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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!