mixing bourbon indeed. Whilst shorter bourbon-heavy cocktails such as the Sweet Manhattan require a little fiddling with the recipe to prevent the oak from dominating, sweeter-styled drinks and those that offer a greater dilution yield impressive results considering the sensible price-point. The sugar and citrus in a Whiskey Sour for example tease out the fruity flavours hidden away on neat tasting, whilst the oak backbone of this whiskey ensure that the drink still has plenty of body. Longer drinks such as the Brighton Punch or even a classic Whiskey Collins which can usually be regarded as a bit of a limp libation in many respects show this whiskey at it’s best. The spice on the finish is completely eliminated and the extra dilution showcases the complexity hidden away whilst maintaining a profile that few will dislike. Sweeter drinks such as the Old Fashioned and Mint Julep are the way to head for the most impressive results however. The sugar smooths and tames the more challenging aspects of this bourbon, but never overshadows. In fact, if you only drank this whiskey in Old Fashioned’s, you’d be onto a winner.
Signature Cocktail – Buffalo Mint Julep
50ml Buffalo Trace, 12.5ml Sugar Syrup, 12 mint leaves
Lightly muddle mint with sugar syrup in base of Julep tin. Top with crushed ice and pour over bourbon. Lightly churn and garnish with a mint sprig.
Buffalo Trace bourbon is a solid mixing bourbon the performs well in a range of cocktails, particularly when erring towards the sweet or sour end of the spectrum. For an everyday bourbon this is a very respectable choice. Rating: ★★★★
Buffalo Trace Bourbon is available to buy from Master of Malt.
★: Terrible, only drink for a dare.
★★: Meh, not undrinkable but best left alone.
★★★: Reasonable, middle of the road.
★★★★: Tasty stuff, well worth seeking out.
★★★★★: Incredible, booze doesn’t get better than this. You need a bottle in your life.