Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Trader Joe's Bourbon


Trader Joe's has done a number of private label whiskeys, but never a bourbon, until now. Trader Joe's Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a new product on their shelves. It is distilled at Buffalo Trace's 1792 Barton Distillery and goes for a typically TJ's affordable price of $15.


Trader Joe's Kentucky Bourbon, 45% abv ($15)

The nose is very nice, woody with a nice rye kick, burnt caramel and cloves. The palate is much less complex with lots of vanilla, and some spice on late palate, but it fades to bitterness in the end which lasts into the finish which is quite bitter.

This one starts well but doesn't hold up. Even for $15, there are better bourbons on the shelf. I expected more out of Buffalo Trace/Barton, but maybe there is a reason they aren't releasing this under their own label.


14 comments:

T Comp said...

And maybe why Harlan Wheatley continues to insist, as he did a few weeks ago in Chicago, that they don't sell their barrels to others...yeah right.

sku said...

To be fair, I don't know that this would qualify as selling their barrels to others. It's more like doing a private label for someone. Given that BT had the label approved, they were likley the ones who bottled it and TJ's is just selling it. That is as opposed to what distilleries do with KBD, where they just sell them barrels and KBD bottles and sells.

That doesn't mean they don't sell barrels (I've certainly heard rumors that they do), just that this is sort of a different circumstance.

alligatorchar said...

Should we be pleased that Buffalo Trace and other distillers sell some bourbon to retailers for off labels like this one in the review. I think it would be reasonable to assume that they are selling their least desirable barrels. So in effect they are using better barrels on average in their main labels.

alligatorchar said...

Shouldn't we...that is...

SinoSoul said...

Just saw this yesterday at the local J. You're saying it's not even worth $15? I mean... how much cheaper can it get? I'd throw it into warmed cider just to drunk it as cider punch.

sku said...

It will be just fine for punch.

BourbonNeat said...

I have to agree with the review 100%. It's not that much more for just regular old buffalo trace, which is much nicer through and through. HOWEVER, the bottle is open in my house and I can say that it is nice with something sweet to eat (like ahem...pumpkin pancakes, for example). Also, it is not bad as a bourbon back.

Lear Blitzstein said...

Thanks for the review, Steve. Looks like I'll pass on this, unless I might bring one to a party or something. That price is hard to pass up though...
Guess I'll just continue to mine vintage 86 proof ND or BF juice for regular pours until it dries up!

Anonymous said...

Picked up a bottle this evening ...

I tried to find someone in the store who had tried it but could only find one guy who had a buddy who had done the deed. He said it compared favorably with MM and KC, and was heads above Jack.

The one-word description I can offer after tasting 1.5 glasses is as follows:

Gack!!

Next budget purchase planned is Costco's Small Batch Bourbon. It's gotta be better than this.

So maybe I'll keep it in the trunk of the car and gift it to some down-on-his-luck person holding a sign. And then haul ass lest they throw it at me.

Gino said...

just saw this today and grabbed a bottle.

how do you know it comes from Buffalo Trace. the label says 'boubon square distillery'?

anyway... it drinks like Wild Turkey to me, with a bit more caramel overtone.

i thought maybe it was a WT reject. much like i can taste the JB in Costco brand before i knew it was a JB spewing...

sku said...

Gino, Buffalo Trace filed for the federal label approval for it and their spokesperson told me that it was made at the Barton distillery, which they own. Barton isn't the same distillery that makes their regular Buffalo Trace bourbon, they make Very Old Barton, Ten High and 1792 Ridgemont Reserve Bourbons.

Anonymous said...

Could you ID the bourbons that are better at the same price? Would love to try them.

sku said...

Sure. Dickel 8, Very Old Barton, Old Fitzgerald and Weller Special Reserve spring immediately to mind.

Anonymous said...

Off the top of my head, I could also suggest Benchmark (another by Buffalo Trace), Heaven Hill White Label, Old Heaven Hill, and Evan Williams as good comparably-priced alternatives.

In fact, everything I just listed is cheaper than TJ's Bourbon, at least in Chicagoland.

On the other hand, I don't think TJ's is as bad as all that. The nose is quite successful, which may lead to slight disappointment in the fairly unsophisticated taste.

The bitterness—which I've seen described as sourness as well—that this and other reviews are critical of strikes me as the notes of charred oak usually more prominent in older bourbons. I know it's not everyone's favorite, but I've acquired a taste for this woody 'sawdust' flavor, so it doesn't bother me.

It says this one is aged 5 years, enough to impart such flavors depending on the warehouse conditions.

After seeing predominantly negative reviews, I was pleasantly surprised. Maybe not every bottle is the same...