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Buffalo Trace Bourbon Review


Buffalo Trace Bourbon, 45% abv (90 Proof), $20

Buffalo Trace doesn’t need much introduction. It is a very popular, top selling bourbon whiskey at a great price. The folks at BT are responsible for producing some of the finest American Whiskey on the market today, including a wide array of bourbon brands as well as rye whiskey. Buffalo Trace has 2 primary bourbon mash bills (grain recipes) not including their wheated bourbon and rye recipes. Mash Bill #1 is the recipe of choice for George T. Stagg, Eagle Rare, Old Charter and others. Mash Bill #2 has a higher percentage of rye and is used for Elmer T. Lee, Blanton’s, and Rock Hill Farm to name a few. While it’s not certain what the exact percentages of corn and rye are, having a number of different mash bills affords Buffalo Trace a great deal of flexibility. Let’s not forget about their namesake product (mash #1), Buffalo Trace……….

Color: Light Amber/Deep Golden

Nose: A complex arrangement in spite of the price. Bright corn graininess, vanilla, golden dried fruits, and tobacco are lifted with a hint of rye, oak, and mint.

Palate: Sharp and lively. The front entry is sweet corn, vanilla, a prickle of rye spice, and a crackle of burnt sugar. The sip moves swiftly toward drying from mid palate on to the finish, with a fantastic toasted oak flavor. There’s a gentle bitterness as well that adds interest. This is not a cloyingly sweet, thick, syrupy whiskey, but rather quite elegant in it’s delivery.

Finish: The finish is more of what started mid-sip; moderate length with bitter char, toasty oak, licorice, and mint.

Overall: I have to remind myself I am drinking $20.00 whiskey when I drink this stuff. It just tastes much pricier. I consider it one of the finest values in whiskey because of that. It’s not ridiculously sweet and flabby like other less expensive bourbons typically are. What I enjoyed most about it was the sharp, bright, graininess without tasting rough and raw. It’s pretty refined stuff and very well made. Highly recommended.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.5 (Very Good/Excellent)

50 Comments

  1. sku says:

    Agreed that it’s one of the best values out there. I always think it has a quite distinctive rye characteristic for being the low rye mashbill.

    Oh, and technically, BT now has a third major mashbill they got from Tom Moore, which goes into the Barton, 1792 and Ten High Bourbons.

  2. Sku, there’s absolutely a good bit of pronounced rye here. It’s enhanced I believe because this particular bourbon is just so dry from mid sip, and is texturally light. So I think that sparkle and spice accentuates the rye flavor already present there.

    Thanks for the info on the 3rd mash. I had forgotten their acquiring Tom Moore brought that on.

    Hilarious post today on your site by the way! Good stuff.

  3. Andy E says:

    Jason I’d say you hit this review right on. For about $25 in my area, BT is a very solid bourbon. It’s usually one I recommend bourbon newcomers that want to try something new.

    Unfortunately, I think (at least for me) one of the downfalls of BT bourbon is that because it’s so solid, I almost find it a bit ‘uninteresting’. It’s a damn fine bourbon don’t get me wrong. But when I’m looking through the liquor cabinet for my next victim, rarely does BT jump out and grab my attention.

    I would however like to taste some of the private bottling of BT that are out there. BT seems to be the post bourbon for this. From what I’ve read some of the these bottling push BT over that attention grabbing category.

    Great Job.

  4. Thank you Andy. I can see what your saying. BT doesn’t smack you around with it’s flavor.

    I haven’t had any of the single barrel bottlings either. I know folks that have and enjoyed them immensely.

  5. Fred Mozenter says:

    I have had a couple of the single barrel BTs from a couple stores. Excellent!

  6. Snakeman says:

    I keep one on hand all the time. A good everyday pour, and an excellent value for the price. One of the two Bourbon expressions I keep on hand for people who feel the need to mix their whiskey with a cola, or on the rocks.
    I also have a Binny’s hand pick BT, which is a single barrel expression. I have yet to open my bottle, but I did get a tasting sample from the same barrel my bottle came from while at the store. Excellent.

  7. Texas says:

    BT also makes McAfee’s Benchmark as well, and at $10 a 750ml bottle, it is an incredible deal, and I like it as well as BT. BT is very good, but I for half the price of the BT , the McAfee is an incredible deal.

  8. Joe Serapilio says:

    Jason,Have this one often.Easy drinking,delightful.Never a bad bottle.I read somewhere the barrel’s are 8-10 years old.Gonna have one tonight.

  9. Jim Sanders says:

    Are you sure that the BT’s that are ‘hand picked’ for a store are single barrel expressions? I had asked via email someone at BT and they said that they were not single barrel, but rather small batch. Then again, maybe I was not clear in my question to them.

  10. Jim it’s very possible they are both, but a couple of shops I’ve been into have been single barrel bottlings.

  11. Texas it’s been a while since I’ve had Benchmark. I’ll need to give it another look then.

  12. Andy E says:

    Well your review inspired me to revisit BT tonight after having some Four Roses Yellow Label (amazing btw). It was really hitting the spot tonight. Really picked up the vanilla and burnt sugar, almost giving it some maple syrup qualities. But that rye prickliness leaving that nice warm finish. Better than I remember, thanks for the inspiration.

  13. Your welcome Andy. Glad you enjoyed it. It’s nice to revisit things every now and again.

  14. snakeman says:

    Here are some links to pictures of the BT single barrel hand picked I have in my bunker right now. Got it in Chicago at Binny’s in February of this year.

    http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5258/5575710961_62c4cda6d4_b.jpg

    http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5172/5575710849_42e628392d_b.jpg

  15. Texas says:

    I’d like to see a review of that (McAfee’s), Jason. The finish on it is very interesting. It tastes..heavy and dark on the finish, best way I can put it. To me with BT I get a lot of coconut flavors, which I really like. I think the only BT product I have had that I did not like was Old Charter 8 year. Not good. I had Old Charter 12 year Classic 90 (Bernheim Distillery) and it was excellent, but the current Old Charter..ehh.

  16. Jim Sanders says:

    I like almost everthing that comes out of BT.

    As an aside, I looked back on your review of Eagle Rare and noticed that you rate the ‘plain ole’ BT a tenth of a point higher than their pricier Eagle Rare.

  17. Texas says:

    ..for my taste I also like the BT regular than Eagle Rare. The bottle of Eagle Rare I had was just to woody.

  18. Jim, that’s an interesting observation, and one that caused me to pause a little. It’s easy to say, “this is BT stock, same mash bill – wow regular BT is cheaper Eagle Rare.” These do not taste the same to me – family resemblance perhaps (I’d have to do a side by side). Eagle Rare is a single barrel offering, so they’ve selected barrels that they feel best represents a certain flavor profile. And that comes across as a lot more intense whiskey, a more aggressively aged one perhaps. That’s just a guess, but the wood resin and char is ramped up mightily in comparison to Buffalo Trace. I think BT is more graceful, Eagle Rare a lot more rock and roll. Both well made, and it underscores just how much wood and aging plays in a whiskey’s flavor profile.

  19. steve says:

    I’m currently drinking Eagle Rare 10, Blanton’s and Buffalo Trace and have to disagree, ER is better than BT. I get BT for ($22) and ER ($25) and I go back and forth between Blanton’s and BT being # 2 and 3. I like the woody notes of the older bourbons and haven’t yet tried EC 12($23) and PVW 15($53). can’t wait for an ER 17 review, I can’t find that around me. great reviews, keep up the drinking

  20. Steve, thanks for commenting. The beautiful thing about whiskey is if you like it better, you’re right, regardless of what anyone else says. I think Eagle Rare is very good whiskey. It’s not $25 here, it’s $32+ so at about a $12 premium I give the not to BT. But I also can understand someone preferring the bolder wood quality of the ER.

    Thanks again for the comment!

  21. Ben says:

    Respect your opinion Jason but I have to second Andy E’s comments. BT is solid but essentially unimpressive. Perhaps you have to have an older, drier palate to pick up on the details of this dram but to most in their twenties this is a ‘knock back in one’ saloon style bourbon. Maybe I’m being controversial but I have to wonder if on some level BT acknowledges this – look at the official website with it’s ‘pull up a bar stool’ informality. They don’t seem to be looking for connoisseurs sipping whiskey in elegant environments. Marketing can reveal a lot about the objectives of the producers.

    By the way, was there any answer as to whether Four Roses is aiming for the UK market yet? Or is it too early to tell? Best wishes.

  22. Ben, thanks for the comment. Thanks for speaking up against the majority here too! As mentioned earlier, I don’t think you “have to have” a certain type of palate to like one vs. another. It’s just whatever you prefer – they are two different whiskeys for me so I don’t look at it like, “which one is best” between those two.

    Also when I’m reviewing a whiskey I’m never concerned about what the marketing guys envision. I think BT is certainly priced at a level that would allow you to “knock em back” for sure. It’s also pretty certain that was their intention – to sell a lot of bourbon because of that price point. But when you dig in with this one there’s a lot to like. It’s definitely drier, it’s definitely not as “robust”, but it’s also more elegant to me than Eagle Rare 10 if we are looking at the two side by side. But again – just my tastes only!

    As for Four Roses, they have launched in the UK I believe in the last year. Give it some time and you might start seeing more of it. With their partnership with Chivas Brothers my guess is it will become more and more readily available.

  23. Texas says:

    Good discussion here..I definitely fall into the ER 10 is like chewing on a stick category. I am only a few years from 50, so I guess I have the old, dry palate :)) I find that if you are careful with BT and drink it neat fairly slowly it will surprise you with it’s complexity. It won’t stand up to ice though for sure, and can’t handle much water.

  24. Vince Carida says:

    I have tried Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare 10 side by side on 3 seperate occasions and I have to say that I prefer BT. I think Jason hit in on the head, ER is a much more aggressive bourbon, BT has a bit more elegance. Its interesting to note that they are the same mashbill. It just goes to show you what aging in the rickhouse can do for bourbons

  25. Ben says:

    Enjoying the debate and cheers for the Four Roses information Jason. Before my current career I worked for a time in a specialist spirits shop. I know that your age can make a difference to what you can detect in a whisky, though that may or may not apply in this case. Found Texas’ comments very interesting. Would definitely like to see a Benchmark review, and possibly Jim Beam Black.

  26. sam k says:

    I’ve been hanging back on this thread because I haven’t been able to embrace Buffalo Trace the way almost all of my whiskey-loving brethren have.

    I’ve been through a few of them, though not recently, trying to come to terms with what I’ve detected as a musty note that throws the whole thing off for me. I was actually relieved to see that someone shares my lack of enthusiasm for this bottling (Thanks, Ben!).

    This doesn’t mean I won’t give it another shot at some point, though, since I’ve never been so dramatically disconnected from the rest of the bourbon blogosphere as I am with this particular brand.

    I’m in my fifties, with 35 years of whiskey love under my belt (including the very last years of wonderful Pennsylvania rye!), and I’m glad to know that, if nothing else, at least my palate might have something in common with someone in their twenties!

  27. Eric S. says:

    Nice review and following discussion. I find BT to be a not too light, not too heavy bourbon, that fits right in the middle between wheaters and higher rye offerings. To me, it is sweet, but not too sweet, and mild in rye.

    As for prefering BT or ER; I like them both. I find that on some evenings, I prefer one over the other… just like any number of other bourbons or scotches. Sometimes, a whisk(e)y that you really like just isn’t doing it for you that evening.

    I don’t think I buy the older, dryer palate thing, either. I’m 51 and I find that I like quite a diversified number of whiskies. I think it just depends on your mood and what profile you are looking for on a given day/evening.

  28. AdamC says:

    I totally agree Eric. Some days Im just in a mood for a wheat whiskey and sometimes a rye. Sometimes a sweet Tennessee Whiskey. All depends on my mood.

  29. Ben says:

    You’re welcome sam! Jason’s an astute commentator but I couldn’t help but be honest about my doubts. I gave a bottle of this every chance to show some real character, spreading my tastings over a few weeks, leaving it to breathe, adding water etc. Always ended up with a fairly bland glass with oddly spiky and blunt moments. Ok, but not remotely satisfying to me personally. Will try it again some day and see if my opinion changes.

    I wondered if my age was an issue therefore I raised that particular possibility. Just to clarify for others here, I’m not suggesting that you stop enjoying certain whiskies with age, I’m saying that wine and whisky drinkers can become more appreciative of certain flavours as they mature. I also find my preference varies with mood and switch from scotch to bourbon to brandy and so on as I feel, that’s natural. Happy dramming folks. ;-)

  30. Ben, it was great you brought it up. Opinions welcomed by all and it sure helped to spark a lot of discussion. You’re clearly not alone where BT is concerned. Appreciate the contribution to the comments.

  31. Jeff says:

    What Sam and Ben are referring to is known as BT Funk. There is a few discussions on straightbourbon.com about it, look it up there. I’ve had 7 bottles of BT and all but 1 were delicious. I’m not sure if the BT Funk is still around anymore but the inconsistency is not as bad to me as say Elijah Craig 12 or Evan Williams single barrel. It’s hard to find fault with anyone who doesn’t like this whiskey since it does receive so much praise

    My first bottle of BT was one of those musty, dirty tasting bottles and it kept me trying this bourbon again for a long time.
    Thank goodness I did try it again! This is one of my favorite bourbons of all and definitely lives up to the hype.
    I would put this along with WT101 as another classic expression of bourbon: simple, affordable with a perfect balance of sweet, spice and wood. 101 leans more towards the spicy while BT is smoother and a tad on the sweet side. Who cares if there’s not 31 flavors in here? What it does have works in perfect harmony. I like to enjoy my bourbon, not analyze it and if it’s good, then it’s good and that’s all I care about whether it’s complex or not.

  32. Jeff, thank you for the comment and appreciate the insight.

  33. Rich Ford says:

    Jason -
    great reviews. Really enjoy it.
    I agree with your general sentiment – BT is at the top of my list for bourbons in that price category (I am in Montgomery County MD where the county-run liquor store sells a BT fifth for less than $20).

    I am confused about mash-bills, though. I thought Elmer T Lee was mash-bill #1. Where did you get the info on the ETL mash-bill?

  34. Rich, I will double check my facts there but I believe it, Rock Hill Farm, and Blanton’s all share the same exact mashbill. Buffalo Trace, George T. Stagg, and Eagle Rare are all Mash Bill #1. But I’ll confirm for sure. Cheers and thanks for the comment.

  35. Oz says:

    Not a PURE Buffalo Trace review but Buffalo Trace nevertheless. I’ve been putting ghost peppers into everything. Ghost pepper infused Buffalo Trace is magical.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5tG2gfvVVM

  36. Oz says:

    My bottle of Buffalo Trace looks exactly like snakeman’s except mine is empty.

  37. Kevin says:

    Buffalo Trace is good stuff to my palate. I went into the local liquor store recently and was surprised to see all the bottles of BT sporting a label indicating they were a single barrel offering with the name of the liquor store on it for 22 dollars for 750 mL. I picked up a bottle, and this stuff is knocking my socks off. It has the regular BT profile in the background, but very pronounced cinnamon notes to it. Delicious! I’m going to have to go pick up more of these and stockpile them for future enjoyment. Do not pass up if you find the same thing in your store.
    I enjoy your youtube videos.

  38. Kevin, I have some coming my way soon. Cheers!

  39. DBMaster says:

    Hmm. I like BT, don’t get me wrong. I picked up one of those “house labeled” single barrel BT’s from my go-to liquor store and it was, frankly, awful. It had a lot of overripe banana flavor in it. My only issue with BT is that there seems to be an awful lot of variability from one purchase to the next. I rotate it into my cabinet about every 2-3 months and it has been so variable that I think I am going to discontinue purchasing it. Sad, but true, for me.

  40. DBMaster says:

    Oz’s video is excellent. It is a true expression of capturing the enjoyment which is bourbon, ghost pepper or no ghost pepper. I am a big capsaicin fan myself and will give this a shot soon, but I might be more likely to try it in gin rather than bourbon. One million Scoville units – wow! Jalapeno is about 5,000 and habanero is about 300,000. Beware!

  41. Grant says:

    in NJ, ER = $24, BT= $20. BT was my first introduction to “non-Jack” American whiskeys a few years ago, and I am grateful to it for that. Really made me look around the shelf more and slow down my method of imbibing. It also drove me away from the spirits of my ancestral homeland…I’m just not spending 50% more for a bottle of scotch when you can get a similar depth of flavor and complexity with a bourbon. All while supporting the US economy.

    BT is a little TOO smooth for me. I’m 29, and I got married at 22. I missed a lot of the “thrill of the chase” and fast living that a lot of my friends are still promoting. Perhaps that is why I like to get kicked in the teeth a little bit on each pour…makes me feel alive. Or something. BT doesn’t excite my senses the way ER does, and for the extra $4, I’ll pull the ER down off the shelf. And for a few moments with that pour I can pretend I just beat a guy up on the side of the road after winning a drag race and landing the hottest babe in town. Or something.

  42. Grant – by all means drink more of that if it makes you feel that way!!! Good stuff! Thanks for posting!

  43. JK says:

    Jason, We slipped the BT bourbon into a blind tasting lineup of Elijah Craig 12, George Dickel 12 and Wild Turkey 101 for our taasting group. Of six tasters, two preferred the elegance and complexity of the BT to the others. I liked its balanced style, start to finish. Terrific stuff.

  44. Rick B. says:

    Good ol Buffalo Trace. IMO the best buy in bourbon. Amazing they can produce this level of quality for $20 a bottle. This is my every day whiskey that I keep in my decanter on the sideboard.

    If you like bourbon, you really need a bottle of this in your liquor cabinet.

    Rick

  45. Jon says:

    Jason
    I just tried this along with your review. It was very interesting to say the least and your review was a “road map” for my palate. I would have been a bit lost to describe this from a taste standpoint. Just as you described from mid palate back this took a 90 degree turn from what I was expecting ( in a good way ). It (To my taste buds) was quite complex and had me going back for multiple sips to really get the full nuance and expression that is there in this spirit. Your review was spot and allowed me to definitely enjoy this at much better level. Thanks

  46. Jon, thanks for the comment. Glad I could provide some good insight. Every now and again I’m useful! ; )

  47. Jim Listerman says:

    Buffalo Trace Distillery provides excellent
    selection Distillery Tours. “Hard Hat Tour”
    requires reservation to view fermentation and distillation. Tour Staff provide fun, interesting, informative tours. Buffalo Trace Distillery tours not part of the Bourbon Trail. Stop in, contact via BT website, or call for information & tour reservations.

  48. markku says:

    I just bought one (Finland), it was 80 proof! What a disappoinment. Funland? No…

  49. Andy H says:

    Regarding single barrel offerings by liquor stores. It’s my understanding that the store gets to taste from several barrel samplings and choose the one they like best. My store has some great single barrel that is a lot better than the blended offering i’ve tried from another store. I’ve read some reviews where the reviewer didn’t like the single barrel offering as much. I guess it’s all a matter of who is picking out the barrel.

  50. James says:

    Really had to re-approach this a few times before I could put a number on it. Overall, it had great walnut and dark chocolate qualities that breathed some life into it. Beat the absolute pants off of ER for me. I remember reading an interview with someone who was very close to the production process testifying that BT was always at least 8 years old, if nothing else, that really highlights barrel selection, because the only ER I’ve ever had has been night and day with its younger brother.