Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Elmer T. Lee Regular and Commemorative
If you were going to pick the one person most responsible for the bourbon boom, Elmer T. Lee would be a good candidate. Lee started working for Buffalo Trace (then the George T. Stagg distillery) in 1949 as a maintenance man. He moved his way up to distillery manager and in 1984, he was responsible for releasing Blanton's, the first widely released single barrel bourbon. Lee retired as Master Distiller soon after but stayed active with the distillery for decades. He died in 2013 at the age of 93.
Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel bourbon has been around for years. It's one of the higher rye bourbons from Buffalo Trace. To commemorate the life of Mr. Lee, Buffalo Trace released a commemorative version of the bourbon at a slightly higher proof. Since I haven't tasted the regular Elmer in a while, I thought I'd compare it with the Commemorative bottling. The Commemorative came out last year and has been pretty hard to find, though these days, even the regular Elmer seems pretty scarce.
Elmer T. Lee, 45% ($30)
This has a nice, typical BT style nose with caramel, some spice and a touch of oak. The palate has a balance of sweet, rum like notes and more acidic notes. It's more acidic than I remember from previous bottles (of course, single barrels can always vary). The finish is acidic, with lemon rind and a bit spicy. It's a decent and well composed bourbon, though not one that I find particularly exciting.
Elmer T. Lee Commemorative, 46.5% ($35)
The nose on this one is much more subtle with vanilla notes. The palate begins sweet with some grainy notes and moves into a finish that is pure vanilla. This one lacks any of the acid of the other bottle and has big vanilla notes throughout so much so that it's a bit of a one noter, though it's certainly not unpleasant.
While these two have a different flavor profile, all in all, I'd say these are of similar quality. Both are fine but not exceptional.
Thanks to Dan Zimmerman for the samples.