Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Buffalo Trace's E.H. Taylor Series

Buffalo Trace first released its E.H. Taylor series in 2011 and added new releases in 2012.  The series is, of course, named for Colonel Edmond Haynes Taylor, Jr., the distiller and proponent of whiskey quality controls for whom Old Taylor bourbon is also named.

The E.H. Taylor series is sort of a hodgepodge without much in the way of underlying themes.  Most but not all are bottled in bond, most but not all are bourbons and most but not all have some unique story or claim.

Some of these can't be readily found anymore, but the rye, small batch and single barrel (as well as single barrels done for specific retailers) seem to be available.  The prices for the E.H. Taylors are in the $70 to $80 range, except for the Small Batch which is around $40.

E.H. Taylor Old Fashioned Sour Mash, BIB, 2002, 50% abv 

The first release of E.H. Taylor, the Old Fashioned Sour Mash Bourbon used an older method of souring the mash, using time instead of spent grain (for more details about the sour mash process used than I care to report, see Scotch & Ice Cream).  

The nose has very nice oak and honey notes.  The palate has a strong burst of rye followed by some acidic notes.   The finish leaves you with orange rind and spice. 

This is a good bourbon with some spice to it. I was surprised how much I liked it given the almost universal lukewarm reviews it received at the time of its release.

E.H. Taylor Single Barrel, BIB, 50% abv 

As the title suggests, this is a single barrel offering, but there is no barrel number, so you can't track different barrels unless you have one that was bottled for a specific retailer.

The nose has some nice oak, baking spices and some toffee notes.  The palate starts with caramel, then moves to butter but flattens out at the end with cereal notes and a cardboard finish.  It’s decent, but it doesn’t hold up.

E.H. Taylor Warehouse C Tornado Surviving, BIB, 50% abv

This seems to be the most sought after of the series and comes with the backstory that Warehouse C at Buffalo Trace was hit by a tornado and this bottle is the product of barrels that were in that warehouse and left out in the elements while the roof was repaired.  Why that makes a good bourbon, I don't know, but let's see how it is.

The nose on this is really nice with lots of caramel and oak.  The palate immediately hits me as heavily acidic.  There's plenty of oak, some candy and rye in there, but the astringency of the acid remains at the forefront.  The finish is pleasant with a bit of rye spice.  Overall, I didn't care for this one, finding it too acidic and out of balance. 

E.H. Taylor Barrel Proof, 67.25% abv

This is the only bottle in the series that isn't BIB and also the only one which is unfiltered.  The nose is on the candy side of the spectrum with some soapy notes.  The palate starts in with thick molasses, coffee, anise, leather and tobacco with a syrupy mouthfeel.  The finish has gingerbread, molasses and oak.  Despite the high proof, water seems to throw it off balance, bringing in some acid and some bitterness.  Sip it straight if you can.

This one is great.  The flavor is complex and pretty unique with the heavy molasses/gingerbread notes.

E.H. Taylor Rye, BIB, 50% abv

The most interesting thing about this rye is that it's a new mashbill that differs from the other Buffalo Trace ryes (Sazerac and Handy) in that it doesn't contain any corn, just rye and malted barley.  Presumably, this is going to be very high rye, since the proportion of malted barley in any American whiskey is usually just there to assist with fermentation and is almost never more than 15%, if that.

This has a great high-rye nose with sandalwood and wood polish; it's much more similar to an old Pennsylvania rye than an LDI (which is also a rye/barley mashbill).  The palate also has that sandalwood note as well as some pepper.  It's very spicy and pretty dry, having just a touch of sweetness.  It's a nicely done rye and fairly distinct from anything on the market today.  

E.H. Taylor Small Batch, BIB, 50% abv

As we know, "small batch" is a pretty much meaningless term, so it doesn't tell us much about this whiskey.  This one has a light but pleasant nose.  It's a pretty typical Buffalo Trace nose, sweet with a hint of spice.  The palate on this has a very good balance of sweetness, oak and spice.  It's a very easy drinker and has a nice bit of spice late on the palate and into the finish.  You know all those people who say they want a "smooth" bourbon?  This is for them.

This was an interesting tasting.  The conventional wisdom on the EH Taylor series is that it's mostly bad except for the Tornado.  The Tornado was my least favorite.  The Barrel Strength was easily the best, but I thought the rye was great and really enjoyed the Small Batch; the Sour Mash wasn't bad either. 

I've actually heard the least buzz at about the small batch, maybe because it was the last release and people were burnt out on the whole series, but it's a great, balanced, very easy drinking bourbon, and it's $30 cheaper than the others, making it the best deal.   

The biggest problem with this series is the price, which (except for the Small Batch) is roughly the same as Buffalo Trace's Antique Collection, but these whiskeys mostly aren't in that league.  Even the cheaper Small Batch is more of what I'd expect for a $25 or $30 whiskey.  There is definitely some good whiskey to be had here, particularly the rye and barrel proof which have fairly unique flavor profiles, but the price is a significant hurdle.


Justin said...

Yet again a timely post in my world Sku. Recently I have been thinking that most if not all reviewers on the web never really address what I call the value rating of a whiskey. Is the bottle being reviewed worth the price of admission as they say. I know this is a highly relative concept, but it is no more subjective than the taste itself. And we accept reviewers taste judgements all the time.

I have been through a bottle of the rye and it was a great whiskey. I do not remember what I paid for it. But your comment about most of these whiskies being the same price as the antique collection got me thinking. Maybe they are overpriced for what they are. The EH Taylor rye was good, but maybe not $70 good. I have a bottle of the small batch but have not opened it yet. The single barrel came to Oklahoma but on such tight allocation that the store I work at only got three bottles. I missed out.

Keep up the great thoughts here Sku. Anytime you want feel free to express any opinions you have about whether or not a whiskey merits it's price tag. I appreciate it.

forego is my witness said...

Maybe I lucked out, I dunno . . . but the first bottle of the Tornado Surviving I opened (the month it was released) was fairly nice 1st 1/4, then the rest either "opened up" or some bourbon fairy added "wing dust" to the remaining amount because it was soooo delicious. I admit I like a on-the-candy-side bourbon, and for whatever reason(s) the caramel and spices really rocked my palate. I quickly scored another bottle, which is in what I call short-term bunkerage. (Meaning, it's going to be consumed before the end of the year.) I hope it's the same as my first bottle . . .

I also loved the barrel proof, and thought the rye had a very uncommon profile, but you're spot-on saying the price simply does not merit buying more. I think I'd be more of a buyer around the $40 range; $70+ simply is not right. (Maybe cut the cost and ditch that unnecessary packaging?)

Anonymous said...

Given their prices and general lack of factual consumer information (age statements, etc.) I've avoided all iterations of Buffalo Trace's "Snow Phoenix".

SteveBM said...

Agree on price/value proposition. I don't think any of these really stacks up to $70, though the small batch isn't bad at $40.

I'm with you on tornado. Enjoyed the barrel strength. Single barrel I also enjoyed. Disagree on the rye. Does nothing for me. I think it's very thin and lacking much of a rye spicy bite. Maybe that's just me.

Nice post, thanks.

NP said...

I dont buy any of this semi-pro reviews of yours. You just don't like whisky. That is all.

Anonymous said...

Just goes to show how taste and value is subjective. I love the sour mash, single barrel and tornado. I reach for these way more than my GTS and WLW, so I think they are great values. To each his own

WTK said...

Sku, thanks for your roundup of E.H. Taylors. I've had their first two bourbon releases, and found them OK but nothing special, especially considering the price. I've since ignored all subsequent releases, but based on your comments am now motivated to try the Rye. Thanks again, and you surely do like whisk(e)y!

Adam Glaser said...

Thanks for reviewing these...have tried most of them. I'm drinking the Tornado now - and not sure why so many people view it as a benchmark as it's only so-so for me. Agree that both the Small Batch and Single Barrel are better...will grab a bottle of the Rye.

It is strange that five of these whiskies are the same price point as the BTAC - which are universally better from my perspective.

It's also odd how BT is missing the mark with these as I really love the KY-centric Ancient Ancient Age 10-year which is older, better and less than a 1/5 the price. If I'm not mistaken, they all - except for the rye -share the same BT Mash Bill No.2.

Given that Blanton's also uses BT Mash Bill No. 2, I think they should rethink/reapportion the EHT's and offer the import-only Blanton's Straight From The Barrel as the sixth BTAC instead. Now that one is worth $70...


sku said...

Adam, I believe all of the Taylor bourbons are Bourbon Mash #1.

EllenJ said...

Do any of Buffalo Trace's own brands (i.e., not Age International) use the #2 mashbill?

EllenJ said...

P.S. to NP... I'm guessing that your comment was intended to be taken sarcastically. If so, I appreciate it and its humor. Sorry that others didn't get it.

I'll gladly read Steve's take on any American whiskey, and I usually place it above the Bud/Miller/Coors-style reviewers any day... even when I disagree him. Which I do occasionally; just not this time.

sku said...

EllenJ, the only time I've heard of BT using mash #2 in a non-Age International brand is that a BT rep once told me that it was used in some Bowman bottlings (but wouldn't tell me which ones).

Anonymous said...

Richnimrod said;
I agree with almost all of the evaluations given here, SKU. The Rye doesn't move me. The small Batch is a good one and I'll even say it's worth the $40. The best and easily most interesting Bourbon of the family is indeed the Barrel Proof. I like that one more than one or two of the GT Stagg offerings; and I agree it's best slowly sipped neat. Water doesn't help it.

NP said...

EllenJ: indeed. next time i'll use plenty of smiley faces to make sure the ton is more obvious.

Marcus said...

For what it's worth, I personally loved the Tornado Surviving, but hated the Small Batch (I mean HATED). I have the other bottles in the series but have not opened them yet. Just goes to show...

Unknown said...

Another great bottle from E.H. Taylor... looks great, tastes better.