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Elmer T Lee Single Barrel

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Elmer T Lee Single Barrel

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Elmer T Lee Single Barrel

From what I believe to be a 2018 edition, this was part of a bottle split that was decanted and given to me by a friend.

Elmer T. Lee hails from Buffalo Trace Mashbill #2, the very same one that is responsible for Ancient age, Rock Hill farms and the now fever inducing Blanton's.

Nose: A touch spirity at first but not distracting, supple old oak, leather, tobacco, a touch of apples/plums. Pecans, hints of bbq pork and loads of brown sugar. Harmonious is the word that comes to mind.

Palate: Spicy, floral, leather, honey lemon lozenges and buttered bread. It does move into astringent territory but it's a welcome break from the richness.

Finish: Dry is the key word, dried fruit, dried flowers, dry oak. It's all the stuff from the nose and palate.

Blab: Silky, balanced, rich. This bourbon treads in familiar territory, you won't be surprised by what you taste here but it's all excellent. The proof is just right delivering enough punch but making it accessible and easily sippable.

I'd totally enjoy having a bottle of this. Is it worth chasing down and paying mad secondary price? I'll leave that up to you but I won't partake.

@Victor at that price I'm sure in hindsight we'd all snap some up. A really lovely whisky that's unobtainable at this point.

@cricklewood yes, it is sad that so many of these products just cannot be obtained at a reasonable price now. It is nothing short of unbelievable that the Van Winkle 10 year olds which I purchased for under $ 30 each 10 years ago now ask $ 800+ on the secondary market. To be sure, those bottles were never common then, but when they could be had the price was sometimes quite modest.


Single barrel offerings are usually a safe bet for the whiskey enthusiast. Distilleries are unlikely to bottle sub-par barrels for their single barrel offerings. That said, some single barrels are a bit outside the typical distillery profile, so if you don't like variety, SiB bourbons might not be your jam. Elmer T Lee bourbon is made from Buffalo Trace's number 2 mash bill which is rumoured to be 75%-78% corn, 12%-15% rye, and 10% malted barley. This is the same mash bill as the Blanton's line, but that line is also a single barrel brand so there will be differences. Age, warehouse location, and bottling proof will all play a role in any single barrel bourbon's final character. Elmer T. Lee bourbon is rumoured to be 12 years old, but no age statement is given on the label so take that with a grain of salt.

Tasting Notes

Neat from a Highland Whisky glass

  • Nose: dark cherries, blueberries, brown sugar, honey, vanilla, toasted oak, leather, a touch of corn oil
  • Palate: rich, oily, tons of dark cherries, cranberries, raisins, barrel char, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, powdered (icing) sugar
  • Finish: medium length, vanilla, oak, cocoa powder, nutmeg, a touch of tobacco
  • Thoughts: this is a fairly complex bourbon, although you have to work a little to get all the flavours and aromas as the cherries seem to dominate. It's rich and satisfying, like a dessert bourbon. There are no "off" notes. Elmer T Lee might be a victim of its own success, however, as bottles currently sell for ridiculous prices on the secondary market. I know, I know, a product is "worth" whatever people will pay for it. I believe I paid about $55 CAD for this and that's probably the most I'd pay for it. As recently as 2014, ETL was readily available and could be purchased for about $25-$30 USD or less, or so I'm told. These days, it often appears on store shelves (or the secondary market) in the US for $130-$150. Far be it for me to tell anyone what to do with their own money, but there's no way I'd pay that for this bourbon. It's good, but it's not THAT good.

  • Would I accept a glass if I was offered one? Absolutely.

  • Would I order this in a bar or pub? You betcha.
  • Would I buy another bottle? Only if the price was right.

@Victor $25 USD would be about $32-$35 CAD, and at that price this bourbon would be an absolute steal ! Even at $45-$50 it would be worth keeping a bottle around. But current secondary prices are just madness.

Elmer T. Lee Sngle Barrel Bourbon $ 320 USD average world asking price on wine-searcher.com. No, I would not be paying that. ET Lee would be a great $ 50 bourbon.

The trick is to identify quality before the larger public bids up the price. In 2010-2011 people may have questioned why I was buying and storing extra bottles of commonly available whiskeys that I thought were of top quality. Now they know why.


Thought I'd take care of his heel and finally review it. Elmer T. Lee was Master Distiller at Buffalo Trace, having joined in the 1940s when it was called the George T. Stagg Distillery. This single barrel bourbon is named in his honour; but no barrel number is given, and is bottled at 45% ABV. Bottle code is L191010123:06K.

The colour is a deep amber. On the nose it's tobacco, burnt sugar, toasted almonds and leather. Nutmeg. Overripe peaches. Chili powder. Wood smoke with water. Elegant but with just enough power.

The palate is spicy with brown sugar, baked apples, cumin and dark honey. Gets spicier with time. Silky mouthfeel. Figs. Water gives it more delicacy somehow. Classic bourbon.

The finish is ashen and oaky with milder spices, mint and juniper. Don't know what else to say except this is simply great bourbon - elegant, powerful, sweet, fruity, spicy and silky.

@OdysseusUnbound I don't know, and I don't know. Just open the bottle and taste it! It's bourbon, not a Faberge egg!

nice review for a nice bourbon, the two samples I have tried made me feel like it was a really well selected batch of bourbon, no off notes to speak of.


I have had the privilege to start my bourbon journey just as some of the best kinds seem to have been discontinued. Which means i was lucky to either sample or even buy some for later before they were gone. One of those is the Elmer T Lee single barrel, by Buffalo Trace.

This bottle has been a revelation, on just how good bourbon can be. It wasn't the 2012 Sazerac Rye, the Van Wynkle, George Stagg or Col. EH Taylor, it was this one. Surprising as i bought 2 bottles for a little under 100 bucks (or dollars) which means it is also considerably cheaper than all of the aformentioned bourbon royalties.

Nose: It is a tight race between albeit very different bourbons in character, but in comparison to the others mentioned earlier it's on the nose (or in the intro of the showdown) where the Elmer nearly delivers the K.O Soooo much to mention: Starts Floral with a classy classic bourbon violet that introduces lavander before going deliciously herbal with oregano and basil. Wonderfull Bitter-Sweet&Sour trifecta in the works. Red berry ice-tea, rhubarb, yeasty rhye and some extra spicy (not too sweet) cardammom. A Manuka honey note "syrups" the way with all this blossoming garden in the glass and a slight preview of (what will be the star on the palate) an absolutely wonderfully concocted wizardry of grains. Flickering shadows of delicious corns, ryes, wheats and barleys somber nectars dancing in the night of this smell, as ninja assassins ready to strike on your palate.

Palate: I didn't want to use a youthful abbreviation for this bit but then again i am a youth so here we go: OMG!! It seems every flavour aspect in this bourbon has multiple dimensions to themselves. Big Sweet&Sour aromatic arrival with the corn and other grains so beautifully choreographed in tandem. Granary toast, zesty corn, pungent juicy barley, creamy wheat and that zesty corn from the nose, what can you say? A rich lichee with some coriander and some sage makes a herbal entrance after the amazing grain complexity provided the body, with some of that red-berry (red-fruit) iced tea from the nose. Then BOOM! The sour mash turbo kicks in, and it takes no prisoners! It gives a strong, bold, but sophisticated and measured sour aspect to the main body flavours (the grains really). It's very intense now to the point of making some 120 proof rhyes seem pedestrian. The sour dimension is not only huge but articulate and salivating. It is a bit like a ultra effective karate-chop, only with the hand of a giant..

Finish: It is long, very long.. Citrus and lime leaves with a recurrant fruity note from before: lichee. This is wonderfully balanced by some lovely bitter lemon-tea tannins both complements the sourness nicely. Finely the smoke clears from the sour-mash H-bomb. What we are left with is a mellow and mature aromatic aftermath with cloves, vanilla ice-cream and the smallest hint of oak after all this madness. The herbal note with the oregano and basil comes back slightly. To remind us how it all started, while queuing us out like a faint yet powerfull flute note lingering in the distant tastebuds, as it will in my memory.

Wow and Oh dear! What have we got here! This was astonishing! I feel tired myself from using all these superlatives but it is just that good. If tastebuds could get high, this would be highly illegal.

I know this is already a painfully long review but as i revisited this gem i was searching for an analogy in which to relate this bottling to. As a european there are many things that irritates and often infuriates about the U.S these days. A self-destructuve/poverty increasing economic policy coupled with some extreme nationalistic tendencies and a problematic educational system among other things. But although america can be viewed as an antagonist or a tragic hero it's, in my opinion, a country of extremes. But for every hate-spewing, authority-loving, violence-addicting and gun-wielding lunatic there seems to be a person that is best friend material and just a wonderfull human being. This view is slightly archaic or even crude but it does help reflect the Jack Daniels an Jim Beam "bore" that has dominated the bourbon market for so long. But in it's mist you have E.H taylor, Eagle Rares, Elijah Craigs, Larue Wellers, Sazeracs and for me: Elmer T Lee! This is your legacy America, treasure it!

This whisky is to be drunk with a clean palate. I have experienced the same weird flavour profile that @JeffC describes - this bourbon is reminding me why I have three bottles from different barrels opened at the same time. This whisky is a stunner! Tonight I'm enjoying this wonderfully balanced expression - the yin and yang of sweet and sout...herbs, nuts, sopressata notes - amazing...and @ Nozinan, you made me laugh, but I must say that the political references in the review smacked less of mustard and more of mustard gas.

Sorry for the slight political reference, wasn't my intention to rattle anyones cage, guess this bourbon made me extra lyrical. I'll keep my thoughts on the whisky next time.

@Nozinan If it is in the leaugue of this nectar i just tasted or even dare i say over it then, absolutely!!


If you’re not familiar with the legend of Elmer T. Lee, I suggest a quick Google search for bios and obits more colorful and detailed that what I could provide here. His eponymous whiskey was introduced after he had retired as Master Distiller at Buffalo Trace, although “retired” was a relative term in Mr. Lee’s case. I wish I was as active at 30 as he was at 90.

Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel has fast become my favorite bourbon in this price range, as well as slightly higher price ranges to boot. Add an extra point to my score if you want to take the bang-for-the-buck aspect into account. This is luscious stuff with a flavor balance like no other bourbon, yet which somehow manages to remain unmistakably bourbon. Bottle purchased three weeks ago, and I’ll be ready for a new one by this weekend.

Nose: Very nice in the first few minutes, exceptional in the next few. Caramel, honey, lavender, vanilla, oak, and pepper at first. Good stuff, but thin overall compared to the opened-up nose about five minutes later. It’s denser, more grounded, more textured, and a more chest-warming experience overall. The clean, pure vanilla now dominates, and some traces of cherries and wintergreen lurk in the corners.

Palate: A feather-light arrival and development with some delicious flavors nonetheless. Caramel cotton candy, if you can imagine such a thing. Lots of canned fruits, oak, vanilla, and pepper as well. A tasty assortment; I just wish it weren’t so tame.

Finish: Smooth and tame but sensational. There’s a pepper kick at first, but it quickly settles with some silky vanilla and quality oak wood. This is one of the best wood flavors I’ve ever had, and it’s the last thing to linger at the fadeout.

What great dimension in such an easy-sipper. Your palate and your wallet will hold up to a few drams of this per evening.

Wonderful review. Yes, it is very easy to like Elmer T. Lee bourbon.


Elmer T. Lee is one of my favorite Bourbons. Easy to drink and enjoy. If your looking for a standard Bourbon that offers premium quality for at a good price, look no further.

Nose: The higher rye mashbill is evident. Saw dusty, cereals, rye, initially. With time left to open you get ginger, citrus, flowers- particularly carnations, vanilla ceylon tea, butterscotch, fudge, and nougat.

Taste: Light bodied Bourbon. Spice, citrus, fudge, light woods, vanilla, sugar cane, soft bitters, and sour notes. Lots of rye as well, the grain is very prominent on the palate as it was on the nose.

Finish: Butterscotch, wood, rye spice, bitter once again. It has a dry finish that I love. It will cause you to salivate and what to experience it again.

Elmer T. Lee certainly does a very good job of translating the smell of the bourbon onto your palate. It's very much a grain driven Bourbon and not much of sweetness is found in it. It's more of a grain, bitters & sours, profile dram. Still good in my book.


I ordered a double for my good friend's cousin who told me he just turned 21 when we were at a restaurant and my friend was in the restroom. When my friend returned to the table, he admitted his cousin had turned 21 eight months earlier.

The drinks arrived at the table. My friend's cousin tasted his whisky and made a horrible face, saying it tasted like "bleach." He kept carrying on and acting like a complete idiot. I asked to taste the Elmer T Lee. It was delicious, just fantastic for the price.

The cousin kept complaining bitterly. Finally he added two packets of sugar and filled his glass to the brim with water. It was painful to see such a nice whisky get ruined like that. Even after he ruined it, he kept complaining and carrying on like a child about how much he hated it, making faces, wincing, and frowning.

Later, after dinner, I asked my good friend if his cousin was autistic. I'm a college professor, and the kid's behavior reminded me of some students I've taught in the past that were diagnosed professionally. "Very good," my friend said.

I'm not sure if the kid is genuinely autistic or just lacking in social graces. Either way, it's not my friend's fault, and it's certainly not the whisky's fault. I liked the Elmer T Lee very much and wished I had thought to offer to trade the boy for a foofy fruity drink thta I could have ordered, so that I could rescue the delicious bourbon from his clutches. A double, at that.

Oh well, these things happen. The taste that I had of the Elmer T Lee reminded me of just how much I like it. What a great whisky for the price. And, no, it tastes nothing like bleach.

I bet that's the first and last time you'll be that generous. You take it in better stride than me. I personally won't offer a dram to anyone who can't appreciate it. I rather be rude than witness them commit murder.

I nearly wanted to cry out as i read this, this is my favorite bourbon bar none (and i have tasted Papppy and Handy, and many of the big boy bourbons) a gem that should never get unjust treatment.


Elmer T Lee is produced by the good people of Buffalo Trace in Frankfort, Kentucky. It is a small batch single barrel bourbon named after Buffalo Trace’s former master distiller, who took up this role in 1949. Elmer T Lee was one of the first to use larger quantities of rye than was usual for bourbon.

The nose is sweet on vanilla and butterscotch, a bit dry on leather and oak. Something that reminds me of nuts in the mix. The butterscotch evolves towards creamy toffee. Green garden herbs. Rather light, but well balanced.

It is creamy and fruity on the palate. Think apricots, citrus, oranges and honey. Toffee returns. Quite a bit, in fact. This is rather fresh. Loads of vanilla, but also toasted oak that delivers quite a few spices.

The spicy finish is somewhat short and drying.

Easy drinking bourbon, that much is clear. And very friendly priced (around 35 EUR).


This bourbon is highly recommended by people I know. Since I am moving away from adding water to bourbon I let the bourbons aerate for about several minutes. Without aeration I can't drink this bourbon easily like my elijiah craig 12 year or kentuck spirit.

Nose: Spun Sugar, chewy butterscotch, vanilla, caramel, cinnamon, oak, rye spice, dark fruits and alcohol. Palate: The mentioned sugar, nice butterscotch, vanilla, caramel, cinnamon, oak, rye spice and dakr fruits. Finish: Butterscotch last for 5 seconds or so then I get vanilla, caramel, dakr fruits and spice.


The nose provides a wonderful combination of citrus notes, sweet candied fruit, and a floral elegance.

The flavor is full of character and class, balanced by both sweetness and spiciness but with neither being overbearing. What I pick up here are sweet notes of caramel and honey, balanced by spicy notes of rye, oak, and ginger.

The finish is long and graceful, containing more spicy notes and a certain bitterness.

Overall, this bourbon is rich, balanced, and classy. Very enjoyable.


Reviewed by @dbk

0 1086/100

Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is one of the Sazerac Company’s many brands produced at their Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky. The namesake whiskey of Elmer T. Lee, Master Distiller Emeritus at Buffalo Trace, it is made from the distillery’s high rye mash bill, in the same vein as Ancient Age and Blanton’s whiskies, to name a few.

Born in 1919, Lee joined the distillery (then named the George T. Stagg Distillery) in 1949, became manager in 1968, and retired in 1985. He is reported to hand select the barrels that eventually become Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. The bottle in question found its way into my hands thanks to the kindness of one of our own local American whiskey experts here on Connosr, “Victor,” who presented me with it at a tasting in my home a few weeks ago. I’m grateful for it, and for the fine company during that evening (that means you, too, “Pudge72” and Mary Anne).

The nose is a sweet affair, with vanilla, butterscotch, banana, nutmeg, apricots, honey, and Sprite. It has something of a dusty rye undercurrent, rounding out the richness.

The palate is creamy, spicy, and bittersweet. Oak tannin and bitter rye are complemented by some sweet corn and vanilla, all subtly accompanied by baking spices like nutmeg and cinnamon. The finish begins sweetly before a balancing thread of astringency cuts through.

Although there is a higher rye content in this bourbon than in many others, the rye does not dominate the profile. Indeed, it brings a much needed balance to the otherwise candy sweetness of the spirit. Moreover, it is amazingly full bodied for a whiskey at only 45% ABV. Many lower proof whiskies—were they to have emotions—ought to feel chastened. Finally, lest I forget, a parting word for Victor: the bottle is now completely gone. Excellent choice!

Hi @dbk, I have been consistently fond of Elmer T Lee. I have the Birthday Edition, and have been planning a review sometime this year (along with siblings Blantons, Rock Hill Farms and Eagle Rare). I enjoyed your review, and was pleased that you shared some morsels of info that you had discovered. And just as a side note, we should be aware, that for these bottles, we are reviewing single barrel bottles that are unique, and that we will never see again. But we would hope that they are all at least in the same ball park :)

@dbk, the bottle is completely gone? Good lord, that is satisfying! I had a feeling that you would like it. Thanks much for the details about Elmer T. Lee that I had not yet found, and thanks again for your hospitality on April 8th. Big smiles all around!


Elmer T. Lee, now 90 years old, is a 50 year experienced Master Distiller Emeritus at the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky. He is said to have personally selected the barrels from which the Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel bourbons derive. Other Buffalo Trace Single Barrel bourbons include Blanton's, Eagle Rare, Hancock's President's Reserve, and Rock Hill Farms. There is no age statement on the bottle, nor is there a reference number for the barrel of origin. Most online speculation is that the age of Elmer T. Lee bourbon is at least 10 years. The mashbill is listed as the Buffalo Trace high rye mashbill.

Nose: moderate intensity of honey, peaches, citrus, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves.

Taste: Very spicy and very sweet. All of the flavours from the nose are in abundance on the palate. There is also vanilla, caramel, and oak.

Finish: a rather long finish with the spices exiting first to leave gentle caramel and oak flavours.

Balance: Even though this is a single barrel product with the potential individual barrel variability introduced by that choice, I have never heard anyone comment on this bourbon who did not like it-- a lot! Many, including me, consider this one of the very best bourbons available in its price range, and a fantastic value for the money. If you like big spicy and big sweet together in your bourbon, you will like this a lot.

Really, @Barlee? Nothing in all of central Florida? Sorry to hear that! Well, if you have any Blanton's Original (same mash bill, similar age and strength) nearby, that should give you an idea at the very least.

Can't wait to try this one. Unfortunately, I can't find any here in central Fla. Might have to make a trip back to Ky!!

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