Head to Head Review: Col. E.H. Taylor Small Batch, Single Barrel and Barrel Proof

Small Batch= Sm, Single Barrel= SB, Barrel Proof= BP20160226_184255-1.jpg

Maker: Buffalo Trace, Frankfort, Kentucky, USA (Sazerac)

Age: NAS (Sm and SB are BiB, so at least 4 y/o)

Style: High corn bourbons

Proof

Sm & SB: 100 (50% ABV)

BP: 127.2 (63.6% ABV)

Notes: Barrel Proof is un(chill?)filtered

Michigan State Minimum

Sm: $40

SB: $60

BP: $70

Appearance

Sm: Light copper

SB: Darker copper

BP: Slightly darker than the SB. Auburn, maybe?

Nose

Sm: Leather, alcohol, caramel, grape soda, cut grass.

SB: Even more leathery. Grape juice, alcohol, hay.

BP: More balanced. Peanut brittle, roasted corn, leather, purple koolaid.

Palate

Sm: Mild and sweet then slowly warms up. Caramel and little else.

SB: Fuller bodied with more oak. Drier but still has a sweet backbone with a pinch of allspice.

BP: Fully full bodied. Big grassy entry, prune then slow burn. Water brings out sweet caramel and cotton candy with oak and cola on the back end.

Finish

Sm: cherry juice, oak, caramel, sage.

SB: Following the pattern. Similar to the Sm but more intense. Brown sugar, allspice, oak, burn.

BP: Bursts into the room big and hot, but leaves gracefully. Oak, caramel, splash of black cherry then fades to a delicate fruit flavor.

Parting words:  I’ve had these three sitting around for a long time. I had hoped to review them a few times before but never had the time to do a three-way review like I wanted. With other bloggers reviewing Col. Taylor again, I got inspired.

All three of these are Buffalo Trace’s #1 mashbill (Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, Benchmark, Stagg). This is the core range, with limited editions popping up from time to time like the Old Fashioned Sour Mash, Tornado Survivor, Seasoned Oak and a possible Opossum Survivor edition in the near future. There is also a rye that occasionally shows up. It is a different mashbill from the standard Sazerac rye, though.

I enjoyed all three of these quite a bit. The prices are a bit wonky, though. $40 is OK for Sm, but why is SB $20 more? It’s better, but not really $20 better. The Barrel Proof is excellent at $70, unless one considers that Stagg Jr, also cask strength, mashbill #1 and NAS is $50. BP is better than Stagg Jr. but I’m not sure if it’s $20 better. Complicating matter is that George T. Stagg is listed at a minimum price of $80 in Michigan. So I’m not sure what to tell you. All are recommended, but I’d have to give the edge to Sm because its price is not weirdly impacted by the Staggs or its CEHT siblings. You can’t go wrong with the other two either, though.

John J. Bowman Single Barrel

Maker: A. Smith Bowman, Fredericksburg, Virginia, USA (Sazerac)john-j-bowman-101106699

Distiller: Buffalo Trace, Frankfort, Kentucky/ A. Smith Bowman, Fredericksburg, Virginia, USA

Style: High Corn Bourbon

Age: NAS

Proof: 100 (50% ABV)

Note: Triple distilled. Twice (column & doubler) at Buffalo Trace and once (pot still?) at Bowman.

Appearance: Light copper with fairly thick legs.

Nose: Caramel, oak, woodruff, alcohol, grape hyacinth.

On the palate: Light bodied and dry. Oak, alcohol, toffee, tarragon.

Finish: Dry, but with a fruity note that slowly emerges as the taste fades.

Parting words: Bowman single barrel is a stylish whiskey worth seeking out. The Buffalo Trace grassiness is apparent but the oak and caramel sweetness do an excellent job of keeping it from overrunning the whiskey.

The first one of these I purchased shortly after its initial release. It was very light with a vaguely coppery taste and aroma. I enjoyed it but it wasn’t great. This one is very, very good. I have had a few other bottles recently including a couple private selections and they have all been good, so I either got a bottle from a mediocre barrel the first time, or the product as a whole has been improved. Whatever the case, John J. Bowman is now one of those whiskeys that I always pick up when I am visiting a part of the country in which it is sold. Bowman Single Barrel is recommended.