Buffalo Trace’s New Experimental Bourbon Brand Was 15 Years in the Making
Buffalo Trace's revamped line is all about fiddling with one thing: barrels.
Buffalo Trace's revamped line is all about fiddling with one thing: barrels.
If you find these bottles at their $99 SRP, buy them immediately.
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First distilled in the original Stitzel-Weller Distillery and bottled in handmade glass decanters.
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We toured 12 distilleries in a five-day blitz, asking everyone we met to walk us through the bourbon-making process. Here, you'll find all of the steps that go into making America's unique take on whiskey.
"Buffalo Trace is already making the bourbons of the future”, said our guide Freddy Johnson. It sounded bold until we stopped to think about it. Whiskey has to age before it can qualify as bourbon, so technically, every distiller is making “the bourbons of the future” today. Still, after we spent an afternoon learning about the company’s quest to make the world’s perfect bourbon, his phrasing seemed prophetic.
At one of Lexington's best bourbon bars, we laid eyes on some of the absolute rarest bottles in the world.
I'd say that Pappy Van Winkle is a brand that needs no introduction, except that it does. The truth is that most people don’t know anything about “Pappy,” other than that it’s supposed to be the best of its kind. So let’s set the record straight by getting a couple of basic facts out of the way.
At some of the distilleries along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, there are bottles you can't find anywhere else -- rarities that can only be purchased on-site. These were the exclusive bottles we found in the dozen or so distilleries we visited.
Willett Master Distiller Drew Kulsveen doesn't have time for bullshit. It's not something he has to tell anyone. The message shoots from his eyes like a railgun. Even at a relatively young age, it's clear he's heard it all before. He talks like someone who’s lost years listening to others dribble on, and worked hard to eradicate the behavior in himself; his speech is terse, verging on curt. You can't blame him for him ignoring the noise. A lot rides on his shoulders. He and his family worked for years to rebuild the family distillery, which reopened in 2012, and now he's determined to prove a point.
Bourbon is booming, but only decades ago, it was on a path toward failure. This was most evident in the 1980s, at the height of vodka and big hair, when distilleries in the Bluegrass State were shuttering their doors. They simply couldn’t give bottles away, the same bottles that just a generation before were lining executive conference rooms and hotel bars throughout America. It was by definition an all-American drink, and it was quickly fading. But then in the mid-2000s, distillers realized the atmosphere was changing. Bourbon started coming back. Fast. This explosion, which continues to grow to this day, raises plenty of questions. What's fueling the bourbon boom? Is it going to burst, like tech and housing? Are some bottles really worth $5,000, and more importantly, who’s buying them? What makes a bourbon good? The best way to get to the bottom of this was to head to the Bluegrass State, where 95 percent of the world's bourbon is made, equipped with a few cameras, some notebooks and clean livers for five days on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail -- a triangle of distillery tours throughout the state with endpoints at Louisville, Lexington and Bardstown — for many early mornings and late nights drinking and talking with some of the foremost professionals in booze. We came back with five days of fear and loathing on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
Today in gear: a new entry level Logitech Harmony remote, the Nuvyyo Tablo DVR for cord cutters, Quixotic Pocket Squares, Wild Turkey Diamond Anniversary Bourbon and BBQ recipes from London.
At night, when bourbon connoisseurs go to bed, many dream of Pappy Van Winkle, a line of three exquisite bourbons (15, 20 and 23 years old, all of them colloquially referred to as "Pappy") distilled and bottled by the Sazerac Company at the Buffalo Trace Distillery. Much of Pappy's legend comes from its high demand: when it's released, liquor stores dust off month-long waiting lists to decide who gets a bottle. At the end of last year, Bourbonr Blog made headlines in the liquor community by posting a recipe for "Poor Man's Pappy," a mix of two mid-range W.L. Weller whiskies that they claim, while not being able to emulate Pappy Van Winkle completely, "comes close." But does the recipe hold up? With $50, a postal scale and a mason jar, we decided to find out for ourselves.
There’s no denying that bourbon is having a moment. The pride of Kentucky wins out over other whiskies because it’s a little sweeter, a little smoother, and a whole lot easier to mix. It’s also relatively affordable -- very good bottles are available at very good prices. But thanks to its newfound popularity, some of the top-tier bottles -- Pappy Van Winkle's family reserve, George T. Stagg -- are now shockingly expensive and, increasingly, hard to track down. Luckily, there’s still a wide variety to bourbons at accessible prices that are readily available in nearly every state. Which one to choose? Here's a list to help you out.
On a brisk Manhattan morning, we met with Ralph Erenzo of Hudson Whiskey for a taste test. He introduced us to Hudson Baby Bourbon Whiskey ($45), the first bourbon whiskey ever made in New York, and the first legal pot-distilled whiskey made in New York since prohibition. Made from 100 percent New York corn and aged in American Oak barrels, it proves that not all good bourbon needs to come from the South.
Fall is upon us, and there's no better way to usher in the cooler months than with a spirit seemingly created in autumn's honor: Knob Creek Smoked Maple Bourbon ($31). To be clear, we've been completely satisfied with the standard Knob Creek 9 Year Straight Bourbon, but expanding whiskey horizons can't be a bad thing. Still, adding flavoring to a solid whiskey can be a risky endeavor. Did Knob Creek gamble and lose by producing something tantamount to being whacked in the face by a maple syrup bottle, or did they win by creating a real bourbon that hums its own tune?
Asking us to choose between whiskey (bourbon) and whisky (single malt scotch) is like posing the question, "Would you prefer to drive a C2 Corvette Split Window or a Jaguar E-Type?" The answer is always "both and yes." But if you're a single malt devotee, you'd do right to expand your taste horizons, and the best way to experiment with bourbon is to go small batch -- the complexities are pleasing, and you'll find yourself a worshiper in many different temples. There's a lot to love. Here are tasting notes on our five favorite small batch bourbons worth warming your palate.
The Mixologist’s gotten you into plenty of blissful adventures, most of which ended without real long term damage to your record or your marriage. He’s a passionate guy, and he knows his craft: beer, that is. Malts, mash, wheat, barley, rye, and oh yes, sweet sweet delicious hops — he sucks them all down, grinning...
In addition to its flagship offering, the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, KY produces some of our favorite bourbons, including Eagle Rare, Rock Hill Farms and Elmer T. Lee ($28). The latter is a small batch, single barrel bourbon that’s named for the former Master Distiller at Buffalo Trace. Mr. Lee created this bourbon with...
The Jim Beam Distillery. I can already smell the bourbon. Looking for a getaway this month? Vegas, Europe, Mexico maybe? Well, how about making a trip to Louisville, Kentucky? September is National Bourbon Heritage Month (bet you didn’t know that) and what better way to celebrate than partaking in the caramel-hued libation. Combine that with...
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