Friday, October 1, 2010

Review: Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

I like great discoveries.  I'm not talking about scientific sleuthing leading to solutions of complex problems (especially mathematical ones).  I am talking about everyday life where I stumble upon greatness in any form.  For me, it usually takes the form of pop culture.  A great book, music or old film. Especially old films.

There is something about films from the 1960’s and early ‘70’s that evoke bitter/sweet nostalgic memories of Dad with big sideburns, Foster Grants and Mom in yellow while Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree plays on the 8-track stereo. The cheesy music, subtitles, wide lapels, bad hair, ya know what I’m talkin’ about. Think also Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns directed by Sergio Leone:

• A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
• For a Few Dollars More (1965)

Moving into the early 1970’s, the incomparable Bruce Lee:

• The Big Boss (1971)
• Fists of Fury (1972)
• Enter the Dragon (1973)

Bruce Lee has been such a discovery for me recently.  Here is one rare interview.  Like his films, there is an innocence, yet wisdom beyond his years. His movies, by anyone else are laughable, but by Bruce, well, you are humbled by his tremendous physical feats and thoughts of what a terrible loss, his life cut so short has been for so many of us.  By the way, check out the first punch he throws in this scene from "Enter the Dragon."  It is so fast, the camera catches a mere blur.  For his films, he was usually filmed at a slower tape speed to better catch his movements.

I have, once in a while, eureka moments in whisky too, and the discovery of Buffalo Trace is one of them . . .

Nose (undiluted)
Rich corn husk, vanilla, maple. Oh, I like this! Such unexpected refinement.  I am really surprised.  At this price point, I did not expect much.  American ingenuity at its best!

Palate (undiluted)
Smooth! Layered flavors of corn, vanilla and slight hickory smoke. Damn! This is good!

Finish (undiluted)
Tangy, easy spiced rye and some drying black licorice.  Wow!  Black licorice and charred American oak.  Hmm, hmmm good, like Mom’s apple pie with extra cinnamon coolin’ on the window sill with a tea towel covering it on a sunny day.

General Impressions
If you like bourbon or Tennessee whisky, you will definitely enjoy Buffalo Trace.  It is rich, rewarding and reasonably refined in spite of its ridiculously affordable price.  I paid around $20.  I would have been happy to pay double that for the quality of this drink. Matter of fact, I paid in excess of $40 for Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Select, and as you know from my review, it is not worth it.  It pales in comparison with Buffalo Trace.

Some reviewers have complained that the finish lacks length, meaning the flavors do not linger long once swallowed.  I disagree.  Length of flavor is fine.  Other reviewers just got it wrong.  Take it from me (heh, heh).

45% Alcohol/volume
The talent of a great whisky blender shines through in his or her ability to produce a whisky that may be high in alcohol volume, yet no raw rubbing alcohol flavor on the palate.  Buffalo Trace meets this significant benchmark of quality in remarkably elegant fashion.  It is made from corn, barley and rye that is aged in charred American oak barrels.  25 to 30 barrels are typically selected by the blender for the final product.

Have no fear, this is not rot gut for rummies.  There is no burn as it goes down. Just a gentle tickle that can be cured by another sip.  It is a comfortable whisky that can be sipped casually while you watch sports, chat with friends, stare out at a field of hay and watch it sway in the breeze.  It is so smooth and approachable that you can easily sip this neat.  No water or ice is needed.

As I said above, if you are a bourbon or Tennessee whisky fan, Buffalo Trace will prove to be a great treat!


Jason Debly

Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2011. All rights reserved. 
Poster owns no copyright to video of "Enter the Dragon" which is posted for the purposes of nostalgia, education and entertainment.


  1. I'd suggest picking up a bottle of Evan Williams Black Label. Another great bourbon at a rock bottom price.

  2. Its not often that you and I disagree Jason, but I could not find charm in my glass of Buffalo Trace. I found it's flavour to be sticky, cloying and hard to reconcile. The woody notes tasted of spruce sap and bark rather than sweet Bourbon Vanilla and Oak.

    I agree it had a long finish, but it was more akin to a undesirable relative that would not leave my house than it was to a wonderful sweet embrace.

    I'll guess I'll stick with Knob Creek and Evan Williams.

    Then again, isn't it wonderful that we finally disagree! I wouldn't want things to get boring!


  3. Elijah Craig 12 yr old is also quite nice in that price range.

  4. Thanks for your comments Chip! More for our readers to consider! I would agree Knob Creek is superior, but then again it's more expensive and aged for nine years.

  5. Since you liked the Buffalo Trace, you might like Eagle Rare 10 year old which also comes out of the Buffalo Trace distillery. The flavors are similar, but the Eagle Rare has an added cinnamon/oaky hotness that I wouldn’t describe as an alcohol burn. I tried the Eagle Rare first and found it a little too hot for my liking, but the Buffalo Trace is nice. Strangely, in my area the Eagle Rare is similarly priced and sometimes cheaper than the Buffalo Trace.

    Kevin - Milwaukee

  6. Actually, I do have a bottle of Eagle Rare that will be the next review. However, I want to sample it over a few days and make sure I put together solid tasting notes. Many bourbons can have a lot of heat upon opening but will simmer down, becoming milder with a week or two passing. Once it has been open for a bit, I'll review.

  7. Jason, I've been following your blog for a little while and really enjoy the style and content of your reviews. However, since I'm quite new to the exploration of Scotch and have yet to try many of your recent samplings, I've been wondering how well my own opinions would correspond.

    Well the wonder is over! After your reviews of Jack Daniels Single Barrel and now Buffalo Trace, I know our pallets are in sync. As you mentioned in regards to an e-mail in July, "Find a reviewer's whose tastes match your's." Well I have, and I'm thankful.

    I look forward to exploring new whiskies that you review favorably. Cheers!

  8. Howdy Jonathan! Glad to hear you like the reviews. I will admit they can meander like my attention span, but usually not to far from the task (scotch review) at hand or should I say glass at hand . . .

  9. Jason, We stumbled into a recently opened "upscale diner" nearby to find they pour Buffalo Trace Bourbon for their Manhattan cocktail. It made for a very fine drier style version, which is my preference too. The BT's distinctive, somewhat angular mouth feel and spicy profile cuts the sweetness and extends the flavor nicely in the finish. I will have to add BT to the bar now for this express purpose, and risk displacing Old Grand-Dad 100 BIB in my recipe. Highly recommended. JK

    1. Yes, I can well imagine Buffalo Trace would make an impact in a Manhattan. Good quality bourbon at a low price makes it a good investment for any bar.

  10. Buffalo Trace was the first spirit that I ever purchased without the express reason of getting drunk (hello college!). It's really what turned me on to Bourbon and Whiskey in general and that eventually morphed into a love for Scotch.

    Didn't know what I was doing, but it ended up being a great introduction!