Sour Mash Manifesto

Bourbon and American Whiskey

Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Bourbon

Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Bourbon, 45% abv (90 proof), $28-35/bottle

Old familiar as I call it. Elmer T. Lee is quite possibly one of the most comforting Bourbons or Whiskey’s of any kind made today. The first whiff floods the nose with Maple, Caramel, gentle spice, and the wonderful bright notes of citrus and orange peel. The sip echoes the nose beautifully with caramel, maple, honey, vanilla, bitter orange, and light oak. The finish is moderately long with gentle spice coating the tongue. Just a brilliantly crafted bourbon of balance – deep and rich, yet so easily drinkable. A perfect bourbon for the novice and the connoisseur alike. And to think a Bourbon icon like Elmer T. Lee still selects the barrels to this day. Makes it all the more special. Highly recommended. Note: Bottled expressly for Brinkmann’s Wine and Spirits, Franklin, TN.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.2 (Superb/Outstanding)


  1. Keep these reviews up! Really enjoying your take on whiskey!

  2. Bartlomiej Niwinski

    July 15, 2010 at 2:21 PM

    Looking forward to this bourbon, Ive ordered it and its come to my local liqour shop, so im gonna get it tomorrow. I do wish we hade the same “stupid” liqour tax as you have, here in Sweden it will cost me 78$ to buy this bottle.
    Keep up the good work.

  3. I really appreciate the comment Bartlomiej. I guess I shouldn’t complain any more about what I pay in Tennessee. 🙂

    I hope you enjoy it and I look forward to your feedback. Thanks again for the comment!

  4. Bartlomiej Niwinski

    July 17, 2010 at 1:25 AM

    Well, you were right Jason, this is an outstanding bourbon, my favorite so far was Knobb Creek 9 years old but Elmer T Lee single barrel is even better, full of character, no harshness what so ever.

    Do you know the percentage of rye in this bottling, because the spiciness of this bourbon is much more mellow than I usually pick up in other bourbons Ive tried.

  5. Bartlomiej I am very glad you like Elmer. I truly believe it’s one of the best Bourbons for the price out there.

    From a Rye percentage standpoint I am not sure. Elmer is a part of the buffalo trace (BT) family. BT has a bit more rye in the grain recipe, but that’s not to say that Elmer follows suit. Pappy Van Winkle, another star in the Bourbon world (which I will be reviewing soon), is a wheated bourbon (no rye – the wheat replaces the rye) and it is part of the BT family too.

    I think your tastebuds are spot on – this product sure seems to have a lower % of rye. And even if that is not the case, the typical rye spice and burn has been overcome by the soft sweet, rich flavors that this bourbon brings. It’s truly a wonderful sipping whiskey.

    I am sorry you had to pay so much for it. I will see what some of the local establishments here can do for you to make that expense less. If I can help in any way I’ll let you know.

    Take care and thanks for the comments!


  6. Bartlomiej Niwinski

    July 18, 2010 at 2:59 PM

    Hello Jason, thanks for your answer.

    Im just begining to dip my toes in the bourbon world. Usually Im a scotch single malt whisky fan, or should I say almost an fanatic, but Im getting more and more interested in bourbon and american whiskey, why not enjoy the best of two great aged spirits. The thing is that Sweden is a scotch whisky market, bourbon is not so popular, therefore you pretty get the basic american whiskey stuff, Jack Daniels, Jim Beam etc. The more high end bottlings are very scarse and pricy. But I do try to get the good stuff, Ive buyed Knob Creek, Blantons Gold edition, Makers mark, Bulleit.

    Looking forward to your Van Winkle review, the only Van Winkle I tried is their 13 year old Rye whiskey and that was rollercoaster of a whiskey, my tastebuds were working overtime.

  7. Yo Jason.

    ETL is indeed a fine bourbon… I think I was able to get it in VA for well under $20. At that price, it’s going to go in the Permanent Collection. Everyone tastes things differently, but I get a maraschino cherry / cherry cola flavor from ETL as well. I wonder if you’re tasting the same thing as orange peel? It’s funny, I didn’t start actually tasting cherry in there until I started watching some of Ralfy’s newer reviews and he mentioned it in other bourbons. It’s amazing, this power of suggestion.

    It reminds me of the time I gave some PVW 15 to one of my friends… After having a single drink of it, he screams, “Holy s***! This tastes like cherry pie!”

  8. Dave I definitely think you can get a little of that in ETL. Certainly the cola for sure. I will pick up a cola/root beer flavor in some bourbons – I find the bourbons that are maybe a little more mass appeal can have this quality to them also. Maybe it’s because they’re sweeter sometimes.

    And absolutely – the power of suggestion is amazing. There’s a guy that really knows his whiskey – Chuck Cowdery. His website is in my blogroll on the front page. Chuck focuses more on whiskey industry news vs. reviews and such. Anyway, he was talking about tasting WhistlePig Rye with the creator, Dave Pickerell. Dave would call out a flavor as he tasted it and it was like checking a box each time according to chuck. So certainly that is there.

    Thanks for the comment!

  9. Jason,

    I’ve been wanting to try some Elmer T. Lee for some time now and your review was the reason I just purchased a bottle. WOW…It was complex without being overbearing with any one component. The spice factor was tame as to what I thought it may be, which really balanced the wonderful sweetness. This is a fantastic bourbon. You are spot on my friend!!

    Best regards.

  10. I bought and tried this bottle for the first time tonight here in Overland Park, KS.
    It’s funny, this Bourbon comes off pretty restrained in nose, color, and first sip, but the mouthfeel opens up and peels back with all the flavors mentioned with a fantastic moderate-long finish that grips.
    Having 20+ bottles of Bourbon on my shelf this definitely ranks with the top. And, for $29 it is in the mainstay category too!

  11. Bill, I agree man – glad you liked it. For me it’s an old fave.

  12. I have tried ETL several times over the years with generally positive results but there seems to have been more variability than some other lines.

    I bought a new bottle today and it is one of the best whiskeys I have had and I have all the BTAC and PVW15&20. I am going to buy several more bottles from the same store Monday.

  13. This is a fantastic bourbon! I’m relatively new to bourbon and bought a few bottles based on your informative reviews. A couple of them were much more expensive than the Elmer T. Lee. Funny thing is that I have been enjoying this one so much that I have not been spending as much time with the others. My suggestion for those new to bourbon and looking for something superbly crafted at a modest cost is to look no further than the Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel. It’s a great place to start your bourbon journey and you won’t regret it.

  14. Will, that’s interesting on the variability, but I absolutely would imagine that to be possible. Many Single Barrels will vary for sure. Once you find a great one – stock up!

  15. Jason, my first time checking in, though I’ve been following your blog religeously for months. Your reviews and insights have helped a bourbon newbie immensely, thanks!

    Maybe the first whiskey that really did it for me upon graduating from Beam, JD and the like is this one, ETL, what a fantastic all-around bourbon. I find the higher rye content bourbons to be a bit rough for my own taste, but do like just a touch of rye spice and ETL maybe more than any other I’ve come across (certainly at this price point) manages to extract rye’s interesting characteristics and seemlessly meld them with the other components. Oh, and ETL seems to be perpetually on sale in northern Virginia ABC stores for $24.95, I’d happily pay the normal $28.95 but with many chances to stock up at a discount, it’s a no-brainer.

    I’ve greatly expanded my whiskey horizons over the last several months and your reviews (along with other reader comments) have been strong guideposts for me in navigating the bourbon world. That, and a neighbor who shares his PVW and PHC with me on a regular basis, will help get anyone hooked… Keep up the good work!

  16. Robert from Indiana

    August 18, 2012 at 11:27 PM

    Hey Jason,

    I truly appreciate the non-biased approach you practice with each liquor. I’m a college student who has a genuine appreciation for bourbon and it’s hard a lot of times to know what I should try next considering my restricted budget (as the majority of quality bourbons are generally in the $20-$30 range). Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel was the first beverage I tried based on your reviews. What a drink! I have to admit, this is the first bourbon I’ve experienced the tastes of “orange” and “mint.” Then again, I’ve only been sippin’ whiskey for about 8 months.

    Ever since I tried Elijah Craig Small Batch back in February (based on the advice from the guy who worked the liquor aisle at the local Meijer), I’ve been looking for bourbons that provide an entire EXPERIENCE from 1) The nose, to 2) The sip, to 3) The finish. Elmer T. Lee certainly does just that!

    Elijah Craig Small Batch may still be my personal bourbon of choice up to this point, but my experience with Elmer T. Lee makes me feel as though I’ve added volumes to my whiskey knowledge. Keep up the good work and I look forward to reading your future work on this blog. Keep drinking your bourbon.

  17. Robert – thanks for the comment – glad you’ve found some you’ve enjoyed. Clearly if you like these two you have great taste.

  18. Just bought my 2nd bottle of this and it may be even better than the first. Ah the joys of single barrel products. In fact this might be the best sub-30 dollar bourbon I’ve ever had and I may not have discovered it if it weren’t for your review. Cheers!

  19. You hit it just right with saying ETL is like an old friend.. trusted, steady, always there. Full bodied comes to mind, great, great nose. Nothing better after a long sip than to exhale slowly through my nose and let the aromas and spices mingle and tease. For the last four years, ETL has been my rock, we’ve tried quite a few others, and as I tell my bourbon friends, dollar for dollar, you just can’t beat it. Oh yes, I read some of the prices other commenters have to pay, here in Michigan, try $34 +/-. Still, I wouldn’t not pay it…. great stuff.

  20. Wow, picked up a bottle of ETL for the Thanksgiving weekend…it was fantastic. Got it for the bargin price of 30 bucks and really enjoyed it. It wouldnt be at the top of my $30 bourbon list, but it’s close! Thanks for the reivew, these are outstanding!

  21. Jason, thanks for the great review. Would you mind finishing the following sentence for me? “If you like Elmer T. Lee, you should also try…”

    Thanks, and keep up the great work.

  22. Just got a bottle of this for Christmas, and I’m blown away. I always passed it up for bottles that were more rare and pricey. Great review that hits this bottle spot on. This is my new “go to” bourbon. Same bill as Eagle Rare?

  23. Nick, this is the same bill as Blantons and Rock Hill. Eagle Rare, Standard Buffalo Trace, and Stagg are the same bill, Mash Bill 1. Elmer is Mash Bill 2.

  24. Great review. I and some of the guys held a tasting contest last summer. Each of us brought a bottle of our favorite Whiskey, thus eight of our favorites stood in front of us. We had a number on each glass and the name of the fine libation folded and taped on the bottom of the glass during the tastings. The winner was Elmer T. Lee. And I’m not saying kind of a favorite winner, I’m saying a winner the way Secretariat won the Belmont.

  25. All i have to say is thanks for reviewing all the products that you do. I am new to bourbons and we are celebrating my 21st in a week or so. You have helped me learn what bourbons are good to start with and i hope you will keep this up man.

  26. Hey Jason the bottle of Elmer I picked up leaves a strong alcohol feel in the back of my throat, that I found water does not tame. I fear this may turn me off of elmer t lee for a while unless it loses some of the bite.

  27. Garret-

    Send your ETL bottle to me.

    I’ll test it to be sure it’s OK.

  28. After picking up this bourbon today I am so pleased I did. After I tasted it, I was just singing its praises and wanted to look at some reviews. You really hit this one right. I love all the line for BT especially the Eagle Rare. I was trying to find something comparable and just happened to come across this. I think it is better than Blanton’s. I like many other people cannot get ahold of PVW but am looking forward to trying it.

  29. Just picked up my first bottle of ETL in SC, since they don’t sell it in the NC ABC stores. Jason, your review is spot on. This is an outstanding pour for the money and one of the best at around $30. Love it!

  30. Agreed Chad on all fronts. Cheers!

  31. If this isn’t the best whiskey deal in the market I don’t know what is. It’s about $26 here in New York and for the same general price (give or take) you can get Eagle Rare 10 ($26), Rittenhouse Rye ($20), Weller’s 12 ($22), Four Roses Single Barrel ($26), Elijah Craig 12 ($23), Evan Williams 2003 ($23) and Buffalo Trace ($23) so that’s the local competition. It wins.

  32. My mistake, apologies. That would be Four Roses Small Batch at about $26. The Single Barrel is running around $36 right now.

  33. Got my first bottle of elmer last week, wanted to see what the hype was about, did I miss something here? The bourbon I drink is sweet and delicious, this was dry and bland, it was like drinking chardonnay, wish I had my $30 back, I’m done experimenting , going to stick to my old reliables from now on, Makers and WT101.

  34. Jeff Spangler

    June 28, 2013 at 4:33 PM


    Thanks for your reviews. You and I, most of the time, agree on what we like and really like in bourbons. Elmer T. Lee is one of my favorites. Just curious, have you ever tried Wathen’s, by Charles W. Medley? It is bottled in a bottle that is identical in shape to Elmer T. Lee. Wathen’s is, in my opinion, even a little bit better than Elmer T. Lee. At my lipquor store in Georgia, Wathen’s costs only $2 more than Elmer T. Lee.
    I have never had the opportunity to try any of Pappy Van Winkle’s offerings, so to date, my absolute favorite bourbon is Booker’s.



  35. Birthday was yesterday and got a bottle of ETL and Makers 46. It’s a clash of the titans!

  36. Ok. So I’m an avid Scotch drinker. I’ve had Pappy, Stagg, etc… having heard great things about this Bourbon after Elmer’s passing, so I figured I’d venture out and try some. I expected very little out of this bottle for the price, but I am astonished at the high quality of the contents. It’s worth much more than ~$25; quite complex and will hold it’s own against most single malts. If it were a scotch, I’d expect to pay about $60-75 for something of this quality. If there are any scotch drinkers out there who like me normally shun bourbon, run out and pick this up without hesitation. It’s just that bloody good.

  37. Wow that was odd. I just wrote an very lonhg comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear.
    Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
    Anyways, just wanted tto say faqntastic blog!

  38. What a fantastic bourbon! It has a great flavor profile with spice and still manages a smooth finish. I didn’t think anything would beat out Elijah Craig 12 year for this price-point, but I think ETL manages (barely) to do it.

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  40. Thanks for finally talking about >Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Bourbon

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