Buffalo Trace Bourbon

Well here we go again… Bourbon review #2.

I can be a bit of a single malt snob from time to time but I do try to avoid pigeon-holing myself into the belief that one particular “genre” of whisky is the hands-down king of the hill.  Good whisk(e)y can be found all over the place, so why limit yourself from experiencing some good drams? While I’m admittedly still awfully naive when it comes to bourbon, I have recently been trying to expand my repertoire and, as expected, the more I explore America’s favourite whiskey, the more I appreciate it.

Buffalo Trace provides a lengthy story on the rear label, written in both English and French for distribution in Canada, but not a lot of the info pertains to the make-up or flavour profile of the whisky. Apparently, Smooth, confident and fiercely independent – these are the the tastes of Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky… Uh, okay…? Well, I guess this will be a new flavour experience for me. Maybe I should be excited – I’ve never tasted confidence or independence before!

This whiskey is bottled at 45% abv and can be bought for about $45 here in Alberta.

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To the Eye

I really like the colour of bourbon. Buffalo Trace is deep liquid gold in a glass, with streaks of orange and copper flashing in the light. The big, droopy legs on the sides of my glencairn are rather impressive.

In the Nose

Oak and sweet, grainy corn are predominant, along with some cinnamon and a few other baking spices. Vanilla is another main player, as well as sticky caramel toffee. As my dram breaths a bit, I get some impressions of coriander, lemon zest and I think even a little bit of milk chocolate. It’s a good glass to sit with for a while!

On the Tongue

Well, the nose on this whiskey writes a few cheques that the flavour just can’t cash… The first thing I taste is alcohol, which is not at all what I hope for in a whisky. Alcohol should be the vehicle that delivers flavour, not the predominant flavour in and of itself. And, let’s face it, 90 proof is not that high in alcohol.

Oak tannins and table pepper – you know, not the freshly cracked stuff – are other main players to be found in this whiskey. With a little effort, I also find the unexpected flavour of canned corn, complete with a twinge of metallic aftertaste. Corn syrup provides sweetness and there’s some vanilla on the exit, but it’s a bit flat and single-noted. I rarely do this, but my glass is begging for a piece of ice…

A small ice cube really opens up this whiskey as vanillins and honeysuckle burst onto the breezes. As the ice melts, the flavour also improves quite a bit as that stale black pepper transforms into jalapeño chilies. A slight hint of bittersweet chocolate also emerges alongside some toasty, sweet kettle corn. I don’t care for the mouthfeel that the added water creates, though, and the finish remains rather short and dominated by a bitter alcohol astringency.

Final Thoughts

Meh… This whiskey doesn’t really speak to me. I know that the great whisky guru, Jim Murray, touts Buffalo Trace as one of the world’s best, so perhaps I just don’t fully understand bourbon yet. (I really wanted to like this dram, especially after discovering Four Roses Single Barrel!) For me, though, Buffalo Trace doesn’t feature enough flavour to really challenge the alcohol for centre stage. I don’t often mix my whiskies but this one seems best suited to some old fashioneds and buckaroos.

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