Monday, July 7, 2014

Whiskey Review: Blanton's Single Barrel

Blanton's holds the distinction of being the first modern single barrel bourbon released as a regular expression. In the depths of the mid-80s whiskey slump, Elmer T. Lee started Blanton's as a way to showcase barrel variation, which had previously been ignored as batching for consistent flavor profiles averaged out the differences. While it took almost three more decades for the idea to really gain traction, single barrel bourbons are now quite popular.

Blanton's is named after Albert Blanton, who worked at what would later become the Buffalo Trace distillery from 1897 until 1952, becoming president in 1921.

While the bourbon is distilled by Buffalo Trace, it, as well as the Rock Hill Farms and Elmer T. Lee expressions, are actually owned by a Japanese company, Age International. Edit: Unlike the other two, Blanton's usually provides information about their barrels (though this mini did not), which is nice as it allows customers to actually know whether a bottle they're scoping is from a barrel they've already tried.

The standard Single Barrel is bottled at a respectable 93-proof.

Blanton's Single Barrel

Nose: good balance of wood - caramel and tannic oak, dusty rye grain supporting, slightly vegetal and minty, corn (polenta), citrus (orange?), warm roasted carrots, brown sugar oatmeal, cream of wheat. After adding a few drops of water, there is more dusty grain (but sweeter- more corn, less rye), less oak, plus more mint and orange, and some vanilla pops out.

Taste: classic bourbon - caramel and oak tannins throughout, wood sugars over rye grain, with almost sherried dankness, and bright mint and orange peel, plus savory cooking spices (cumin and coriander). After dilution, it becomes more bittersweet, with oak dominating in a pleasant fashion with sappy/polish sweetness, more mint and savory spices come out, it's slightly medicinal at the back (cough syrup), and the caramel provides more smoothness but less sweetness, and overall it's a bit flatter.

Finish: rye pine notes, bittersweet, sugar cane grassiness, mild oak tannins, cumin

This is almost the Platonic form of bourbon - all the elements one expects are present in almost perfect harmony. However, this is a single barrel product, so one can't expect exactly the same thing every time. But between this, Elmer T. Lee, and Rock Hill Farms, the single barrel bourbons made from the Buffalo Trace high rye recipe seem to be very, very good. While this review is from a miniature, I'm quite tempted to grab a bottle. It's a shame that we don't get Blanton's Straight from the Barrel in the States, which should have even more punch, but it is reserved primarily for Japan and duty free stores.


  1. I had bottles of all three you mentioned and I liked Blanton's the best, followed closely by Rock Hill Farms - Elmer T Lee a rather distant third. Ich bin ein Berliner for a few days and I'll check if they still have the Straight from the Barrel, I got a couple bottles here two years ago.

  2. Not sure if its because you have a miniature or export bottles are different than those in for the US market but the full bottle of single barrel I have (purchased in Canada) does have the barrel number - as well as dump date, Warehouse, rick, and bottle numbers.


    1. Yeah, I realized that after I published it. Probably just because it's a mini.

    2. Yeah, the bottle I had last year had a bottling date, barrel, warehouse, rick, and bottle number. But you'll see there's nothing about distilled date or age, which is curious. Otherwise, I think it's the only Buffalo Trace "single barrel" that has any info on it. For instance, Elmer T. Lee has as little info as Eagle Rare. I like Buffalo Trace's products, but there seems to be a whole lot of arse covering going on there.

    3. It is kind of weird that BT tries to position itself as the 'enthusiasts' bourbon, but gives very little information about their bourbons except on expensive limited releases.