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Buffalo Trace

A Woody Batch of Standard Buffalo Trace

2 583

@VictorReview by @Victor

22nd Jun 2017


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

This is a review of standard Buffalo Trace Bourbon, which has no age statement, but is generally considered to be no fewer than 6 years old, and up to 9 years old. I was recently given a 70% full recently opened bottle from a friend. This is my first ever owned 750 ml bottle of standard Buffalo Trace, and my first review of it. Why? About 9 years ago, in about 2008 I bought a mini of standard Buffalo Trace bourbon which was horrible. This put me off from standard BT for a couple of years. Later I tasted from at least three bottles owned by friends of mine with highly variable taste profiles and highly variable quality levels. All were much better than had been the mini, but I still didn't want to chance buying a full bottle. . Standard Buffalo Trace Bourbon uses Buffalo Trace Distillery's Mash Bill # 1, which has a rye content of approximately 10%. This is among the lowest rye content used by any distillery in the bourbon industry for rye-containing bourbons. Approximately 95% of all bourbons produced use 8-38% rye as the "flavoring grain" along with 5-15% malted barley for enzymes to catalyze the conversion of the grains' starch into sugars. The remainder of the grain recipe, a minimum of 51% by US federal law, up to just under 80%, also by law, is corn. Usually with standard, i.e. rye-containing, bourbon, nearly all of the flavours one encounters derive from new oak aging or from rye grain. Barley always blends into the background, and corn usually blends into the background too, despite frequently comprising 75% of the grain used. Buffalo Trace Mash Bill # 1 is different from most bourbons in that the very low 8-10% rye content frequently allows corn to be actually tasted in the bourbon

Nose: this is the woodiest batch of Buffalo Trace which I have ever tasted. Natural caramel, oak flavours, and vanilla dominate. They are quite refined and beautiful. There is no more than a hint of rye here. The corn, often very noticeable in standard Buffalo Trace Bourbon, is just about invisible in this particular batch. This is a first-rate bourbon nose. Water added brings out confectioner's sugar increased sweetness, and is a beautiful variation. Score: 22.5/25

Taste: even more wood influence in the mouth than in the nose; lots of wood tannins, more than I would like, though not quite enough to ruin the experience. This batch reminds me a lot of Stagg Jr., the first, excessively tannin-laden batch of Stagg Jr. I can just imagine what a steam-roller this batch of BT would taste like at 65% ABV. This batch will divide the wood lovers from those who don't like to taste a lot of wood. Tannins, caramel, vanilla, oak, wood spice...all are strong. The corn has disappeared from this batch, except for the thick body which it gives. Water added mutes the wood flavours somewhat and lowers the pitch. This is different in the mouth with water added, but not necessarily better. Score: 21/25

Finish: the wood tannins evolve more and more acidity and bitterness as they sit long in the mouth. Water added tames the wood flavours somewhat. Score: 20/25

Balance: lovely balance in the nose; overly wood-tannic in the mouth. Score: 20/25

Total Sequential Score: 83.5 points


Strength: relatively strong flavours in all stages of tasting. Score: 23/25

Quality: very good wood flavours which become overdone in the mouth. It is hard to talk about grain flavours because in this batch the wood makes them nearly impossible to taste. Score: 22/25

Variety: excellent variety in the nose; limited variety in the mouth. Score: 20/25

Harmony: once again, the harmony is excellent in the nose, but excessive wood tannin throws off the balance in the mouth Score: 17/25.

Total Non-Sequential Score: 82 points


Comment: I have lots of thoughts about this particular bottle of Buffalo Trace, about standard Buffalo Trace bourbon in general, and about standard BT in the context of the full BT line o products. At first, I thought that this was my favourite batch of standard Buffalo Trace bourbon, but repeated tastings made me realise that this batch overdoes the tannin in the same way as did the first batch of Stagg Jr. bourbon, from the same distillery. My thoughts about standard Buffalo Trace Bourbon are now about the same as they were in 2011: It is quite batch variable. At its best it is quite nice. At its worst it is sort of nothing-y on one extreme, or overly-tannic, as is this batch, on the other. I have several times stated over the years, on Connosr.com, that I like standard Buffalo Trace Bourbon OK, but that I like almost every one of the other dozens of bourbons made by Buffalo Trace Distillery better. That is still true

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OdysseusUnbound commented

Interesting review. Your score is about what I would award the last Buffalo Trace I had (around Christmas time). Yet the tasting notes are, as you say, variable. My last bottle was good, not great. But it wasn't "woody" at all. It was quite "perfumy", if that makes sense. The vanilla (and toffee to a lesser extent) was very dominant.

5 years ago 0

Victor commented

@OdysseusUnbound, this was the first and only bottle of Buffalo Trace that I have tasted that was heavily woody. (approximately one out of five)

Batch variation is a huge factor that only becomes obvious with repeated experience. Sorry I didn't get to see you last month in Ontario. I have some not-so-good Lagavulin 16 to share with you. You might like it, but so far no one else has. And I used to have some not-so-good Talisker 10 to share with @NamBeist,.. and some not-so-good Highland Park 12 to share with many people. In ALL of these cases I have tasted from much better batches of the same named whisky...and I did not want to be disappointed in the bottles which I owned and paid for. The issue is not what these whiskies CAN BE, at their best. It is about consistency, which is nothing like what novices would like to think that it is, based on one or two or three bottles. We would all like our whiskies to be consistently good. That is only sometimes true.

5 years ago 1Who liked this?

OdysseusUnbound commented

@Victor Not-so-good Lagavulin would hurt my heart, as I'm admittedly irrational when it comes to that dram. The sub-par Talisker wouldn't surprise me, as I've heard "variable quality" applied to Talisker quite often.

Back to BT, I've enjoyed it, but I found the vanilla note more "perfumy" as opposed to the vanilla note in my Four Roses, which I find sweeter, if that makes sense.

5 years ago 0

Pete1969 commented

Great review as always @Victor the Buffalo Trace in UK market is released at 40abv, always have it to hand as a mixer whisky along with JD and Beam White but prefer the Eagle Rare 10 which is bottled at 45abv for a sipper from BT distillery, even though it is nearly double the price.

5 years ago 0

Victor commented

@Pete1969, as a lover of the Big Flavours, I feel for you that the UK market gets the product watered down from 45% to 40% abv. I remain strongly convinced that the best quality for money buys for drinking in the bourbon market lie in the Bottled In Bond category. These are fully flavoured bourbons at 50% abv, but the price is usually quite reasonable. Substituting flavour due to lesser dilution for flavour due to longer aging is one of the few things distilleries can do in the present climate to deliver desirable products.

It was quite a shock in the US, when, in about 2013, all of the Buffalo Trace Distillery whiskeys became allocated products. Some brands which had been sitting on shelves forever without selling much, like Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star, suddenly disappeared (locally) from the shelves, so far never to reappear, 4 years later. AAA10Star is actually a lovely little light sipping bourbon, but it took scarcity and a feverish demand for all things Buffalo Trace, to make it sell out and become for many a mere memory. You've done the smart thing in gathering your rosebuds while you had the opportunity. The changes in demand for bourbon have taken everyone by surprise, not least the distillery industry leaders.

5 years ago 0

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