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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Budget Bourbon Review: Buffalo Trace



Buffalo Trace - 90 Proof; unstated aging (can thus assume it to be 4 years old); Distilled at Buffalo Trace Distillery; Price ~$20

I've decided that on the weekends I will review lower priced bourbons.  Because of the ubiquity of many of these, in some sense you might say it's kind of pointless to review them.  However, I think it is helpful to see how they stand in relation to the higher priced bourbons.  And you may find a low price gem that becomes your go to mixer.  Also, I plan on going in to how the cheaper bourbons mix with Coke and ginger ale, as that will likely be how most people drink these.

I'm starting with Buffalo Trace.  I'm actually fairly new to the Buffalo Trace, though I am very familiar with many of the higher shelf products from the distillery (Blanton's, Elmer T. Lee, George T. Stagg, Eagle Rare, and Van Winkle, amongst others are all made at Buffalo Trace Distillery; so they have a bourbon stable as top notch as any distillery in Kentucky).  The distillery was formerly known as George T. Stagg, but it seemed a questionable marketing move to name the distillery after an extremely limited production bourbon, so parent company Sazerac renamed it to Buffalo Trace and then began production of Buffalo Trace bourbon in 1999.

Packaging - The label design is fairly modern, but not in a bad way.  a black and white pencil drawing of a buffalo makes up the majority of the front label, which is otherwise very minimalist.  The bottle shape kind of reminds me of the Dewar's Scotch bottle.  The size of the bottle is fairly perfect for grabbing in a hand and taking a shot straight out of the bottle.  So there's that.  The bottle looks more high class than the price range would suggest.

Appearance - Copper/gold.  Or a light amber.

Smell - Vanilla is predominant

Taste - Very muted taste.  There's vanilla and there's caramel, but it's not nearly as present as I'm used to.  There's a touch of cinnamon burn, but again, it's not particularly strong.  Fairly smooth, especially for its price range.  It's okay to drink neat, unlike a lot of bourbons in its price range, but nothing excites me about it.  I think that even though its 90 proof it would benefit from upping that to about 95-100, to firm up the taste some.  Its a bit watery as is.  I guess it's no coincidence that George T. Stagg is made there, which is ~140 proof and tastes good neat.

Aftertaste - a bit of vanilla, but some astringent taste.  The astringent taste isn't particularly bad, but it does seem slightly weird.  It doesn't make me make a face, in either a bad or good way.  Again, the key here is very muted.

Overall - Neat this is a very smooth, yet very bland bourbon.  I'd guess the mix of barley was fairly high (it's a mix of corn, rye and barely).  It's probably one of the smoothest budget bourbons you can buy.  If somebody likes vanilla, this would be a good bourbon to get them into bourbon with.  For me it sits in a weird category of not good enough to drink neat, but not what I look for in a mixer (for bourbon mixers I like the rye - cinnamon kick, which is almost completely absent here).  I probably won't buy it again, though for many people's palettes, I could see it being exactly what they're looking for in a cheap bourbon.

As a mixer:

Coke - If you want something to get you fairly intoxicated without even really realizing you're drinking it, mix this with coke.  It makes the coke taste a lot like vanilla coke actually.  No alcohol 'kick' at all, even when mixing this at fairly high levels.  You can mix it well past half and half and almost not realize you're drinking alcohol.  Though it's still a little too bland for me, many will like this about this bourbon.

Ginger - I did not like the way the muted vanilla flavor mixed with ginger at all.  Just a weird taste that I actually couldn't even drink.  The aftertaste was especially unappealing, as the cinnamon kick of many bourbons' finish is the key to mixing well with ginger, and this didn't have that at all.  It just sort of fell flat and weird.  Though extremely smooth.

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