A rare occurrence happened recently, where an exclusive tasting event of the Old Rip Van Winkle range, or Pappy Van Winkle as it’s more commonly known within the bar trade, came to Manchester.
Your’s truly managed to bag himself a seat at the table with 4th Generation Preston Van Winkle.
Lets dive in and check out why Old Rip Van Winkle became one of the most sought after American Whiskies.
Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle began working at W.L. Weller & Sons as a travelling whisky salesman during the latter half of the nineteenth century, before ending up as the President of Stitzel-Weller Distillery after acquiring with Alex Farnsley W.L. Weller and the A Ph Stitzel Distillery (producing Old Fitzgerald and W L Weller amongst others). Pappy’s son, Julian Jr., operated the distillery from 1964 until the family sold it in 1972, resulting in the formation of J.P. Van Winkle and Son that specialised in commemorative bourbon decanters and bottling. Julian Van Winkle Jr also created a new brand in the pre-Prohibition style, using whiskey stocks he had wisely kept by from the previous distillery. Eventually, he created the Old Rip Van Winkle label as a side venture in case his son, Julian III, wanted to come into the business.
Julian III did take over in 1981 after his father passed away, and despite a lull in bourbon business, Julian purchased the Old Hoffman Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, for barrel storage and bottling purposes. Julian III’s son, Preston, finished his college degree and joined his dad in the distillery in 2001, doubling the size of the sales team at The Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery after realising his passion at the 1999 Kentucky Bourbon Festival.
Buffalo Trace bought the W.L. Weller label in 1999 and had been making the bourbon with nearly the same recipe as Pappy’s, resulting in an approach to Julian III, something which he wasn’t initially interested in. It wasn’t until May 2002 that a deal was reached and Buffalo Trace started to produce the Van Winkle bourbons, using Pappy’s exact recipe.
All of the bourbon sold under the Van Winkle label is distilled from a mashbill with no rye; rather, they use wheat instead.
So with this knowledge, lets take a look at the range –
Old Rip Van Winkle 10yr– 53.5%
Bottled as close to barrel proof as possible, with a splash of Kentucky limestone well-water.
Rich, bold butterscotch aromas on the nose, mixed with caramel, dark cocoa and a slight dry corn note. Subtly sharp upon the palate, offering a warmth with butter, cream soda and a lingering corn, spice and dry raisin.
Van Winkle Special Reserve 12yr – 45.2%
Soft caramel and subtle butterscotch on the nose, with hints of straw and olive oil coming through. A balanced texture, with light honey offering up a natural sweet profile. Long finish with corn and caramel combining for an oily texture.
Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 15yr – 53.5%
Crafted according to the exclusive family wheated recipe.
Banana leaf and mellow corn arrives on the nose, followed by a subtle Pedro Ximénez note. Soft sharpness on the palate, with lemon peel and a subtle stemmed cherry profile arriving for the short, thin finish.
Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 20yr– 45.2%
Hazelnut, caramel and chocolate hazelnut offer up a dry oak finish on the nose. Subtle hazelnut though on the palate, resulting in a dry, light oak with butter thickening up the texture into an oily, long finish.
Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 23yr– 47.8%
Soft notes of light butter, caramel and oak upon the nose. Subtle sweetness provided on the palate, with dry oak, straw and honey offering up a long, grass fresh finish.
A stunning range of American Whiskey, and highly sought-after for their sipping qualities. If you can find one, grab a bottle for your drinks cabinet, open, sip and enjoy.
Southern Comfort, Buffalo Trace Bourbon and Langley’s Gin will all have a high profile during London Cocktail Week 2016, with unique drinks and a diverse offer from distributor Hi-Spirits.
This year’s celebration of the capital’s thriving cocktail culture, running from 3 – 9 October, promises to be the biggest and most vibrant yet.
The Southern Comfort Chicken Stop will be popping up in Spitalfields, welcoming dedicated cocktail lovers with a selection of Southern Comfort cocktails and Southern Fried Chicken. The New Orleans inspired pop-up will mark the first stop on the Southern Chicken Trail. Customers will be encouraged to continue on the trail and explore some of London’s best chicken shops, with Southern Comfort and Fried Chicken pairings on offer at all stops.
The acclaimed Buffalo Bourbon Empire pop-up bar also returns for 2016. Located this year at Hackney House, the Buffalo Bourbon Empire will spotlight six exclusive bourbon cocktails created by leading London venues – The Vaults of Milroy’s, Barbecoa, Basement Sate, Blessings, MASH, and Four Sisters.
Award-winning whiskeys from the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky will also be on offer, including the first chance for UK aficionados to sample the 2016 release of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection whiskeys.
For those interested in learning more about the heritage and culture of bourbon, the Buffalo Bourbon Empire will host a series of masterclasses throughout the week. These include sessions with Drew Mayville, the Buffalo Trace master blender, and Nicola Olianas, global brand ambassador for Antica Formula, who will explore the classic cocktail combination of vermouth and bourbon. Tickets can be booked online at www.Buffalotrace.co.uk/bourbonempire
London Cocktail Week will also feature £5 cocktails made with Langley’s No.8 Gin, the award-winning super-premium English gin brand. The exclusive cocktails will be available at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, 214 Bermondsey, Arabica, Bermondsey Yard, Merchants House and Village East.
Dan Bolton, managing director of Hi-Spirits, said: “London has always been one of the world’s great cocktail cities, and London Cocktail Week has reinvented the capital’s party spirit. We’re delighted that Southern Comfort, Buffalo Trace and Langley’s will be at the heart of the celebrations, and as always, our team is expecting a very busy week.”
The team at Buffalo Trace came around to Manchester once again to host their annual cocktail competition, but armed with a twist that saw the bartenders of the North West face a variety of challenges in a couple of unique settings.
Hosted at El Gato Negro, the competitors found their way to the final by offering a unique Buffalo Trace serve, but knowing that if they got through, a set of challenges awaited them. Hailing from the likes of Epernay in Manchester, Salt Dog Slims in Liverpool and Filter and Fox, also in Liverpool, the competitors were joined by UK Brand Ambassador Tim Giles, who alongside his team at Hi-Spirits (the UK distributor of Buffalo Trace) of Ross and Jack, set the day off with a ‘Buffalo Migration Tour’. Asking the bartenders to work on their starting clue, this led them to one of four venues across the city of Manchester, where once found, they were set a task that would test the knowledge of each individual when it came to the world of Buffalo Trace.
Tasks included getting the correct barrel maturation letters and numbers out of a series of 8 to choose from, a blind tasting of a selection of the Sazerac whisky range, including Buffalo Trace, as well as the family tree of the company itself. If correct, the competitor receives the key to the mystery box that contains items that can be used within their migration cocktail, if wrong, they have to pick an item, but not one you would necessarily find within a classic whiskey cocktail!
Once all 4 challenges have been completed, a rendezvous back at El Gato Negro kicked off the main portion of the cocktail competition, as each competitor had to re-create their Pioneering American cocktail that they entered with, as well as a Buffalo Trace cocktail using the ingredients won (or lost) over the four challenges.
With myself, Tim and last years competition winner Joe Ballinger judging, each competitor showed off their skills in creation, as well as their knowledge of Buffalo Trace and the links from this to their ideas, both in the original recipe, as well as their quick-fire migration cocktail.
The top three will be showcased here today, so in third place saw Liverpool represent with Beth Leigh of MOJO Bar. Her original Pioneering Creation saw her create the ‘Trial by Jury’, which saw Buffalo Trace mixed with a spiced porter syrup, Giffard’s dark cacao, almond milk and egg white, served with an atomiser which contained White Dog whiskey, almond and chocolate bitters. Her Mystery Migration cocktail though saw her create the ‘Bloody Long Derby’, offering up Buffalo Trace, fresh tomatoes, lemon juice, mint, Antica Formula and sugar, topped with San Pellegrino Lemon and garnished with a mint sprig and fresh cherry tomatoes.
Anthony Hogan of Epernay, Manchester earned second place with his two cocktails. His Pioneering Cocktail, named the ‘Bottle Shock’ saw Buffalo Trace built with a Californian Cabernet Sauvignon, Peychaud’s bitters, lemon juice and blueberry with bluebell soda, garnished with mint and fresh blueberries. His on the spot Mystery Migration recipe, named ‘Hunters of Kentucky’, saw him build a recipe with Buffalo Trace, peach and Red Bull syrup, fresh tomato juice, Antica Formula and Peychaud’s Aperitivo, garnished with a peach fan and lemon zest.
The winning serves though, both seen as equal and of a high-standard when we were discussing the drinks in general, came from Will Meredith of El Gato Negro. His original entry saw him show off the ‘New Orleans Fizz’, a blended serve containing Buffalo Trace, egg white, milk and cream, homemade Creole New Orleans ketchup (fig, date, prune and cayenne pepper flavoured) and a corn, malt and rye syrup. His Mystery Migration serve saw a thrown creation of Buffalo Trace, Peychaud’s Aperitivo, a mango and Dijon mustard syrup, topped with Stella Artois, capped with the fantastic name of ‘Celine Dijon’.
So congratulations to Will, who wins himself a trip to the home of Buffalo Trace in Kentucky! A great idea for a cocktail competition, really getting the competitors to immerse themselves in the brands history and heritage, bringing it to the forefront in their Pioneering America cocktail, and testing their skills with the Mystery Migration serve. All whilst having their knowledge tested, really bringing out the best bartender in the North West and earning their stripes as they head to America.
Last week, the Buffalo Trace Trail came into Manchester as it meanders its way across the UK. Working alongside restaurants within key cities such as London and Liverpool, UK Buffalo Trace Brand Ambassador Tim Giles hosted an evening at the ever-popular Hawksmoor, a venue that Time Out has said is “a place to blur day with night over cocktails and the country’s finest meat”.
With a focus on their 2015 Antique Collection, including expressions such as Eagle Rare, Sazerac and Thomas H Handy, the team at Hawksmoor came up with a fantastic menu, complimented by Buffalo Trace serves from the bar team.
Starters included short-rib nuggets with kimchi, fried oysters with tartar and roast beetroot salad with Dorstone, enjoyed with a serve named ‘Zenith of Man’ which saw Buffalo Trace paired with Pimento Dram, PX, apple and mint.
Entwined between courses was a short look into Buffalo Trace by both Tim and Ross Thompson of Buffalo’s UK distributor Hi-Spirits, before indulging into the main course of a Hawksmoor burger with Ogleshield, triple cooked chips and vinegar slaw, showed off with a serve from the bar named ‘Trace It Back To Bill’, which saw Buffalo Trace roast plum and pepper syrup, soda and lemon come together.
For pudding, a delicious honeycomb sundae paired with with the ‘Trailblazer’; Buffalo Trace, Tawny port, Chartreuse and bitters that worked well to finish the evening in style.
Well I say style.
Tim and Ross introduced the 2015 Antique Collection by Buffalo Trace. 5 expressions of highly commended and award-winning liquids, with enough for one or two drams to really finish the evening!
An evening such as this really got the audience in attendance looking at Buffalo Trace in a different way, as the 3 courses by Hawksmoor worked perfectly with the Buffalo Trace serves created by the bar team (special thanks to Richie West and Anthony Hogan). With a look at the Antique Collection, it really made the evening a special one, and a potential break of the bank as I now search for a bottle of the Thomas H. Handy!
Calling all Buffalo Trace enthusiasts and whiskey worshippers. On the 10th November 2015, Buffalo Trace is inviting you to a truly unique tasting-journey at one of Manchester and possibly the UK’s most revered restaurants, The Hawksmoor. Join the stampede for a night of indulgence with an exquisite three-course meal within the bar itself accompanied by bespoke Buffalo Trace cocktails created as the perfect match for each course. And if that’s not enough, you’ll be among the limited few to sample the highly anticipated Buffalo Trace Antique Collection – a range of five whiskeys that have been bestowed with some of the highest accolades the spirits world has to offer.
For over 200 years, the Buffalo Trace Distillery has been defined by a dedication to one craft; producing fine bourbon whiskey. The entire Buffalo Trace range encompasses quality, authenticity and is a testament to the timeless craft. So come down and get involved with this chance to taste some of the best whiskey in the world, and enjoy some fantastic food while you’re at it. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.buffalotrace.co.uk/bourbon-dinners/
Located in a late Victorian courthouse on Deansgate, next door to Spinningfields, with an aim to serve the best steaks in Manchester. The interior is true to the building and features lots of reclaimed materials from the era, including parquet flooring from a different courthouse, paneling from Birmingham’s Sandwell College and glazed bricks.
The Buffalo Trail is touring the UK, with only 5 dates left. Special guest Buffalo Trace Master Blender, Drew Mayville, kicked off the Buffalo Trail with a mini-tour around the UK with stops in London, Nottingham, Leeds and Edinburgh to host exclusive tastings of the award-winning range.
One of the world’s best known bourbon brands, Buffalo Trace, came to Manchester this past week to secure a northern bartender a trip of a lifetime to America, courtesy of creating a unique British twist on an American classic cocktail. Hosted by Ross Thompson of UK distributor Hi-Spirits, and judged by the Buffalo palates of UK Brand Ambassador Tim Giles, Liverpool’s own Jim Brailsford and last years winner Amir Javaid, currently head honcho at Harvey Nichols Second Floor Bar in Manchester, 11 competitors from across Chester, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool converged at Gorilla to impress.
First to step up to the challenge was to be Mike Holmes of Bourbon and Black in West Didsbury. Using the classic Mint Julep as his inspiration, his creation of BBLT (or bourbon, bacon, leaves and tomato) saw him combine mint, Buffalo Trace and poppy shrub syrup within a mixing glass and stirred over smoked ice. After straining into a bean can, a sprig of mint, a vine of tomatoes and candied bacon adorned the crushed ice top.
Rebecca of The Wash House in Manchester showed her idea on a dessert based cocktail named the Aristocity Flip. Using Buffalo Trace, a spoon of Dewars marmalade, King’s Ginger liqueur, Earl Grey syrup, a pinch of cinnamon, fresh lemon and apple juice, Becca shook the ingredients over ice and strained into a coupette. Offering a garnish of apple crisps with buttered Buffalo Trace to dip, a small cone of ice cream (Cheshire Farm and Buffalo Trace syrup) attached to the glass and a cinnamon dusting over the cocktail itself, she offered the judges an idea that could entice women to enjoy whiskey cocktails!
Lewis Cooke of Epernay, Manchester was up third, twisting a Boilermaker and Bourbon Sling by using Buffalo Trace, Antica Formula, a lemon and oat shrub plus a couple of dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters. Shaken over ice and strained into a crystal cut highball glass, he topped the recipe up with BrewDog’s Dead Pony Club expression and placed a dehydrated lemon wheel and a sprinkling of citrus hops on top. Alongside came an offering to the judges of salted caramel and pecan ice cream, complete with Buffalo Trace salted caramel sauce. Say hello to the Stirling Shandy!
Almost Famous of Manchester stepped up after Lewis in the form of Jonathan Leathley, seeing his twist on a Root Beer float that he called the Brown Buffalo. Showing a de-constructed recipe of Mr Fitzpatrick’s Sarsaparilla cordial, Sacred spiced English vermouth, lime juice, Eager apple juice, homemade vanilla syrup, Fentimans Curiosity Cola and Buffalo Trace, shaken over ice and strained into a glass tankard over ice, he floated on top salted caramel and maraschino cherry ice cream.
The first Leeds representative in Tom Finnon of The Hedonist Project joined the competition, creating his Buffalo8.
Using inspiration from the brands heritage, he came up with using a homemade vermouth that had beetroot as a dominant flavour, chargrilled pineapple syrup, Owney’s NYC rum, a couple of dashes of bitters and of course Buffalo Trace. Shaking over ice and served over a large cube of ice within a goblet, this twist on the Manhattan saw Tom garnish with dry ice and a model of the HMS Mayflower.
Jon Lee of Jake’s Bar and Still in Leeds was to be next to impress, bringing to the bar a twist on the flip named A Breakfast Flip For A King. This saw Buffalo Trace, egg, Kent English porter, golden syrup, Angostura Bitter and King’s Ginger liqueur combined, shaken and strained into a tea cup, complete with a crème brûlée sugar dusting and a stag biscuit to accompany.
Niall McGloin, also of Leeds but this time representing Smokestack, showed his Julep Twist by bringing together a rock candy syrup that had been marinated within rhubarb, homemade custard bitters, fresh rhubarb and Buffalo Trace. Using the aged-old method of crushing ice that he called the ‘wack-a-mole’ way (beating a wrap of ice with a mallet), he filled a sweet tin with the ice and swizzled the ingredients within. His recipe, named Buffalo Rock, came adorned with rock candy and dehydrated rhubarb for a garnish.
Ben Halpin of Blind Tiger became the first to enter the stage from Liverpool, with his recipe named Buffalo From Across The Pond. A twist on a Sazerac, he used his grandmothers own marmalade, Buffalo Trace, lemon juice, almond milk, homemade sarsaparilla bitters that were infused with Buffalo Trace and fresh anise. Mixing the ingredients within a mixing glass over ice, he served his drink on a piece of turf, alleged to have been dug from the Kentucky plains themselves, via a leather drinking pouch.
Calum Adams of Bar Lounge in Chester offered the judges an inspired recipe by Mark Twain (the author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) that saw his twist on the classic Whiskey Sour named Quite Frankly Dear, I Don’t Give A Dram!. Using a Bergamot and Assan tea reduction, a handful of cascade and nelson hops, Taylor’s port, fresh pink grapefruit juice, egg and Buffalo Trace, he shook the ingredients over ice and strained into an ice filled wine glass.
Joe Ballinger of Berry and Rye in Liverpool was to be the tenth to show off, with his version of the Mint Julep that he called Old Fire On The Meadow. This saw mint leaves, Peychaud’s Bitters, oaked smoked nettle infused cider syrup, homemade redcurrant wine and Buffalo Trace come together within a crushed ice filled copper tin. An extravagant garnish of wild flowers for the vessel to be served upon and red currants adoring the drink itself, a lid was put over whilst Joe added oak wood chipped smoke into the chamber.
Mani Dosanjh of Tariff and Dale in Manchester was the last to be up, with his Afternoon Tea With The Buffalo’s seeing Buffalo Trace combined with Earl Grey infused neutral spirit, Earl Grey syrup, rose liqueur Luxardo Maraschino liqueur and Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas bitters, all shaken over ice. This twist on the Whiskey Sour came served within a tea pot and ladened with fresh homemade corn bread and a lemon zest sprinkle.
11 fantastic recipes, but who came out on top? Third place saw Rebecca of The Wash House in Manchester and her Aristocity Flip, whilst Tom Finnon of The Hedonist Project in Leeds came second with his creation Buffalo8. But it was to be Joe Ballinger of Berry and Rye in Liverpool who would impress the judges with his Old Fire On The Meadow, a twist on the classic Mint Julep.
Joe won himself a trip to Kentucky and the chance to represent the northern bartenders of the UK alongside the rest of the Buffalo Trace competition winners, including London and Scotland.
If you fancy trying the winning recipe for yourself, head down to Berry and Rye in Liverpool and seek out Joe, I’ll see you at the bar!
Get yourself in the mood with these Christmas recipes and present ideas;
50 ml King of Soho Gin
1 slice root ginger
1 barspoon Runny Honey
15 ml Fresh Lemon Juice
125 ml Pressed Apple Juice
Muddle the ginger in the bottom of a cocktail shaker, add the other ingredients and shake with ice. Double strain into a tall glass filled with cubed ice. Garnish with apple slices and a slice of ginger
60 ml Broker’s Gin
30 ml pink grapefruit juice
30 ml crème de mure
2 lime wedges
Squeeze the lime wedges into a shaker and add the other ingredients. Fill the shaker with ice cubes and shake vigorously until the shaker is freezing. Strain into a chilled Martini glass and enjoy!
Celebrate the spirit of Elmer T. Lee with a new limited edition from Buffalo Trace. One year after the bastion of bourbon passed away at the age of 93, Buffalo Trace has created the Elmer T. Lee Commemorative Edition as a tribute to their iconic Master Distiller who devoted his life to developing and safeguarding their unparalleled bourbon. With only 36 bottles available in the UK and featuring Elmer’s inimitable single barrel recipe, the Elmer T. Lee Commemorative Edition is set to become as legendary as it’s namesake.
After serving in the United States Air Force and graduating with a degree in engineering, Elmer joined Buffalo Trace’s Kentucky Distillery in 1949. It was his passion for engineering that enabled Elmer to develop the first ever single barrel bourbon in 1984, revitalising the industry and placing Buffalo Trace at the forefront of the bourbon trend. It was this revolutionary trait that was to stay with Elmer throughout his career, first as master distiller and then as Buffalo Trace’s global bourbon ambassador – travelling the world to impart his knowledge to bourbon fans and regale them with stories from his past. It was only after almost 4 decades of service that he was honoured with his eponymous bourbon, visiting the distillery every week in his retirement to carefully select the barrels for his namesake spirit.
Sadly, Elmer died in 2013, just weeks before what would have been his 94th birthday and it is now, 1 year on, that Buffalo Trace honours Elmer again. Commemorating and honouring Elmer’s distinguished life, this velvet-smooth bourbon is the jewel in the crown for Buffalo Trace – a befitting celebration of Elmer’s many years of service. The release signifies Elmer’s boundless commitment to Buffalo Trace as well as his love of bourbon and it is for that reason that the Elmer T. Lee Commemorative Edition is bottled at 93 proof (46.5% ABV) – 3 proof higher than the other editions (90 proof, 45% ABV), denoting Elmer’s age and quality as a Master Distiller.
Selected from the same warehouse floors, which Elmer liked to find his “honey” barrels for his namesake bourbon, the Commemorative Edition features Elmer’s characteristic signature and wears the profile of the legendary Master Distiller, as well as details about his life, on the back label. Its smooth and balanced sweetness and classically spiced flavour, make this limited edition bourbon a must-have for enthusiasts and aficionados alike and features the classic Elmer T. Lee taste that bourbon fans have come to know and love.
In a final salute to Elmer, profits from the sale of this limited edition Elmer T. Lee Commemorative Edition bourbon will go to local Veterans of Foreign Wars charities.
Priced from £79.99 and available from 15 August 2014 from Gerry’s, Hedonism, Whiskey Shop and Amathus
I don’t know about you, but when I experience something, it sticks into my mind. I still remember the first time I sampled the Buffalo Trace range, held at The Anthologist Bar near St Paul’s Cathedral, London during London Cocktail Week 2011. It was hear that I met Drew Mayville, Sazerac Buffalo Trace Master Blender, who explained the history and heritage of the brand, as well as how each expression differed. Ever since then, I’ve always had a love for them all, and utilise when I can within my work. You can imagine my delight then when Buffalo Trace announced their new cocktail competition for 2014, and would be holding a master class in Manchester to kick-start the proceedings.
My original article I’ll be quite honest, was poor. Nothing to the standard that I write today. So if you may, ignore my 2011 posting, and read on the new and updated version, complete with diving into the history of Buffalo Trace –
Back in the day, buffalo herds would migrate across the plains of America, unintentionally carving paths that were later used by the first American pioneers and explorers to travel west. One of the now more famous trails led to the banks of the Kentucky river, the now home of the Buffalo Trace Distillery for the past 200 years. The history of the site though can go back to 1792 when Commodore Richard Taylor built the stone ‘Riverside’ house, a building that still stands to this day. From their, in 1811 another building was built, this time three-stories high, on the banks of the Kentucky river close to the Riverside house. Here, whisky barrels and other goods were kept to await shipping. It’s also here that Harrison Blanton is said to have started distilling in the upcoming years. 1858 saw a small distillery built by Daniel Swigert on the warehouse and Riverside house site, but by 1870, Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor Jnr purchased the distillery and re-named it Old Fire Copper (O.F.C.) Distillery. Two years later, he invested $70,000, building a new distillery.
In 1878, Taylor sold the distillery to George T. Stagg, with Edmund Taylor still running the operations. Despite ‘The Great Fire’ of 1882 as a result of a lightning strike, the re-built distillery opened a year later and still houses the mashing and fermentation wing in the Dickel Building. With a new warehouse opening in 1885, and the introduction of steam heating a year later, the distillery was at the fore-front of modern distillation. Albert B. Blanton joins at the age of 16 in 1897, rising to still house, warehouse and bottling superintendent in 1900 before re-christening the distillery the George T. Stagg Distillery in 1904.
When Prohibition came into force in 1920, the distillery was one of the few to keep itself in business, seeking permission to distill their whisky for medicinal purposes and the rare act of creating new whisky between 1930 and 1933. Before this though, Albert B. Blanton became president of the distillery in 1921, then purchased by Schenley Distillers Corporation in 1929, resulting in the expansion of the distillery between 1935 and 1937. 1949 saw Elmer T. Lee join the company, the future Master Distiller.
The world’s first ever single-barrel bourbon, Blanton’s, was released in 1984, before returning to a family owned company; Sazerac Company. After distillery renovations, its flagship brand Buffalo Trace was released in 1999, alongside the renaming of the distillery to its now familiar title. With this, it won ‘Distillery of the Year’ in 2000 by Whisky Advocate, the American distillery to win the award. Current Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley joined the post in 2005,
Many a legendary figure involved with the continuous production of the Buffalo Trace range. But how is it all really made?
For Buffalo Trace, corn and rye are milled and then cooked. The corn is cooked under pressure for 45 minutes using Kentucky limestone water, unlike the rye, resulting in the two being brought together to create the mash that will start off the fermentation process. The mash is pumped into the fermentation tanks, alongside small amounts of set back from previous distillations. Here, the sour mash will rest for 3-5 days before being pumped to the stills.
The first distillation is through a column still, then through a copper pot still, where the resulting liquid has been coined with the nickname ‘White Dog’. The high abv liquid is transferred into brand new white oak barrels from the Ozark mountains. The barrels are actually aged for 6 months in the production yard (the only distillery to do this) and then charred heavy on the inside before being used. Buffalo Trace will stay in the barrel for at least 8 years, housed in the middle of the warehouse so it gains the different temperatures from each season, resulting in the maximum flavour extract. Once aged, 40 barrels are chosen at a time and each tasted individually to make sure they match the profile of Buffalo Trace. Once chosen, those barrels will then be put into the batch, hence the name ‘small batch bourbon’, and bottled and corked by hand.
So with such an extensive range from the Buffalo Trace family, how does each fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes on each that I have been lucky enough to experience –
Buffalo Trace – 40%
Red berry and vanilla on the nose with hints of toffee making its way through near the end. A slight spice from the rye is also present. On the palate, a slight spice to begin with develops into a long, wild after-taste with fruit flavours coating. Smooth offering, a little dry, resulting in a lingering finish with some citrus cuts.
White Dog – 62.5%
An unaged bourbon, on the nose it gave a distinct corn and grain aroma on the nose, with green grass mixing with a slight sweetness. Spice on the palate, with a developing warmth, slight green fruit flavours resulting in a long finish.
Benchmark Bourbon Old Number 8– 40%
Plenty of caramel on the nose, with dashes of fruit and wood coming through sporadically. Light on the palate, with a good combination of oak, cherries and a growing warmth of leather.
Eagle Rare Single Barrel – 45%
Aged for no less than 10 years. Fresh fruit with intense caramel, wood flavourings to create quite a mature whisky nose with hints of chocolate, toffee and fudge. A sharp, robust yet more complex flavours of raisins and dry fruits fill the palate, alongside burn toffee and a velvet texture to create a long, slightly fiery finish.
Eagle Rare 17yr – 45%
Released once a year in the Autumn from 10 selected barrels. Plenty of wood aromas with hints of smoke wrap around fresh fruit to give a silky effect on the nose. The palate encounters rather intense fruit flavours with a slight spice to overtake the wood. It’s slightly drier, especially in the long after-taste. A very heavy bourbon offering.
George T. Stagg – 71.3%
Sampled in 2011 at 71.3% abv and at an age released at between 15-16 years. A very strong nose of cinnamon spice, dried fruit and toffee sweetness, mellowing onto the palate. Slight tobacco and vanilla round off the flavours on the short finish.
George T. Stagg– 64.1%
Sampled in 2014 at 64.1% and at an age released at 16.5 years. Rich vanilla on the nose with a slight medicinal aroma with hints of wood to finish. A smooth start on the palate, developing a warmth that bring with it dry spice to a surprisingly lively finish. Mouth-watering.
Stagg Jr – 67.2%
Uncut and unfiltered, aged for nearly a decade. Soft and subtle aromatic fruit on the nose. A very sharp, very hard-hitting flavour of rye and spice on the palate, but soon mellows to a spicy, lingering finish with slight citrus bursts.
Elmer T. Lee – 45%
Sampled in 2011 at an age released at between 9-10 years. On the nose, a very light offering of vanilla and butterscotch creating a smooth, soft and slightly sweet aroma. A sweeter taste of honey and vanilla with some intense fruits on the palate creates a rather creamier bourbon to almost class it as a dessert wine.
Hancock’s President Reserve – 44.45%
Instant sweetness on the nose with aromas of exotic fruits that carries onto the palate. A round offering of fruit, spice and honey combine well to create a long finish.
Rock Hill Farms Single Barrel– 50%
Lots of oak, walnut and dry spices on the nose with a good balance of toffee, chocolate, vanilla and rich toffee on the palate. Incredibly long, smooth and silky.
Thomas H. Handy – 64.2%
Sampled in 2014 at 64.2% abv (batch barrel strength) and at an age released at between 8 and 10 years from 15 selected barrels.
A vibrant and strong aroma of fruit and spice mix well on the nose whilst a nutty, rye flavour develops on the palate. A long lingering taste of fresh spice to finish.
Sazerac Rye – 45%
Aged between 6 to 8yrs. On the nose, a spicy aroma mixes with pear to produce a soft fruit offering with a slight sweetness. The spice makes a slightly intense presence on the tongue but develops into a sweeter ending.
Sazerac Rye 18yr – 45%
Released once a year with just 28 barrels per bottling. A spicy aroma on the nose dominates but the palate embraces a smooth, delicate balance of chocolate, cinnamon and vanilla to create a long, warm finish.
W.L. Weller – 45%
Aged for a minimum of 12 years and is the original wheated bourbon. Light and soft with subtle wheat aromas coming through Very light with thin honey flavours, smooth caramel and finishing with a slight spice blended with butter and vanilla.
William Larue Weller – 65%
Aged between 10 and 14 years and is an uncut and unfiltered Kentucky bourbon, fresh oak with light toffee are present on the nose, with a slight pepper aroma. Dry fruits are evidently present and becomes strong and intense. Plenty of caramel and corn too, resulting in a sweet finish.
Colonel E.H. Taylor Small Batch – 50%
Named after Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor and aged inside century old warehouses constructed by E.H. Taylor, Jr.
Slightly dry on the nose, with aromas of cooked banana bread and rich oak. Smooth on the palate, with flavours of butterscotch, caramel and hints of spice offering a tingling finish.
Such an incredible range, and one that is hard to pinpoint a singular favourite. There are a couple that I am yet to experience, including the other E.H. Taylor Jr expressions, their experimental collection, the Single Oak Project, the A. Smith Bowman Distillery collection, and the 1972 Ridgemont Reserve, as well as the Van Winkle range that is also produced at the distillery.
Some of the range are versatile too, and you can enjoy such classics as –
The Official Sazerac Cocktail
35 ml Sazerac Rye
1 cube sugar
7 ml Herbasaint (or absinthe as a substitute)
3 Dashes Peychauds Bitters
Pack an Old-Fashioned glass with ice. In a second Old-Fashioned glass place the sugar cube and add the Peychaud’s Bitters to it, then crush the sugar cube. Add the Sazerac Rye Whiskey to the second glass containing the Peychaud’s Bitters and sugar. Empty the ice from the first glass and coat the glass with the Herbsaint, then discard the remaining Herbsaint. Empty the whiskey/bitters/sugar mixture from the second glass into the first glass and garnish with lemon peel.
90 ml Buffalo Trace
4 Sprigs of Mint
2 teaspoons of sugar or to taste
In a julep tin, add the mint, sugar and Buffalo Trace. Muddle well and ensure the sugar has dissolved. Fill with shaved ice and stir until the outside of the tin frosts up. Garnish with a sprig of mint.
Perfect for any time of the day. But it’s not just drinks that you could enjoy with the Buffalo Trace family. How about this menu of food matching, created by the chef’s at Rosylee Tearoom’s, Manchester –
Pan fried seabass, celeriac, vanilla puree, salad of courgette, samphire and baby onions
1/2 Sazeray rye and 1/2 Buffalo Trace within a Manhattan
And for Dessert:
Vanilla bean pannacotta, rhubarb crumble with poached rhubarb, white chocolate shards, raspberry sorbet
Superb! I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of cocktails will be thought up by bartenders in the upcoming competition, and I’ll be their to follow the action so come back in June for some more inspirational ideas. In the meantime, stock up on your drinks cabinet, you’ve got some bourbon to enjoy.
It was all a bit hush hush, but the team at Mullen Bartending put together a little shindig to celebrate all things classic. Held at the new speakeasy The Fitzgerald off Stevenson Square in Manchester (a fitting venue for the theme of the evening), a collaboration of five spirits accompanied by cocktails and canapés were the order of the evening.
Hosted by co-founders Sean and Chris, they started off with local gin producers Hunters and a personal favourite in a Negroni. Equal parts Campari and sweet vermouth went up against a good 40ml of Hunters to really bring out the tart palate. The sweetness from the orange garnish bought the scales more level, but indeed, not a bad way to start off the evening.
To the opposite end of the scale now, with the introduction of Buffalo Trace. The Brown Derby cocktail enjoyed a healthy dose of the Kentucky based bourbon, stirred with grape juice and sweet vermouth. This 1930’s Los Angeles originator came over more sweeter than I imagined, but for a man with a sweet tooth, it balanced well. The grape juice boost the profile, almost kicking its way through the vermouth.
A well-known brand to me came third in line, with Excellia representing the tequila part of the evening. The Reposado expression came within the classic Margarita – a combination of tequila, Cointreau, lime juice and sugar. Unfortunately, a good dose of Excellia would have made this the highlight of the evening, but the 35ml of this delicate tequila seemed to have been lost within the citrus based flavours.
The Icelandic Reyka vodka also came within a classic, this time the Martini. Having a good dose of Reyka, stirred with 20ml Antica Formula and Icelandic bitters made this my personal favourite for the evening. Not too tart, with the Reyka base bringing a well-rounded feel for a consistent finish. Perfect.
Lastly, the new rum to hit the Manchester market in Ron Cubay made a lasting impression for the final cocktail of the evening, the Daiquiri. Utilising the Cuban expressions of the 3 and 7yr, the double mix made for a surprising blend which sharpened the finish and brought out the fruit notes nicely.
Mixed with canapés from the Rosylee Tearooms below, and a good mix of discerning drinkers, the variations that Mullen Bartending put together came through nicely, with the Reyka Martini a particular stand out. Good use of new brands with Ron Cubay and Hunter’s, combined with an old favourite of Buffalo Trace and lesser known names like Reyka and Excellia made the evening varied. The Hunter’s team were present on the evening too, giving an insight into their gin which rounded off a rather intriguing evening.