There are few bourbons more revered amongst discerning bourbon drinkers than Blanton’s. Being exalted to the extent just short of a ‘legendary’, this once commonly found bourbon is now severely allocated in most US states, and I can’t think of a single whiskey producer that wouldn’t want the recognition this bourbon has garnered in recent years, for any one of their whiskeys. From the John Wick films to Justified, this single barrel in it’s signature, grenade shaped bottle adorned by a galloping horse has had its fair share of time on the cinematic front, and been featured in countless “Top Bourbons of the Year” & “Must Have Whiskey” lists by some of the most read publications like Forbes & The Wall Street Journal amongst others. Yet, through all the craze and and publicity, Blanton’s hasn’t let it get to its head; this bourbon is still deemed in favor by the die hard bourbon devotee, and can be found on the most humble of home bars to the most luxurious of of cocktail lounges.
Blanton’s didn’t start this way – in fact it was created in 1984 by a gentleman who needs little introduction: Elmer T. Lee. Elmer selected what he called the “honey barrels” specifically, and only, from Warehouse H and named these sacred barrels after Colonel Albert B. Blanton whom was not only the prodigy of of Colonel E.H. Taylor, but whom was responsible for keeping the George T. Stagg Distillery (now Buffalo Trace) alive during Prohibition.
Blanton’s is produced from Buffalo Trace’s #2 ‘High Rye’ mash bill, which is in the vicinity of 12-15% rye, and shares the same mash bill as Elmer T. Lee, Rock Hill Farms, Hancock Reserve & Ancient Age. What makes Blanton’s truly unique amongst those others is that its pulled solely from Buffalo Trace’s Warehouse H and (in the U.S.) always bottled at 93 proof. Lets see if Elmer, and hopefully Blanton himself, would of approved of this barrel..
Blanton’s, Cask Single Barrel #234
ABV: 42.5% // 93 proof
Age: 6.5 years
Mash Bill: Buffalo Trace #2 (High Rye, 12-15%)
Location: Warehouse H, Rick #3
Bottled: July 20th, 2017
Color: Raw Honey
Nose: As smooth as bourbon comes. An extra herbaceous Blanton’s nose with the rye being significantly more pronounced in this barrel, with just a tendril of smoke. Dusty oak & light spearmint is mixed in with the typical BT grape soda and muscovado sugars. Those that like Four Roses’ OB/OESF will love this. Apricot jam, dried apricot & a medley of herbs: oregano & rosemary specifically, are layered in through the caramel and balanced nicely with blood oranges, leaning slightly bitter. As the nose continues to open up in the glass, you can find a few raisins, a hint of vanilla Dr. Pepper, some banana and orange mocha candy bar.
Palate: Medium – Full Bodied. Medium oils gather while still letting the complexities speak. Candied orange peel covered in thick caramel with a dash of molasses drizzled over. More blood orange, but not as bitter here as the nose first implied, and rye spice. Sticky sweet, probably from all the caramel. Mocha dark chocolate infused with black pepper and some java. The oak is structured well and doesn’t intrude into any of the aforementioned. Spices dance to the tip of your tongue and linger there almost falling off the edge as you hold it in your mouth. A few purple grapes for good measure.
Finish: Medium in length but barely so, being so soft and delicate. Chewy half-melted caramel chews & the most minimal of light rye spices whisper to you. Light marzipan, java, barrel char, fruit leather wraps and some additional tendrils of smoke. Buttery smooth; so supple and so mesmerizingly light that you can almost feel it disintegrate from your mouth. This bourbon expels itself off your palate with such effortless grace and ease…like a bittersweet goodbye from a loved one, of course with more emphasis on the sweet than the bitter.
A softer Blanton’s finish, but pleasingly memorable.
Bourbon and House Rating: 93
Elmer believed the best barrels came from Buffalo Trace’s Warehouse H. I full heartedly agree with him. Some of the best bourbon i’ve ever tasted has come from this very warehouse, single barrels of Blanton’s like this one of course, but also barrels of Elmer T. Lee as well.
Elmer & Blanton would of approved of this barrel – no question. At a ripe age of 6.5 years, its amazing what the deft & capable hands at BT are capable of. This barrel of Blanton’s is special to me though because, unlike some barrels of the past, this one’s nuances really did set it apart from the rest, and for two reasons specifically: the emphasized herbal notes throughout its profile, starting on the nose, and the charmingly soft yet strikingly delicate finish. The hallmark qualities of Blanton’s that have enchanted bourbon drinkers world wide are all found in this barrel. The herbal prominence & slightly dusty edge takes this expression of Blanton’s away from the more fruit and brightly profiled Blanton’s commonly found and shows what can happen when a particular barrel ages differently enough, to offer something outside of the usual.
As mentioned previously, lovers of FR in general, but specifically FR’s OB/ESF recipes will love this barrel. Thats what captured me, however what was most (pleasantly) surprising was the feminist, soft finish; this would be the perfect bourbon to pour for those that want a less spice driven and hot finish.
Unlike much of whiskey today that have escalated swiftly to stardom, I’m happy Blanton’s quality hasn’t suffered. Blanton’s is a fantastic value at the $50-$60 bracket, and if you find a single barrel store pick, I highly recommend pulling the trigger. As of the time of publishing of this article, Cask’s #234 of Blanton’s is still available at all three of its stores.